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The Original Meaning and Purpose of the 2nd Amendment

In Episode 29 of the Brion McClanahan Show, Brion considers the following questions, and more: what did Second Amendment mean and what was it designed to do when amended to the Constitution? He also delved into the definition of the militia and its role in the founding era.

The first major point out of the gate is that we don’t have a “constitutional right” to keep and bear arms, it’s a natural right. McClanahan does acknowledge that some people don’t believe in natural rights and that our rights do come from the body politic. The difference however is that with a natural right, you have the right to use force to maintain your right.

McClanahan provides background demonstrating from the long English tradition that the right of individuals to arm themselves to resist acts of tyranny was jealously guarded by the English people. These traditions later came to English America and then to the founding generation.

He argues that these traditions later formed the basis of Second Amendment, particularly protecting the role of armed individuals to protect liberties. In the context of the Constitution as a whole, the Second Amendment is in fact addressing Article I: Section 8 power delegating the federal government the authority to arm militias.

He quotes the Virginia and North Carolina proposals:

That the People have a right to keep and bar arms; that a well regulated Militia composed of the Body of the People, trained in Arms, is the proper natural and safe Defense of a free state; that standing armies in time of Peace are dangerous to Liberty, and therefore ought to be avoided.

McClanahan argues from this proposal that it is clear that the people needed to be fully armed to avoid the need of having standing armies.

Also, McClanahan discusses the history and importance of the militia. He defines a militia as such:

The militia was every man eighteen to forty-five or even older who could bear arms and defend the state or the United States from foreign incursion.

He later quotes founder, Eldbridge Gerry:

What, Sir, is the use of a militia? It is to prevent the establishment of a standing army, the bane of liberty…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.

McClanahan summarizes towards the end:

The Second Amendment, contrary what the left likes to say, is not there to ensure we have a national guard. No, it’s to ensure that people can defend themselves and their state (not the United States, but there state) against federal tyranny, or against invasion from another people.

This is why this is considered a natural right, not a Constitutional or a body politic right.

Dr. Brion McClanahan is the author of several books, including The Founding Fathers Guide to the Constitution, The Politically Incorrect Guide to Real American Heroes and now his most recent book, 9 Presidents Who Screwed Up America: And Four Who Tried to Save Her. He’s also a faculty member of Tom Wood’s Liberty Classroom.

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