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The second Amendment text is very clear to most of us, “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” (Second Amendment to the U. S. Constitution). Is such a text so complex to comprehend? It appears that yes, it is complex. Even a number of those who back it are not fond of the wording of the text, since it supposedly raises misunderstanding. However, the Second Amendment is in fact a well-formulated statement.
By this it means that, the wordings of Second Amendment only allow one logical interpretation of the intended meaning, “the right of individuals to own firearms need to be upheld and respected” (Van Alstyne, 1242). This essay aims at discussing the original intent of the second amendment, to discuss this issue; the paper will start by explaining the founding father’s viewpoint of their intent in writing the second amendment. Then, the paper will explore the meaning of the word “militia” as it was used in its historical perspective for a clear theoretical understanding.
The essay will also review the Miller vs. US (1939), court case which is related to the subject under discussion, and lastly a brief conclusion will be provided to sum up the essay. The founding fathers’ view of second amendment The founding fathers of America who founded the American nation were well educated, and a lot of them studied Latin, Greek and Hebrew languages which allowed them to study the classic literature from their original scripts. The founding fathers were as well influenced by different great philosophers who lived before them like Aristotle, Plato, Richard hooker, John Locke, Thomas Hobbes, Adam Smith, Sir William Blackstone and many others (Skousen, 67).
Sir, Blackstone an English law scholar and lecturer at the Oxford University was the most influential since he lived at same era with the founding fathers. In his well-known commentaries about England laws, he for instance incorporated the right to firearms as one of the five “absolute right of Englishmen” (Gottlieb, 72) When the Declaration of Independence was written by Thomas Jefferson, he recognized ‘unalienable rights’, which included life as well as liberty. These two rights are as well called natural rights, and are believed to have been given to man by nature or God and these rights can not be lawfully denied (Gottlieb, 72).
During this period, John Adam in his writing wrote that there exists a law though not written down at anyplace, but which is inherent, a law that comes to human beings without any training or tradition or learning but which is derived and absorbed and adopted from nature. He added that this law had came to man by practice and not theory, and through natural intuition and not by instruction. He concluded that he was referring to the law which stipulates that, if an individual life is endangered by armed robbers or violence or by an enemy, then an individual had a moral obligation to use any method possible to protect himself.
Thus, John Adams had a conviction that every person was born as a free individual and with his independence, and such a person had some natural, basic and undeniable rights, and one of the rights was the right to defend one’s life and liberties (Cooper, 25). During the month in which the Declaration of Independence was written, Thomas Jefferson had written a model constitution for the state of Virginia which stipulated that “no free man shall be denied the use of firearms” (Gollieb, 68).
The American founding fathers had personal experienced the pain of being occupied by the British troops and they understood how it felt to be occupied by foreign forces. In addition, they understood the essence of having prepared citizens to challenge the power of a suppressing government or an attacking army. Without the armed citizen, victory and success of Americans in the revolutionary war fought to liberate the country would possibly have not been achievable.
In addition, Richard Gardener who was a Director of the National Rifle Association (NRA) explains that during the period of American Revolution, the English law had established a custom of keeping and carrying firearms which went back for nearly 100 years. Thus, it was in this custom of an individual’s right to own and use firearm for personal defense, and also to for defending the country that sparked off the American Revolution when the British army that was occupying America tried to takeover powder stores and disarm the people of Boston, seeking to deny them the ability of protecting their natural rights.
After the revolution war and victory to the Americans, the founding fathers were faced with a new challenge; this challenge was establishing a constructive government for the new independent nation. Naturally, the founding fathers utilized their vast knowledge of philosophy and history together with spiritual beliefs, to formulate a government for the people of America which above all would preserve and maintain individual liberties and govern the people through their consent. Among the freedoms which were not to be interfered by the government were speech, religion and press.
But, the founding fathers of the nation were also firm in their conviction that firearms were legitimate, valuable and essential component of a free nation. Richard Henry Lee wrote that, to protect and maintain liberty, it was necessary that the entire mass of people always should possess arms and more so, they should be taught particularly when they are young on how to use these arms (Gottlieb, 74). Accordingly, it can be seen that the fathers who founded America were not ashamed in any way about their liking of fire arms.
For instance, Thomas Jefferson got a handgun when he was only ten years. Jefferson had a conviction that each boy ought to be given a chance to carry a gun. Below is an extract form one of the letters he sent to his nephew. • A body that is strong makes the mind to be strong. For exercising your body and mind, I recommend a gun, whereas this provides a modest exercise to ones body, it as well offers boldness, activity and autonomous to the mind. Ball games and some other games are extremely violent to the body and they do not provide any character to the mind.
Therefore, let your firearm be the usual escort as you work (Gottlieb, 70) During the ratification of the constitution, Van Alstyne (1237) explains that, both sides on the political divide supported the right of citizens to own firearms. John Adams and his cousin Sam Adams on opposing sides of the debate to make the ratification both agreed that, citizens had a right to own and carry firearms. At the Massachusetts conference, Sam opposed any ratification unless if accompanied by a stipulation “that the said Constitution be never construed… o prevent the people of the United States, who are peaceable citizens, from keeping their own arms. ” (Gottlieb, 73)
On the other hand John Adams, who later became president of America, wrote that firearms being owned by citizens might be used according to a person’s judgment, to defend his country, overthrow an oppressive regime, or defend himself (Gottlieb, 73). Indeed, those opposing the federalist government, like George Mason opposed the ratification of the constitution because it did not contain the Bill of Rights.
Mason, who earlier had taken part in the constitution writing left, Philadelphia earlier and refused to endorse the document, since it did not incorporate a particular bill of rights, He reminded the delegates at Virginia that the revolutionary war fought earlier had been started by the attempt of the British to impound the firearms of the patriots of Concord. Thus, Mason liken the British approach of trying o disarm people, as a way to try and enslave them. Gottlieb, 59)
However, Alexander Hamilton argued that it was not necessary to include the bill of rights since the individuals were already having those rights and they could not be denied or taken away from them. He added that, if the government which represented the people betrayed its people, then the citizens will not have any option apart from exercising their initial right of defending themselves, he further argued that, this right is important, and should be given to the people by all positive governments.
But, supposing the government creates an army to force its will; then such an army will never be strong enough to defeat people ready and willing to defend their won rights. Madison as well was against the bill of rights (Van Alstyne, 1234). However, he gave in because of pressure from the Anti-Federalist (who wanted a fresh constitutional convention) so that he could preserve what had been already achieved regarding the constitution.
But, Madison made a promise to propose some amendments to include the Bill of Rights supposing the constitution was ever ratified. As we are aware, the constitution was later ratified and true to his words, Madison fulfilled his earlier promise. Here is an original wording amendment that Madison initially proposed in the House of Representatives in August of 1789 “A well regulated militia, composed of the body of the people, being the best security of free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed; but no person religiously scrupulous shall be compelled to bear arms”. (Halbrook, 77) But, Halbrook (78) explains that there was a debate afterwards and thus some alterations on the wording of the text were done, for example the mention of religious people was removed.
To add on that, Halbrook also explains that since there was a general understanding on the meaning of the word ‘militia’, the expression “composed of the body of the people,” was removed from the text to make it short and clear (Halbrook, 78). At the time the first congress adopted the Bill of Rights, there was an understanding that the federal government had limited powers over the citizens. Presently a number of people dispute the understanding that the Second Amendment provided each and every citizen the right to own and carry firearms.
They argue that the right stated in the Amendment implies a ‘collective right of the nation’ however such a viewpoint ignore the phrase “the right of the people” a phrase used in the first, then the second and also in the fourth amendments. Moreover, supposing that the collective concept is used on some other amendments which acknowledges natural rights of an individual or on individual rights like speech and religion, then it will mean that the state would as well have power over these rights also! A notion that would shock and outrage the country.
In addition, the positioning of the Second Amendment within the Bill of Rights, which is amidst the rights of speech, right to assembly and the right of individuals from unnecessary searches and confiscations clearly indicates that the concept of collective right by the state is incorrect. In deed, Alan Gottlieb, president of The Second Amendment Foundation, asserts that each of founding fathers who debated arms categorically endorsed possession of firearms as a basic individual right (Gottlieb, 76). To explore this observation we shall outline the thoughts of George Washington.