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j u l y 2 0 1 6 A L I V E E A S T B A Y 19 Who will be the President of the United States in 2032? Will our future leaders be benevolent and uphold their solemn oath to “preserve, protect and defend the Constitution,” or will they seek to undermine it, either for want of power or some misguided notion that their role is to rule rather than serve? How will our liberties fare over the coming years; will they remain as they are, increase, or be diminished? How will conditions in America be in terms of crime and security? To what degree will the powers and influence of government change? When the founders drafted our Constitution, and particularly the original amendments to it—the Bill of Rights—I imagine that these were precisely the types of questions they had in mind. They sought to ensure liberty, not just in their time, but for posterity. Guided by wisdom, the founders knew they could never answer such questions, and that no future generation of Americans could either. To understand their motivation we need to appreciate what they had just experienced in the Revolution, and we must remember that that is just what it was—a revolution. They had just cast off, by force of arms, what they considered an oppressive, tyrannical government. Indeed, the crucible that bore the document that codifies the freedoms we cherish was one of violence. Our fore-fathers fought for their freedom, and ours. It is in light of this that we are, once again, arguing about guns in America and the meaning and relevancy of the Second Amendment. Every time some terrorist or lunatic uses a gun to commit murder, debates about this most foundational right ensue. After the recent massacre in Florida, the intent and applicability of the Second Amendment is again being called into question. What does the Second Amendment say and what is it for? The words are not complicated: A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed. Some claim that the right to bear arms applies only to members of an organized militia—what is referred to as the “collective rights” interpretation. Some claim that it is an outdated, unnecessary part of our Constitution that should be repealed. Others contend that while the right is guaranteed by the Constitution, it is acceptable only so far as allowing individuals the ability to protect themselves (within certain limitations of force), or to hunt wildlife. Even some of the most recent Supreme Court decisions celebrated by gun owners, seem to suggest that the primary purpose of the Second Amendment is to allow for personal protection. But none of these are accurate. The Second Amendment was included in the Constitution as a logical extension and ultimate guarantor of, everything else contained within the Constitution. Again, the men who crafted it did so with their very recent experience of conflict—the American Revolution—a war that necessitated arms in order to prevail against what was then the strongest military in the world. Today, a great misconception—one promoted by those seeking to weaken or outright dismantle the Second Amendment—is that the right to bear arms is primarily to allow citizens to own and use guns for hunting or sport, or in their most “generous” interpretation, for self defense. But again, these are not what the Second Amendment was or is about. The Second Amendment was included in the Bill of Rights because the framers distrusted an all-powerful federal government and sought to ensure that American citizens would forever possess the means to resist, and even to overthrow if necessary, a tyrannical, corrupt or oppressive government. The inherent right of self defense was assumed and affirmed prior to the establishment of the Bill of Rights, first in the Declaration of Independence, as expressed in the first phrase of that document, which reads: We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. While personal protection is contained within its meaning, the primary purpose of the Second Amendment is to ensure that American citizens shall always have the means to stand against any force, including their own government, that might someday threaten liberty. In fact, the framers thought it not only a right that American citizens bear arms, but a duty: The constitutions of most of our States assert that all power is inherent in the people; that... it is their right and duty to be at all times armed. —Thomas Jefferson Only a Right for a “Well Regulated Militia?” The only way that a “well regulated Militia” can form is when armed citizens are available to form it. It was clear to the framers that they were not granting the people the right to keep and bear arms, they were affirming that as free people, Americans already had that right, and the federal government must forever recognize and respect it. As to the point often raised by those opposed to an individual right to bear arms—those who contend that the right only applies to members of a “well regulated militia”— one only need consider the precise wording of the amendment itself. It clearly states, “…the right of the people to bear arms shall not be infringed.” It does not say, “… the right of the militia.” Furthermore, rights never apply to groups or institutions—they apply only to individuals (the people).


Alive_July2016
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