The 2nd Amendment: What They Forgot to Tell You in School...

“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” - What they never taught you at school.

The horror just recently perpetrated at Sandy Hook Elementary School on the heels of the movie-theater massacre in Aurora, CO, has raised questions about firearms in America and the Second 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.”

Be assured, the Second Amendment to the Constitution is not about the right to self-protection (I mean, why would any sane person need to delineate a reason for self-protection?), rather its main concern is with the overreach of a centralized federal government. Many of the representatives to the Constitutional Convention were concerned with the inherent risks of centralizing power as was being decided in the forming of our new federal government. After all, we had just fought a war to throw off what many thought was a tyrannical government that refused to grant the colonies equal representation. Indeed, the Constitution was preceded by the Articles of Confederation, a document that so weakened the federal government, due to the founders’ fears of centralized government, that it proved unworkable. So, while the conventioneers sought to repair that problem, they were wary of going overboard in the other direction and so were overly concerned with guarding the liberties of the people.

Some are under the impression that with a standing army we no longer have any need for militias and therefore the Second Amendment is defunct—DOA, so to speak. The Second Amendment was, in fact, about the right of the people to form a militia to fight federal government tyranny. Local militias were a response to a standing army which the colonists had had more than enough of. A standing army is no reason for the Second Amendment to pass away; a standing army is why the Second Amendment was written and is still so necessary.

One Patch reader worried why we needed firearms at all in this day and age and thought that the proliferation of firearms in the hands of the people is tantamount to living in a military state. Did I really need to respond that when only law enforcement and the military possess weapons, that is a police state? All tyrants first attempt to disarm the people and then, having removed all impediments to their tyranny, wreak their havoc upon the masses. The Second Amendment was drafted to protect against such. Please, give the founders a little more credit for their foresight than you might possess before trying to diminish the safeguards they imposed as protection against the tyranny of centralized government.

Be it understood that the founders, one and all, supported an armed citizenry not for the purpose of self-defense, nor for the purpose of withstanding an invading army, but expressly for the purpose of keeping the central government from becoming tyrannical.

Patrick Henry believed the only sure guarantee of liberty was an armed and trained citizenry. Alexander Hamilton (The Federalist No. 29) wrote, “…little more can be reasonably aimed at, with respect to the people at large, than to have them properly armed.” Noah Webster argued that an armed citizenry was the protection against the potential threat to liberty represented by a standing army. In fact, those at the Constitutional Convention who were opposed to a Bill of Rights were so because they were doubtful that the federal government would ever be capable of raising a standing army powerful enough to overcome a militia. So, it was not opposition to the ideas contained in the Second Amendment, per se, but more a doubting of its needfulness. Remember, it was only a few years prior that we had been through a war that never would have occurred were it not for the fact that the colonists were well-armed.

The point to be made above is that the armed citizenry in the form of local militias were not because of the lack of a standing army but expressly seen as established in response to a standing army. In fact, to form a local militia in the case of tyrannical impositions imposed upon the people by a centralized government with a standing army at its disposal, the citizenry as individuals need to be armed beforehand; thus is the requirement and needfulness of an armed populace.

Another point should be made with reference to the idea that an armed citizenry is not a guarantee of the Second Amendment or that there is no longer any need for a militia. The argument is made that the Second Amendment has reference only to an organized militia needed in the case of an armed invasion but the Constitution had already made allowance for such and the laws regarding armies and militias is contained in Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution proper, so why would there be a need to bring it up again in an amendment? Look at it this way, the Constitution was written in an attempt to establish the boundaries of the centralized federal government. The representatives of each of the individual states however were in such fear of a growing and ever encroaching central government that they established further the bounds of the federal government in the 10th Amendment: “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.” While the Constitution was meant to delineate the boundaries of and restrain the powers of a centralized government, the representatives of the convention wrote the Bill of Rights to further elaborate and protect the rights of the states and the people from what they feared would be an ever encroaching centralized federal government.

Finally, one more point as to the argument against the need of so-called “assault rifles” and “high capacity magazines.” If, in fact, my argument is correct, and I welcome anybody willing to refute it with hard data, then the Second Amendment guarantees all Americans the right to bear arms. And that right is grounded in the concern that the founders had over the ability of the citizenry to raise and man a militia for the specific purpose of protection against a bloated and corrupt centralized federal government with a well-armed standing army at its disposal to impose its capricious will upon any attempt to protest. If that is so, what kind of arms would the people need access to? Would you suggest that a responsible answer to a fully outfitted army regular with full battle gear and a fully automatic rifle would be a citizen with a single shot revolver? If so, you not only misunderstand the point of this blog but you are ignorant about the struggles and concerns of the founders of this nation and those who put their lives on the line when they signed the Declaration of Independence, who to guard against any such situation arising again made sure to provide for the needs of the people with the guarantee of the ability to protect themselves against a federal government gone wild. They did this by writing the Constitution of the United States to limit the government’s powers and then complemented that with the rights of the citizenry as delineated in the Bill of Rights. And that’s the Law!

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

bob esposito December 27, 2012 at 02:45 PM
OK, I see your point and have some understanding of our history. But if I accept your agrument, who do we need to arm ourselves (as a safeguard) against. what focce that could constitute a tyranical form of government -- the President, the U.S. Congress, the U.S. Armed Forces, the Governor of New Jersey, the NJ Guard, local Government, the police, the Democratic party, the Republican party, third parties, etc. ?
Paul J. DiBartolo December 27, 2012 at 03:50 PM
I guess you don't see my point, Bob. Maybe you should spend a little of your time and read what the people who actually drafted the amendment thought about it's need and who they thought they needed to arm themselves against. Google will suffice to find everything you need on the topic. Have you ever heard of "Oath Keepers"? Google that term and try to explain why these people thought there was a need to organize in the way they have. Do you understand that our politicians have done exactly what the founders were trying to guard against...the organization of a elitist political class with special rights not granted to the people? Maybe you didn't see Barbara Boxer (D-CA) demand that a General, testifying before a Senate committee and offering her all the respect in the world by addressing her as "Ma'am," scolded by her and told to address her as Senator (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f0CprVYsG0k). Do your President and Congressional Representatives have the same insurance plan and retirement plan that they've offered to you? If the Government goes out of control who will they send to deal with us when we protest? Who did Stalin, Hitler, Pol Pot, and the likes employ to control the people? Lest you think I'm a conspiracy theorist, think again. The Second Amendment is a protection established by the founders to hopefully avoid any such scenario. When the people are armed the government will maintain a safe distance.
Schu December 27, 2012 at 05:05 PM
Just read sen. Feinstein will offer a bill to ban most handguns. Doing her job of upholding and defending the constitution.
bob esposito December 27, 2012 at 05:12 PM
Paul, I understand where you are coming from, and I think that you are correct about the concerns of our Country's founders. We as a country suffered through a Civil War with countless causalties on both sides over matters in part related to peoples' rights. Do we have elitist polictical classes today ? Yes, I think so, and that has been part of our history. In the 1980s, President Regan ordered the Justice Department to go after the S&L fraudsters, and they went to jail. Hopefully, our system of Government, despite all its failingis, has enough checks and balances for us as a nation to survive with equal liberty and justice for all. However, our form of Government is a work still in progress. Despite our differences, we vote for those representatives whom we think will best serve our Country. Do we need an armed populace for the Government (that is, our elected Government) to maintain a safe distance today? I pray not, but it appears to be the LAW.. I don't think that we should consider guns as part of the solution TODAY. If a citizen wants to own a gun, there should be, in my view, strict Federal control laws, supplemented by State laws, to permit such ownship. I don't see the need for the citizentry to have access to military assault, rapid fire weapons with large capacity ammo clips. I don't want innocent citizens (including children) and first responders facing such weapons.
Paul J. DiBartolo December 27, 2012 at 05:47 PM
You might want to ask yourself why the representatives at the Constitutional Convention in 1787 felt the need to address the right to bare arms by crafting the 2nd Amendment. The war was over but, to a man, any comments you find addressing the right to bare arms had to do with an armed citizenry being able to keep a standing army in check. What has changed since 1787 that makes such a need any less a requirement to guard our liberties? Who ultimately takes our liberties away? Citizens or government? My view of the situation tells me that the 2nd Amendment is needed now more than ever compared to 1787. As for the need for modern weapons in the hands of law abiding citizens...the government has no need to fear me unless by its actions it gives me reason to fear it. Have you ever heard of a no-knock warrant? Have you ever heard of a no-knock warrant erroneously executed at the wrong address? Humor me, please; attempt to answer the two questions I posed bearing on military-style weapons in the last paragraph of my blog. >> ...what kind of arms would the people need access to? >> Would you suggest that a responsible answer to a fully outfitted army regular with full battle gear and a fully automatic rifle would be a citizen with a single shot revolver?
Paul J. DiBartolo December 27, 2012 at 06:12 PM
BTW, Bob, I respect the fact that you have the right to express your opinion but I have endeavored in this blog, not to state my opinion but rather, to delineate the facts themselves that explain the Second Amendment. I am opposed to abortion but my opinion on that subject will do nothing at this time to close the abortion clinics nationwide. The law has been contorted, in my opinion, but contorted none the less, to allow abortion-on-demand. Likewise, while you might disagree with the founders and the representatives who made allowance for the right to bear arms, the fact is, it's the Law and thus there is little room for opinions. So, again, please, stating the facts of your case, make such a case for the right of the government to infringe upon our right to bear arms when the Amendments states the exact opposite. Also remember that once you allow the government to trample the Second Amendment, get out of the way because that's just the beginning. And if you don't understand that then you don't understand history.
bob esposito December 27, 2012 at 07:02 PM
Paul, What has changed since 1787 was the Civil War. The outcome re-affirmed the United States of America as an entity, although a very imperfect one. History has taught us the painful lesson that we as a nation should not bear arms against each other. Unfortunately, the Government makes progress very slowly, with steps sometimes taken backwards. So, I choose not to answer your last 2 questions since that is not the solution as I see it. We probably agree that our liberties are being eroded. In my view, it is by the criminal who steals and robs, by those organizations that defraud without fear of any meaningful Government action, and by troubled individuals who kill innocents. By the Government which has gotten us into extended wars. Privately, I see the rights of the unborn and my freedom of certain religious convictions taken away by the Government. The Second Amendment indeed creates a dilemna to me in this day and time. My answer is not to prepare to arm myself against the Army or Marines or Guard in a doomsday scenario, but to do my best as a private citizen to work within the system to ensure justice and freedom for all. The alternative to me seems to be complete anarchy and chaos, which I pray will never happen. Respectfully, Bob E.
Paul J. DiBartolo December 27, 2012 at 07:50 PM
Bob, how did the Civil War have any effect on the Constitution or 2nd Amendment? In fact, slavery was ended by an amendment to the Constitution (13th) outlawing it. Why was an amendment needed? As for your refusal to answer my questions, that tells me you have no reasonable answer. Do you confirm or deny that the 2nd Amendment is the Law of the Land? If not, when was the 2nd Amendment revoked? Are you content to allow the government to make laws at will without itself remaining within the proscribed guidelines set by our Constitution? You state that government has gotten us into extended wars and has already taken away Constitutional Rights (1st Amendment) but you are content to accept that. As for eroding liberties...the criminals don't steal your liberties, the government does in the name of protecting you. Having a TSA agent reach inside the waistband of your underwear is an erosion of your liberty in action all in the name of keeping you safe and I hope we all know what Benjamin Franklin said about security and liberty. I agree that it is tragic to bear arms against one another...and exactly what do you call it when government forces its will upon the people with the threat of armed violence? So, am I a threat to you, my fellow citizen, or the government at large? On the other side, my township just sold home liens at 18% interest to private investors for delinquent payments as little as $50 owed to the MUA. Again, do you know what Oath Keepers are?
bob esposito December 27, 2012 at 10:41 PM
Paul, From my perspective, 2nd Amendment gave a constitutional intrepretation (out) for South States to leave the Union and fight because of alleged Federal Government tyranny. In light of our history, especially 20th Century wars, is the 2nd Amendment now an archaic law? I acknowledge that it is the Law of the Land. Perhaps the 2nd Admendment was kept as Law of the Land after the Civil War in order that leaders of the Confederacy were not tried and sentenced to death for treason. The Union was preserved; we don't kill our own. Regards loss of rights and liberty, a slippery slope, especially since 9-11. I think that Presidents (FDR through Obama in my lifetime) make decisions that they honestly believe are in the best interests of the Country, but such decisions are strongly influenced behind the scenes by big business and money (which may not be in the best interests of the common citizen -- e.g.free trade). FDR, Truman, and Eisenhower, gave us much to reflect upon. You Government gives you a 2nd Amendment right and protection to bear arms against itself in the event of Federal tyranny. (Sounds foolhardy does it?) Who decides what is Federal tyranny? The President, the Congress, the Courts? We as a Country are all in this together, including Oath keepers. I don't view you as a threat nor the Government because we have a system in place to correct mistakes, at least in the long run, The threat is the idea of violence. Thanks , you have last say.
Paul J. DiBartolo December 27, 2012 at 11:05 PM
Bob, you obviously did not understand my blog. Do you understand the reasoning for the 2nd Amendment as stated in my blog and the words of those in attendance at the Convention? At times it seems you do and then you write something that makes it seems like you don't. Some of your comments seem to be coming out of left field. I've never heard anybody mention the 2nd Amendment as applying to the Civil War. Are you familiar wit the argument for nullification as used by the Southern States? Do you understand the role that tariffs played in the disagreements between North and South? You know that South Carolina seceded on the news of Lincoln's election, right? What has the 2nd Amendment to do with it? There was never any appeal made to the 2nd Amendment by anyone at the time the southern states seceded. And then you try to make some connection between the 2nd Amendment and 20th century wars. I, for one, am lost on that. Presidents do not have the authority or the liberty to do whatever they think is best as you seem to suggest. They have to remain within the confines of, and obey, the Law. >> The Union was preserved; we don't kill our own. What do you call approximately 700,00 war dead as a result of the War Between the States? In fact, because the rational for secession could not be disputed, Jefferson Davis was never tried because, try as they liked, the Lawyers of the North could come up with no grounds to prosecute him. It had nothing to do with the 2nd Amendment.
Paul J. DiBartolo December 29, 2012 at 06:40 PM
For any still following this thread I would like to draw attention to a post on another article respecting this blog by the local township jester who’s name shall remain anonymous to protect the guilty. The useful idiot, as it were, did not see fit to respond here probably because the arguments as to the reasoning behind the inclusion of the 2nd Amendment by the Constitutional Convention of 1787 are indisputable. I get it. (Caveat: I did notice that my blog page shows 11 comments here but only 10 show up so it is possible that the jester did post a rant that the editor subsequently disallowed.) So, what did this highly respected personage who refuses to use his/her own name do? The jester conflated the issue of the 2nd Amendment’s guarantee to access to firearms for the purpose of keeping our government honest with a multiple cop shooting and subsequent killing of the suspect responsible for the shooting at the Gloucester Township Police offices early on the morning of the 28th of December. The comment can be found here and reads: “…The Second Amendment is a protection established by the founders ... When the people are armed the government will maintain a safe distance.” “Guess the GT Police failed to head Paul’s warning to stay away from this criminal or get shot.” CONTINUED...
Paul J. DiBartolo December 29, 2012 at 06:43 PM
CONTINUED... “Guess the GT Police failed to head Paul’s warning to stay away from this criminal or get shot” (http://gloucestertownship.patch.com/articles/report-three-officers-shot-at-gloucester-township-police-department). The first two phrases are my comments (see previous comment) that he/she is quoting. The second illogical phrase (quoted as is with the misspelling) belongs to the town jester. So, I make a point from available and verifiable historic quotes (referenced in place) of our founders with regard to their understanding of what they were accomplishing and guaranteeing with the 2nd Amendment and the town clown conflates that with what happened at the police station which is not only an insult to our intelligence but to our GT police officers. The suspect was not armed. He helped himself to an officer’s weapon after a struggle. What has this to do with the right to bear arms as promised in the 2nd Amendment? Is the jokester writing this drivel suggesting that the GT police have reason to fear GT’s law-abiding gun owners? Is that you; if so, how does that make you feel? Did I conjure up the reasoning for the 2nd Amendment or was it the work of our founders? Is this ridiculous comment a suggestion that there should be no firearms at the police station and that our police should not be armed? Frankly, I am at a loss to understand what this individual of questionable intelligence is trying to say. How about you?


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