Right from the Berkshires: Second Amendment in context
There is an alarming cry by many on the left to increase restrictions on firearm ownership by private citizens. Connecticut, Color-
ado and New York all have recently passed laws greatly limiting gun ownership rights. The president has recently signed multiple executive or-
ders limiting the access that citizens have to gun ownership. And the push for more continues among progressive circles and politicians.
But what is their reason? One of the more popular arguments put forth is that the Second Amendment was never intended to allow the individual any specific right but rather was for a well-regulated militia.
Notwithstanding that no government ever needs to grant itself the right to arm its own military, let’s examine this claim in the context of the rest of the Bill of Rights.
n The First Amendment pro-
tects individuals from the government restricting their right to practice their religion, speak freely, be informed by a free press absent from govern-
ment influence, and to peaceably assemble.
n The Third Amendment protects the individual from the government forcing the individual to house military personnel against their will.
n The Fourth Amendment protects the individual from the government searching or seizing their persons or property without a warrant, and then only within strict guidelines.
n The Fifth Amendment protects individuals from the government taking their freedom or property without due process. It also protects individuals from the government forcing them to testify against themselves.
n Starting to see a trend? In every instance, the Bill of Rights protects the individual’s inherent rights against government intrusion. In fact, the Ninth and 10th Amendments go much further by spelling out that nothing in the Constitution can even be construed in such a way as to limit the rights of the individual and that any powers not specifically granted to the federal government are to be retained by the states, and by the individual.
This is where the left’s argument for gun restrictions breaks down. How is it that buried in with all the other nine amendments in the Bill of Rights, the sole purpose of which is to protect the individual’s rights, is one that does not protect the individual’s right to self-defense (and the freedom to own the means to do so)? Did the founders have a temporary lapse in message by including this strange amendment that does not have the same purpose as every other amendment in the Bill of Rights?
Let’s see what the founders themselves had to say about it. James Madison said "[The Constitution preserves] the advantage of being armed which Americans possess over the people of almost every other nation [where] the governments are afraid to trust the people with arms."
George Washington expressed his stance thus: "Firearms stand next in importance to the Constitution itself. They are the American people’s liberty teeth and keystone under independence -- the very atmosphere of firearms anywhere restrains evil interference -- they deserve a place of honor with all that’s good."
The beauty and brilliance of our founding document is that the founders never once took the viewpoint of a ruling body deciding what to allow the common citizens to do or not do. They probably could have, and we would have ended up resembling virtually every other government in the history of the world. But these men did something different. They saw themselves not as rulers, but as men, no better or worse than any other men. And they saw the real enemy was not England, but power itself.
In restricting the government and recognizing the value of a citizen armed and ready to protect his freedom and that of his neighbor, they gave us an incredible gift. This is where the true strength of our nation resides -- in the free individual. This freedom provides a true blockade to tyranny. Let’s stand together and protect that gift.
Andy Shaw’s a pilot who lives in Hancock.
TALK TO US
If you'd like to leave a comment (or a tip or a question) about this story with the editors, please email us. We also welcome letters to the editor for publication; you can do that by filling out our letters form and submitting it to the newsroom.