The 2nd Amendment, a Brief Primer.

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“Modern” public discourse ignores and obfuscates the First Debates In Congress. Those debates establishes exactly what they were trying to do when they voted on what became known as the Bill of Rights.


What's even more interesting is the arguments put forth by Elbridge Gerry, from Massachusetts (we get the term “gerrymandering” from his namesake) on said Amendment and it's original wording:



From Pg 778

"A well regulated militia, composed of the body of the people, 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".
This declaration of rights, I take it, is intended to secure the people against the mal-administration of the Government; if we could suppose that, in all cases, the rights of the people would be attended to, the occasion for guards of this kind would be removed. Now, I am apprehensive, sir, that this clause would give an opportunity to the people in power to destroy the constitution itself. They can declare who are those religiously scrupulous, and prevent them from bearing arms.
"What, sir, is the use of a militia? It is to prevent the establishment of a standing army, the bane of liberty. Now, it must be evident, that, under this provision, together with their other powers, Congress could take such measures with respect to a militia, as to make a standing army necessary.
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."

First, what become clear, they weren't debating a “collective” right but an individual right. Modern authoritarians sow deception and lies when they claim a “collective” right of the States to arm militias. States, if you recall, are not “a person” with a Scrupulosity complex.


As wiki describes it: “ characterized by pathological guilt about moral or religious issues...” “Scrupulosity was formerly called scruples in religious contexts, but the word scruples now commonly refers to a troubling of the conscience rather than to the disorder.”


At the time of the writing of the 2nd Amendment it's clear they were referring to the latter. A person whom through religious teachings or personal beliefs does not believe in war or killing, ie the Amish and Quakers.


It was because of Mr. Gerry's arguments above why the First Congress deleted the last line of the 2nd Amendment.  Obviously the 2nd A wasn't granting our central/federal government authority or powers to define or “regulate” who was allowed to keep and bear arms, all had that unalienable right, if they so desired.


The next point that needs to be addressed is where and how authoritarians distract and mislead. They argue against “the purpose” of owning arms. “It's for Hunting & Sport” or “Defeatn' the bad ol gubmint”.


While Mr. Gerry stated his understanding of why they were adding a Bill of Rights:


This declaration of rights, I take it, is intended to secure the people against the mal-administration of the Government; if we could suppose that, in all cases, the rights of the people would be attended to, the occasion for guards of this kind would be removed..


His arguments reveal they are there to prevent the “mal-administration” of government or government overreach. Those enumerated rights restricts our government. Our rights are not created through their addition to the Constitution, but preexist it.  It has no authority, implied or otherwise, to regulate them.


The purpose of free speech, the intent of religion or desires for firearm ownership are immaterial.


We possess these unalienable rights, to do with as we please. Government cannot dictate, as the authoritarians among us wish to believe, the reasons for how, when or why we exercise these rights.



Dino Manalis Added Mar 29, 2018 - 10:58am
The Second Amendment is fundamental, but people are different, that's why all gun buyers have to be screened first to verify their mental condition before allowing gun purchases.  We shouldn't make it easy to kill people!
Stone-Eater Added Mar 29, 2018 - 11:22am
Thank "god" we don't have those problems and can concentrate on real issues.
Bill H. Added Mar 29, 2018 - 11:27am
SEF - There are voters in this country who only base their vote on a single issue. Seems the top two issues these days are gun rights and abortion. Apparently nothing else matters to these voters.
Dave Volek Added Mar 29, 2018 - 11:31am
Thanks for this article and history. Just by reading the actual clause, I can get different interpretations. The historical sidenotes may or may not be a moot point.
I'm still not understanding this concept of "inalienable rights," especially that the right to bear arms was somehow given to mankind.   
Dave Volek Added Mar 30, 2018 - 8:52am
I would say coal miners of the 1800s should have had inalienable rights to air, but instead often died before 40 years of age to the black lung disease. But not granting this right kept the American dream alive for others, right? 
Riley Brown Added Mar 31, 2018 - 10:09am
Dino, the second amendment prevents the government from taking steps to disarm the public so the government can oppress them without fear of a rebellion.  but doesn't address common sense safety.   I believe we can keep lists of people who are not allowed to possess things like guns, such as the insane and convicted felons, without violating that amendment.
However any list that conversely could be used by the government to seize weapons from people who are not considered unfit, does violate the second amendment because it could be used to confiscate those guns. 
The context of the second amendment, and in fact the entire constitution can not be understood without remembering what the people who wrote it went though and feared a few years earlier when they succeeded in rejecting European rule after England tried to subdue them by violating most of the amendments before they were written.
Riley Brown Added Mar 31, 2018 - 10:27am
David V, the right to bear arms is not an inalienable right it's a constitutional protection that theoretically supersedes any laws that might be made made to negate it.  It is not a permanent promise of protection, there is an amendment process by which it and any other parts of the constitution can be changed, but doing so requires a consensus that can not be created by an oppressive ruler.
The Declaration of Independence written a few years earlier defines inalienable rights as God given:
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
The frequent arguments about the second amendment come in a few forms.  First, that the constitution is outdated and should be changed, but not nearly enough people agree to get it amended. 
Next anti gun people try to claim the second amendment is really just stating the right of the people to join government controlled militias.  It's popular among anti gun folks but makes no sense in context with the decoration of independence, or even if you compare what it does with all the other individual liberties the Constitution enumerates.
The third is that the courts can redefine the amendments by legally reinterpreting the meanings any way they want.  That tact clearly violates the constitution.
John Minehan Added Mar 31, 2018 - 7:56pm
The English Bill of Rights protects the right to bear arms as a function of the events that lead to the Glorious Revolution.  (Very much the kind of document Hamilton talked about in the passage cited above, but clearly something the English felt was important.)
The Bill of Rights, at its ratification, ONLY bound the Federal Government.  The States had/have the power to regulate the militia, for example, by passing things like the NYS Safe Act.   
Doug Plumb Added Apr 1, 2018 - 6:19am
Bastiats "The Law" is a good place to start. Kant's Metaphysical Foundations of Morals is a 60 page book that prepares you for his bigger Metaphysics of Morals, which is the rational foundation for a state and how it should be constructed under the law. Kant is hard, but nothing else comes close for true understanding. The writers of books on Jurisprudence assume you have this kind of knowledge from school. Now they just teach about how to give blow jobs and about global warming so most people don't have the background to understand what law even is.
Jeffry Gilbert Added Apr 2, 2018 - 4:15am
A quiet guy who somehow amassed a huge collection of AR-15s and an equal number of bump stocks and shot five hundred people from a hotel 
Anyone who believes that fairytale has no reasonable expectation of being taken seriously.
Mike Haluska Added Apr 3, 2018 - 3:12pm
Bill H -
You may be surprised to learn I don't own a gun.  I used to have a Remington 12 gauge pump shotgun for hunting, but I don't hunt anymore.  
I think if you and I could sit down and agree with what the proper function of the Federal Government should be, our differences wouldn't amount to much.  My major constraint on the Federal Government would be to stop using the Treasury as a charity. 
Despite any initial good intentions, politicians will pervert it into a means to "buy votes" and turn the general population into a permanent government dependency class.  There should also be no government subsidies of businesses and no taxes on businesses.  Let's be realistic - businesses don't pay taxes, they pass them on to the customer.  Let the business owners pay taxes on the dividends and sale of stock.
Mike Haluska Added Apr 3, 2018 - 3:18pm
Doug - your comment:
"The income tax violates common law, its being challenged, but it hasn't been challenged by anyone that has a really good foundation in understanding the philosophy of laws."
is spot on!  The single greatest thing that would benefit the average working man (and unemployed man) would be the elimination of the Income Tax.  If it was announced that "effective January 1st 2019 ALL Income Taxes in the USA would be abolished, the resulting economic boom would be unlike anything ever seen.  Foreign corporations would be falling over themselves to build factories and warehouses in America.  The resulting demand for labor would make the Welfare State obsolete in months.  
Bill H. Added Apr 3, 2018 - 9:53pm
Mike - You may be right, but we would have nothing to argue about.
Riley Brown Added Apr 17, 2018 - 10:52am
The only way to oppress people is with an occupying force tasked with making them comply with the taxes and rules. 
The best protection against that is an armed citizenry.  They don't need nuclear bombs to resist, only small arms so they can threaten and resist the people tasked to oversee them.  If tax collectors tasked with collecting an unfair tax get held up and beaten often enough, none will want that job.  Sending out a small regiment to enforce every action is much too expensive so that is why occupying forces even today usually eventually give up and go home even if they are only resisted with small arms and improvised explosives.