Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Right to Arms `Shall Not Be Infringed'

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Right to Arms `Shall Not Be Infringed'

Article excerpt

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. Second Amendment to the Constitution

Around these 27 words swirls a storm of controversy. Yet this storm has only recently boiled into being, fueled as it were by a rash of assassinations, assassination attempts and escalating violence in our streets. Because of this controversy, many in the media have become instant experts on the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights. Their voices rise in an unrelenting effort to wrest power from we, the people, a power they, along with an increasing number of politicians, feel sure the Founding Fathers did not mean for us to possess.

Yet, we must always remember, those who wrote the Bill of Rights considered this amendment so important they placed it high among the 12 submitted for ratification (the first two of which failed).

Revisionist thinkers believe they know what the authors meant by the Second Amendment. They point to the word "militia," insisting that only the National Guard should have the right to keep and bear arms. But the words of our country's first patriots should dispel this notion.

No freeman shall ever be debarred the use of arms. Thomas Jefferson, Jefferson Papers, vol. I

The great object is, that every man be armed. . . . Everyone who is able may have a gun. Patrick Henry, 3 Elliott Debates

And that the said constitution be never construed to authorize Congress . . . to prevent the people of the United States, who are peaceable citizens, from keeping their own arms. Samuel Adams, "Philadelphia Independent Gazetteer," Aug. 20, 1789

The word "militia" does not appear in these statements. When it does, the authors explain what the militia is.

A militia when properly formed are in fact the people themselves . . . and include all men capable of bearing arms . . . . To preserve liberty it is essential that the whole body of people always possess arms. Richard Henry Lee, "Additional Letters From The Federal Framer 53" (1788)

The supreme power in America cannot enforce unjust laws by the sword, because the whole body of the people are armed, and constitute a force superior to any band of regular troops. Noah Webster, "An Examination into the Leading Principles of the Federal Constitution Proposed by the Late Convention" (1787)

But surely, the argument continues, the Founding Fathers would have never condoned private ownership of "assault weapons." Yet it seems as though these guardians of liberty envisioned exactly that. …

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