Tuesday, February 05, 2019

Gun Law

Second Amendment to the United States Constitution (authenticated by Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson) - December 15, 1791:

"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."


... inspired in part by the Virginia Declaration of Rights, Section 13 (written by George Mason and adopted by the Virginia Constitutional Convention on June 12, 1776):

"That a well-regulated militia, composed of the body of the people, trained to arms, is the proper, natural, and safe defense 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."

- https://www.archives.gov/founding-docs/virginia-declaration-of-rights

Jefferson was not opposed to the use of arms in the defence of citizen liberty but this would not be necessary or justifiable if the laws could be democratically amended:

“Happy for us, that when we find our constitutions defective and insufficient to secure the happiness of our people, we can assemble with all the coolness of philosophers and set it to rights, while every other nation on earth must have recourse to arms to amend or to restore their constitutions.”


Mason's wording and Jefferson's remarks in his private letter above show that the issue was the right and regulation of a civilian militia, not whether an individual (as opposed to "the people") should be allowed to carry weapons.

In an age when people shot game for survival and carried swords and pistols for self-protection, surely that need would have been considered so obvious as not to need stating.

On the other hand the citizenry would not carry muskets around with them in the course of their daily business. Also, the poorest would presumably not be able to afford firearms and thieves, murderers, highwaymen and footpads would be swiftly tried and hanged.

Modern firearms are much cheaper, and often more powerful and much more rapid-fire. Were he alive today, would Jefferson now consider the Second Amendment defective?


James Higham said...

The right to bear arms has been upheld uninterrupted since the amendment. Sophistry claiming it’s not holds no water.

Paddington said...

It was only a couple of months ago that a judge in New York ruled that the second amendment also applied to nunchaku.

I don't understand why one can't carry a hand grenade or flamethrower for protection.

Sackerson said...

@James: I didn't say it hadn't been. But the facts have changed, and Jefferson even suggested, towards the end of his life, that perhaps there should be a fresh Constitutional Convention when half the electorate at the previous one had passed away.

@Paddington: or a small nuclear device?

Paddington said...

I may have shared this anecdote before.

A friend who is in a local union tells me of several people there who are stockpiling guns and ammo, because they cannot wait for the race war to begin. They actually want to seal up the cities, and 'take care' of the 'colored folks' causing mischief.

andy said...

"standing armies, in time of peace, should be avoided as dangerous to liberty"

The times have changed, but the intent is still the same - that the citizenry has power over the government , the state and the military, and can enforce that power, using force if need be.

Modern armies have more power at their disposal than at any time in history.
Why shouldnt ordinary citizens too?