Sunday, August 10, 2014

Lest We Misunderstand

Former Chief Justice John Stevens was quoted this year as saying that he thinks the Supreme Court and/or the Congress should rewrite the Second Amendment to show that Americans have the right to bear arms while in the militia only.  As one author said, thank God he is no longer on the court and can do no more harm.

Their has been a lot of debate in recent years concerning what the authors of the Declaration of Independence, Bill of Rights and the Constitution had in mind when they conceptualized our freedoms and rights.  Many people openly state that the second amendment pertained only to arming of a militia.  But, lest we misunderstand, let's look at the remarks of some of our early citizens who actually influenced opinion and the final document, the Constitution.

In the Thomas Jefferson papers, 334, he stated that "no free man shall ever be debarred the use of arms".  He thought the most important reason that we should "have the right to keep and bear arms was as a last resort, to protect ourselves against tyranny in government".

George Washington once stated that the atmosphere of firearms anywhere and everywhere "restrained evil interference".  He thought they should have a place of honor with all that is good.  As most sane individuals, he apparently knew that guns didn't kill people, people kill people.

In The Federalist Papers at 184-188, Alexander Hamilton is shown to have believed that "The best we can hope for concerning the people at large is that they be properly armed."  Note, he said the people at large, not the militia.

Patrick Henry, in a speech in June, 1788, said the "great object is that every man be armed [ . . . ] Every man who is able may have a gun."  This assumes that until found guilty of being mentally unable, all men should be allowed to be armed.

In the Philadelphia Independent Gazetteer, August, 1789, Samuel Adams said "That the said Constitution shall never be construed or authorize Congress to infringe the just liberty of the press or the rights of conscience, or to prevent the people of the United States who are peaceable citizens from keeping their own arms."  Not militia arms, their own arms.

Zecharia Johnson, was clear in his beliefs.  He said, "the new Constitution could never result in religious persecution or other oppression because:  [T]he people are not to be disarmed of their weapons.  They are left in full possession of them."

Benjamin Franklin thought that people who gave up "essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety".  Historical Review of Pennsylvania, 1759.

At the Virginia ratifying convention in June, 1788, Patrick Henry is credited with saying, "we should have fine times, indeed, if to prevent tyrants, it were only sufficient to assemble the people!  Your arms wherewith you could defend yourselves, are gone . . . Did you ever read of any resolution in a nation . . ., inflicted by those who had no power at all? 

The bottom line is that widespread liberty, and to some degree safety, cannot be maintained without the right for individuals to bear arms.  Without this, the military could succeed in a coup without even having to fire their weapons.  Holding them on the citizens would be all that is necessary.  Our sometimes out of control politicians could pull off a takeover.  Isis, shown on This Week this morning and stating they are coming to put their flag over the Whitehouse, would have no resistance from individuals.  We would have no guns.  If they controlled the militia, they would control the country and we would have no recourse.

Although I greatly sympathize with any parent or other individual who loses a loved one to gun violence, more gun control is just not the answer.  And such controls are not ever going to bring back the one you loved and lost.  It just will not happen.  So in your grief, please keep in mind the words of Patrick Henry that tell us that guns are power and without power, we have no way to protect ourselves.  An assembly of people with no power is fruitless.

What we do need are better means of teaching and identifying problems within our children.  Work toward these goals, not gun control.  We need to offer the services of psychologists to all troubled individuals, rich or poor and young or old.  We also need to remove the stigma which taints people with sufficient courage to go get help.  We need to make this assistance affordable for all and a matter of easy access.  No parent, social worker, teacher or concerned citizen should ever hear the words, we have no beds available to help someone today.  It just should never happen. 

But the most chilling message I saw of all, was that Hitler has been quoted as saying that the biggest mistake they could make was to allow the people to keep their guns.  It must have been too tall an order to carry out, as the citizens apparently did still have at least some of their weapons.  But consider the speaker and his evil intent. 

You have read the words of some of the people who were influential in the formulation of our Constitution.  Do you still believe that they meant that only the militia should be armed?  I don't.
With protecting our freedoms and individual rights, there is some risk.  Don't throw out the baby with the bath water just because a few crazy people betray our forefather's trust.

And really, people, stop trying to bend the Constitution to your own preferences.  The Constitution belongs to us all and to our successors.

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