On July 19th Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey unilaterally banned the sale of most semiautomatic rifles in the State simply because they share characteristics with already banned “assault rifles”. This is the newest in a long series of threats to our right to bear arms. The best way to fight against these threats is by arming ourselves and others with knowledge about the original meaning and purpose of the Second Amendment. We must combat all of the distortions and out right lies about the Second Amendment. Most of the distortions of the Second Amendment come from those on the left however those on the right are also guilty on a couple key points so please keep reading even if you consider yourself to be an expert on the Second Amendment.
How many times have you heard the one about the Second Amendment being just about hunting? If you’re like me you’ve heard it way too many times. The framers of the Second Amendment made it abundantly clear the purpose was defense — self defense, defense of the community, defense of the State, and defense of the nation.
The Virginia Declaration of Rights, which was written in 1776, served as a model for the Bill of Rights. It is very similar to amendments proposed during the New York and North Carolina ratifying conventions for the Constitution. The final version of the Second Amendment was an edited down version of this which conveyed the same meaning with less words. Here is section 13 of that document:
That a well-regulated Militia, composed of the body of the people, trained to arms, is the proper, natural, and safe defence of a free State; that Standing Armies, in time of peace, should be avoided as dangerous to liberty; and that, in all cases, the military should be under strict subordination to, and governed by, the civil power.
Two common distortions which are linked together are that the Second Amendment is a collective right that only applies to members of the militia and the militia was exactly same as the National Guard is today. Both points are incorrect. None of the rights mentioned in the Bill of Rights are collective rights. The framers of the Constitution and Bill of Rights believed only in individual rights. The National Guard, which came into existence in 1933, is made up of formal military units composed of a limited number of individuals. The militia was made up of the entire population. That was clearly stated in the Virginia Declaration of Rights and the amendments proposed during the ratifying convention. Here are two more quotes regarding the make up of the militia and scope of the right to bear arms:
Richard Henry Lee Federal Farmer 18
To preserve liberty, it is essential that the whole body of people always possess arms, and be taught alike, especially when young, how to use them…
George Mason Virginia Ratifying Convention 1787
I ask who are the militia? They consist now of the whole people, except a few public officers.”
The right to bear arms is not granted to us by the Second Amendment. That right is granted to every individual by God. It is one of the God given Natural Rights. The Second Amendment protects and preserves that right by preventing the federal government from interfering with that right in any way. All federal restrictions and regulations involving firearms are unconstitutional. The only role the Supreme Court should play involving the Second Amendment is to declare all federal restrictions unconstitutional. Unfortunately the federal government, including the Supreme Court, stopped following the Constitution decades ago.
I know I’m going to take heat from some on the right about this but the Second Amendment does not prevent the States from placing restrictions on firearms. The Bill of Rights does not apply to the States in any way. That is quite clear from the transcripts form the drafting and the ratifying of the Bill of Rights. James Madison proposed extending some of the Bill of Rights to the States but that was shot down. The US Constitution created a bottom up federal republic not a top down national government with the federal government in complete control. No rights are absolute, At some level decisions have to be made to determine where exercising your rights becomes an abuse of your rights, If freedom of speech is absolute what would prevent someone from standing outside your bedroom window all night screaming threats and obscenities at you? If freedom of religion is absolute then there would be no way to prevent human sacrifice. The framers of the Constitution believed these decisions should be made at the State level.
There are two levels of defense built into our constitutional system to prevent the States from becoming abusive to our rights. The first line of defense is the State Constitutions. Every State Constitution has a Bill of Rights. All but a few protect the right to bear arms. Here is what the Massachusetts Constitution has to say on this subject:
Article XVII. The people have a right to keep and to bear arms for the common defence. And as, in time of peace, armies are dangerous to liberty, they ought not to be maintained without the consent of the legislature; and the military power shall always be held in an exact subordination to the civil authority, and be governed by it.
Since guns are meant for common defense and those so called assault weapons are perfect for common defense aren’t they protected?
The ultimate line of defense is “we the people”. It is up the people of the States to decide when the State governments go to far in the regulations of firearms, They must play an active role and hold the State governments accountable. They must educate their fellow citizens, organize protests, and vote out all that want to go to far with restricting guns. I firmly believe that permit less open carry with no restrictions is the model for all States.
Who is Jon Fournier — Im a strict constitutionalist who has studied the Notes on the Debates in the Federal Convention, the transcripts of the State ratifying conventions, The Federalist Papers, The Anti-Federalist Papers, and the writings of the framers of the Constitution. I have also studied economics through the writings of Adam Smith, F A Hayek, Ludwig von Mises, and Milton Friedman.
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