Why do we ‘keep and bear arms’? Part 1

Larry Elder's picture

A prominent 20th-century Democrat made the following statement about the purpose of the Second Amendment: “Certainly one of the chief guarantees of freedom under any government, no matter how popular and respected, is the right of citizens to keep and bear arms. ... The right of citizens to bear arms is just one guarantee against arbitrary government, one more safeguard, against the tyranny which now appears remote in America but which historically has proven to be always possible.”

The Supreme Court, in a 5-4 decision, struck down the 1976 Washington, D.C., ban on handguns. The court ruled that the Founding Fathers wanted the Second Amendment to allow individuals the right to keep and bear arms. The minority disagreed, arguing that the right only extends to those belonging to a state “militia,” such as the National Guard.

The Second Amendment reads as follows: “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.” What did the Framers mean?

Is “Militia” — as the Framers intended — an arm of government? Or did the Framers define militia as something completely different — a group of armed citizens with a right to “keep and bear Arms” to guard against unjust or tyrannical government power.

The Founding Fathers assumed that any government, including the one they established, could grow into a monster. They argued that only “the people” with a right “to keep and bear arms” could prevent such a tyranny.

James Madison, the “father of the Constitution,” stated that tyrants were “afraid to trust the people with arms,” and lauded “the advantage of being armed, which Americans possess over the people of almost every other nation.”

Thomas Jefferson wrote: “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.”

George Mason said, “To disarm the people — that was the best and most effectual way to enslave them.”

Elbridge Gerry of Massachusetts said: “What, sir, is the use of a militia? It is to prevent the establishment of a standing army, the bane of liberty. ... Whenever governments mean to invade the rights and liberties of the people, they always attempt to destroy the militia, in order to raise an army upon their ruins.”

Noah Webster, the prominent political essayist who fought in the Revolutionary War, wrote: “Before a standing army can rule, the people must be disarmed; as they are in almost every kingdom in Europe. The supreme power in America cannot enforce unjust laws by the sword; because the whole body of the people are armed, and constitute a force superior to any band of regular troops that can be, on any pretense, raised in the United States. A military force, at the command of Congress, can execute no laws, but such as the people perceive to be just and constitutional; for they will possess the power, and jealousy will instantly inspire the inclination, to resist the execution of a law which appears to them unjust and oppressive.”

Samuel Adams likened the Second Amendment to the First: “That the said Constitution shall never be construed to authorize Congress to infringe the just liberty of the press or the rights of conscience; or to prevent the people of the United States who are peaceable citizens from keeping their own arms.”

Dictators throughout history sought to disarm their citizenries in order to impose power:

Vladimir Lenin said, “One man with a gun can control 100 without one.”

Mao Zedong said, “Political power grows out of the barrel of a gun.”

Josef Stalin said: “We don’t let them have ideas. Why would we let them have guns?”

Adolf Hitler said: “The most foolish mistake we could possibly make would be to allow the subject races to possess arms. History shows that all conquerors who have allowed their subject races to carry arms have prepared their own downfall by doing so.”

Thomas Paine, in 1775, spoke about another kind of “tyranny.” Bans and restrictions on firearms affect the law-abiding citizenry, shifting power to the non-law-abiding. Criminals ignore laws. That’s why we call them criminals. Paine said: “The peaceable part of mankind will be continually overrun by the vile and abandoned while they neglect the means of self-defense. ... (Weakness) allures the ruffian (but) arms like laws discourage and keep the invader and plunderer in awe and preserve order in the world. ... Horrid mischief would ensue were (the good) deprived of the use of them. ... The weak will become a prey to the strong.”

Oh, the prominent Democrat quoted in the first paragraph? It was said Oct. 22, 1959, by future senator and Vice President Hubert H. Humphrey. How times — and much of the Democratic Party — have changed.


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Submitted by skyspy on Sat, 07/05/2008 - 7:52am.

The right to bear arms is very important. The criminals will always have guns and they will always have evil intent.

It is our job and our responsibility to make sure that we can protect ourselves and our families.

The city of Kennesaw drafted an ordinance that required all homeowners to possess a firearm in their home for the purpose of defending themselves against criminals. After this was passed the very next month home invasions and robberies went down by 90%. We are much safer when we are on equal footing with the criminals.

Fayette County needs to come up with the same ordinance, and make sure the change is heavily advertised in the news media. Then as Clayton implodes they will think twice about moving west. Remember the only good criminal is a dead one.

yardman5508's picture
Submitted by yardman5508 on Sat, 07/05/2008 - 8:23pm.

actually it was my wife who brought it up. She has a registered handgun and the training to use it, btw...She was wondering why she can legally shoot someone who comes on our property to threaten us (or our possessions) but cannot legally shoot a deer that comes on our property and "steals" $80 worth of plants? Keep the faith.

Even a dead fish can go with the flow.

Submitted by sageadvice on Sun, 07/06/2008 - 12:58pm.

Yeah, and the earthworms eat holes in your yard way down underground. Shoot them!
Fire ants make piles of clay also. I suppose you will have to poison them.
Bugs love Crepe Myrtles. By the zillions.
Mosquitoes you can kill, OK.
I suspect however that you don't really want to shoot anyone anyway!
You may never know until you point the thing AND START TO PULL THE TRIGGER SENDING THEM ON THEIR WAY TO SOMEWHERE.

Submitted by skyspy on Sat, 07/05/2008 - 9:33pm.

You can protect your life and the lives of your family members if someone threatens you with a deadly weapon. Deadly weapons are not restricted to guns and knives. A tire iron, a baseball bat, an axe, a shovel, pitchfork, sledge hammer, a golfcart, a car are all deadly weapons in the wrong hands. So when your life is threatened you can use deadly force to protect yourself and your family.

Your plants aren't considered to be your family. Go online and check out garden supply catalog they have battery powered deer alarms that will scare the deer away. My big problem is the rabbits....but they are sooo cute.

Someone further down I think mentioned the recent case in South Fulton county where a man shot an intruder in his home, but missed, shot him in the shoulder. The intruder ran out of the home and into the woods. You cannot chase down an intruder, if you miss and they run, you cannot chase them. Once you step off of your property brandishing a gun,... you will be hoping Scotty is still our DA. If you miss and they run you cannot shoot them in the back.

You would be amazed at how survival instinct will kick in when your life is threatened.

However, you do make a good point if anyone is afraid of guns they probably should not own them or handle them. Having said that, I was afraid until I took my first NRA safety class at Autrey's, best thing I have done in a long time.

I guess we will have to agree to disagree. Criminals are not human in my book, and I still say the only good criminal is a dead one. Whatever happens to them happens, and chances are they are asking for it.

bad_ptc's picture
Submitted by bad_ptc on Sat, 07/05/2008 - 9:07pm.

Your next-door neighbor, if you have one, will never hear it and the deer problem will be solved.

Submitted by ole sarge on Sat, 07/05/2008 - 8:47am.

I believe that when Kennesaw adopted this ordinance it was actually a joking response to the city of Morton Grove, Illinois, which had just outlawed firearms (early 1970's). The surprise came when six months later Kennesaw's residential burglary numbers dropped significantly.

It is appropriate to remember that in our Founding Fathers rush to have a government there were no provisions for individual rights. It was only the clear, long range thinking, of "democratic republicans" that fostered the Bill of Rights.

I agree with you Sky, the Second Amendment allows the other nine to exist.

yardman5508's picture
Submitted by yardman5508 on Sat, 07/05/2008 - 3:21pm.

There is alot of talk about "blowing away" the criminals, but dollars to doughnuts those hairy-chested bloggers would cower in the corner when faced with that particular choice. How many of us have lived our entire lives without ever being confronted with such choices? How many of us have even known someone who has been confronted with such choices? It is entirely possible to live one's life peacefully and never be confronted with these situations. But, by God, I am going to have my gun to "blow away" scumbags if they ever come even CLOSE to me . Keep the faith

Even a dead fish can go with the flow.

carbonunit52's picture
Submitted by carbonunit52 on Sat, 07/05/2008 - 3:26pm.

This is a local story that no one commented on: Bond denied in fatal shooting

Submitted by oldbeachbear on Sat, 07/05/2008 - 8:06am.

are so funny! How bout a stripped down hummer with a gun turrent on each bumper?

JeffC's picture
Submitted by JeffC on Thu, 07/03/2008 - 2:33pm.

I'm all for the right to bear arms but to claim they are for overthrowing the government if it is deemed tyrannical is just machismo, credible only to the weak minded incapable of coherent thought.

Tell me Larry, how many National Guardsmen and police are you willing to kill after you decide to overthrow the government? Please don't shoot any of my cousins.

Submitted by ole sarge on Sat, 07/05/2008 - 8:57am.

"Weak minded incapable of coherent thought," sounds like slavery to me. Tell your cousins to stay away from my home and the homes of my children!

JeffC's picture
Submitted by JeffC on Sat, 07/05/2008 - 11:18am.

You’re an “ole sarge”? Who do you think will win when you decide to overthrow the “tyrants” and you run up against the National Guard, whether my kinfolk or not? Is that a coherent thought? Save your guns for the criminals. Neither you nor Larry Elder are going to overthrow the government.

Fun to think about, but like I said, just machismo.

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