The 2nd Amendment

"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"

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                        Self-Protection         Arguments         Notes         Related

Here are some quotes that relate to this right:

  Sir Walter Raleigh - "It is a basic principle of a tyrant to unarm his people of weapons, money and all means whereby they resist his power."

Thomas Babington Macaulay - "The right to be armed is the security without which every other is insufficient."

Thomas Jefferson - "What country can preserve its liberties if their rulers are not warned from time to time that their people preserve the spirit of resistance?" AND "NO FREE man shall ever be debarred the use of arms."

Thomas Jefferson - "Government big enough to supply everything you need is big enough to take everything you have ... The course of history shows that as a government grows, liberty decreases."

Thomas Jefferson - "I know of no safe depository of the ultimate powers of society but the people themselves, and if we think them not enlightened enough to exercise control with a wholesome discretion, the remedy is not to take it from them, but to inform their discretion."

George Washington - "Mercenary armies have at one time or another subverted the liberties of almost all the Countries they have raised to defend."

John Adams - "Arms in the hands of citizens may be used at individual discretion...in private self-defense."

George Mason - "To disarm the people is the best and most effective way to enslave them."

Elbridge Gerry - "What, sir, is the use of a militia? It is to prevent the establishment of a standing army, the bane of liberty."

St. George Tucker - "Whenever . . . the right of the people to keep and bear arms is, under any color or pretext whatsoever, prohibited, liberty, if not already annihilated, is on the brink of destruction."

Benjamin Franklin - "They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety."

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The Right of Self-Protection

        One of the key elements of the framers intent for this amendment is being misunderstood by certain people in today's standards. First you must understand how important to them was the right to possess arms, not only in the service of the militia, but for self-protection. Most Americans were accustomed back then to having their individual rights protected from the government because nearly all the states had their own bill of rights. An armed populace was guaranteed in one way or another in the state constitutions. These provisions come about before the ratification of the U.S. Constitution. Also there were no police and they used them to hunt for food. Many of the Founding Fathers were avid gun collectors. Many served in combat during the Revolution and probably kept their weapons after the hostilities. They were also aware of what could happen to an unarmed populace. Learning from history and during their time other countries failures. They intended that every man be armed.

The states which had the provision before the federal version were: Virginia, Delaware, Pennsylvania, Maryland, North Carolina, Vermont, Massachusetts and New Hampshire.

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Arguments

The Second Amendment is probably one of the worst drafted of all the amendments. And this is perhaps one of the most challenging topics of debate on this provision. People are interpreting the text to suit there own agendas. We need to just take it as it is. It's pretty easy for me to understand what it's saying.

Then there is the historical factor. Some argue that the substantive right pertains to a collective body --"the people" -- rather than to individuals. However the First and Fourth Amendments also have the words "the people" in them. Would that mean that only states could keep arms, have free speech and be secure, but not the people living there?

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Notes

In 1990, chief justice William Rehnquist, had reviewed the "the people" as used by the framers of the Constitution and had concluded with the concurrence of four other Supreme Court justices: While this explanation is by no means conclusive, it suggests that "the people" protected by the Fourth Amendment, and by the First and Second Amendments, and to whom the rights and powers are reserved in the Ninth and Tenth Amendments, refers to a class of persons who a part of a national community or who have otherwise developed sufficient connection with this country to be considered part of that community.

The Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution ratifies and preserves for every citizen the right to keep and bear arms; and, moreover, that Congress or any other instrument of the federal government is constitutionally barred from infringing that right.

The Second Amendment as written by our founding fathers says that in addition to providing for the formation of general militias by the states, the right to keep and bear arms was understood to them to be an individual right, as individual and as personal as our rights of free speech and freedom of the press.

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Last update: March 22, 2006