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2nd Amendment: Original Meaning and Purpose

When the Constitution was signed on September 17, 1789, federalists claimed the new government would only have limited powers expressly delegated to it. This wasn’t enough for anti-federalists like George Mason, who wanted explicit guarantees to certain rights in order to prevent any potential encroachment by the federal government.

One of them was the right to keep and bear arms. Mason wrote:

“A well-regulated militia, composed of the body of the people, trained to arms, is the proper, natural, and safe defence of a free State”

The Founding Fathers, having just broken away from Great Britain, understood the new federal government they were ratifying might one day become just as tyrannical. If it had the authority to control citizen access to firearms, then it could disarm them, just as the British attempted to do. This would make any attempts to restore liberties futile.

The Second Amendment was specifically included in the Bill of Rights to prevent this. 

Two centuries later, we are in an ideological struggle with gun control advocates attempting to alter the meaning of the Second Amendment in order to allow for federal restrictions on our right to bear arms. Not surprisingly, they completely ignore what the ratifiers of the Constitution and the Second Amendment had to say, because all pertinent historical documents contradict them.

For example, when the Founders wrote of a “well regulated” militia, they meant militias needed to be well regulated through training and drilling in order to be effective in battle. This could only happen if citizens had unrestricted access to firearms. 

James Madison, the father of the Constitution, said in 1789 that “A well regulated militia, composed of the body of the people, trained to arms, is the best and most natural defense of a free country.”

An example of a well regulated militia under Madison’s definition were the Minutemen at Concord and Lexington, who had drilled on fields in preparation for war.

As to the meaning of the word “militia,” it has nothing to do with the National Guard. There is already a clause in the Constitution that specifically authorizes arming them.

So what is a militia as defined by the Founders? Mason said they were “the whole people, except for a few public officials.”

In fact, there was a universal acceptance among both federalists and anti-federalists as to the importance of the right to bear arms.

Alexander Hamilton wrote in Federalist 28 that “if the representatives of the people betray their constituents, there is then no recourse left but in the exertion of that original right of self-defense,” a right which he declared to be “paramount.” 

And then there is clause “shall not be infringed.” There is no exception to this contained anywhere in the amendment. 

Zacharia Johnson, a delegate to the Virginia Ratifying Convention, summed up the meaning of the Second Amendment when he declared that “The people are not to be disarmed of their weapons. They are left in full possession of them.”

Full possession. Not some. Not most. Full possession of their weapons. The feds were to keep their hands off entirely.

The Founders made it very clear what the Second Amendment means. But if we do not fight against any and all attempts by the feds to infringe upon our right to keep and bear arms, then it loses all relevant meaning.

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