Second Amendment in Historical Context - Part 2

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Second Amendment

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.

So what was the intent of the Second Amendment?  Was it to promote private gun ownership for hunting or self defense; to enable private citizens to form militia in defense of the country; or to enable the private citizens with a means to defend themselves against an oppressive government?  The answer is “all of the above”.

But it is illogical that a Constitutional Amendment would be made simply to ensure guns for hunting and consider its placement: Amendment I ensures freedom of speech and Amendment II ensures ready access to firearms. It is clear from the placement of these Amendments and the supporting documentation of the day that two of the top priorities to ensure civil liberties were considered to be free speech so that "the people" could not be silenced and access to firearms for personal protection and as a check and balance against potential tyranny.

Perhaps it is because many of us don't exercise our Right of personal protection or that we as a nation have not needed to exercise this Right collectiviely for an extended period of time that we don't recall its importance. Yet it is an obvious and logical component of the personal liberties, checks and balances inherent in the Constitution when considered within the historical context of the Constitution.

Ten days after the Bill of Rights was proposed in the House of Representatives, Tench Coxe, a prominent Federalist and colleague of James Madison published his "Remarks on the First Part of the Amendment to the Federal Constitution," Federal Gazette , June 18, 1792, at 2 col. 1, which explained what became the Second Amendment as follows, "As civil rulers, not having their duty to the people duly before them, may attempt to tyrannize, and as the military forces which must be occasionally raised to defend our country, might pervert their power to the injury of their fellow citizens, the people are confirmed by the next article in their right to keep and bear their private arms."

- Stephen P. Holbrook, Freedmen, the Fourteenth Amendment, and the Right to Bear Arms, 1866 - 1876, Preface footnote number 12, Praeger Publishers, 1998.
“To these would be opposed a militia amounting to near half a million of citizens with arms in their hands, officered by men chosen from among themselves, fighting for their common liberties, and united and conducted by governments possessing their affections and confidence.”

"Besides the advantage of being armed, which the Americans possess over the people of almost every other nation, the existence of subordinate governments, to which the people are attached, and by which the militia officers are appointed, forms a barrier against the enterprises of ambition, more insurmountable than any which a simple government of any form can admit of. Notwithstanding the military establishments in the several kingdoms of Europe, which are carried as far as the public resources will bear, the governments are afraid to trust the people with arms."

- James Madison, Federalist Paper 46

"All persons are by nature free and independent, and have certain natural and unalienable rights, among which are those of enjoying and defending life and liberty, of acquiring, possessing, and protecting property, and of pursuing and obtaining safety and happiness.”
- The New Jersey State Constitution, as revised 1947

“That the people have a right to bear arms for the defense of themselves and the state; and as standing armies in the time peace are dangerous to liberty, they ought not to be kept up.”
- The Pennsylvania Declaration of Rights, 1776

" No free man shall ever be barred the use of arms.”

“When governments fear the people, there is liberty.  When people fear the government, there is tyranny.”
- Thomas Jefferson

"What country can preserve its liberties if its rulers are not warned from time to time that their people preserve the spirit of resistance? Let them take arms."
-Thomas Jefferson to William Stephens Smith, 1787

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