Framers Guaranteed Right to Bear Arms to Defend against Tyranny

By Williams, Walter E. | Insight on the News, February 19, 2001 | Go to article overview

Framers Guaranteed Right to Bear Arms to Defend against Tyranny


Williams, Walter E., Insight on the News


During last week's Senate confirmation hearings, Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., laid into President Bush's attorney-general nominee John Ashcroft about his strong support for the U.S. Constitution's Second Amendment. Kennedy demanded that Ashcroft apologize to the American people.

For what did Kennedy think Ashcroft should apologize? In a speech, Ashcroft said that the reason the Framers demanded a constitutional protection for "the right of the people to keep and bear arms" was to provide a measure of protection against tyranny in government.

Kennedy demonstrated gross ignorance about the founding of our nation. To throw such an intemperate, public, hissy fit he must have counted on -- and correctly so -- the ignorance of his senatorial colleagues, the news media and most Americans.

Ashcroft didn't bother to defend himself. He might have figured that Kennedy and his colleagues were uneducable and possibly feared that producing facts would have brought on even greater ire.

Let's you and I look at the Framers' words to see whether they gave us the Second Amendment so we could go deer and duck hunting or, as Ashcroft said, to protect against tyranny in government.

Thomas Jefferson said: "No man shall ever be debarred the use of arms. The strongest reason for the people to retain the right to keep and bear arms is, as a last resort, to protect themselves against tyranny in government." Jefferson made himself even more explicit when he said: "And what country can preserve its liberties, if its rulers are not .warned from time to time, that this people preserve the spirit of resistance? Let them take arms.... The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants."

Writing in the Federalist No. 46, James Madison said, "The Constitution preserves the advantage of being armed which Americans possess over the people of almost every other nation ... [where] the governments are afraid to trust the people with arms. …

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