Some have suggested that the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution gives only “A well regulated Militia” the right to bear arms. This may be because such advocates have never read the Anti-Federalists, the Founding Fathers who argued successfully for our citizens’ right to bear arms.
The reason most people have never read the Anti-Federalists’ original intent is that, to my knowledge, no one ever compiled or published the Anti-Federalist papers until 1966 when a Smith College professor, Cecelia M. Kenyon (Harvard-Radcliffe PhD), compiled a 580-page volume of some of the original Anti-Federalists’ writings.
It was not until 1981 that a comprehensive annotated seven volume work (1840 pages) of Anti-Federalist original pamphlets, letters and speeches was compiled by Herbert J. Storing (who died before finishing it) and completed by his graduate student Murray Dry. Only then did virtually all legal scholars even have access to the Anti-Federalists’ original intent.
Therefore, for 192 years virtually all our legal precedent interpretations were based on Federalists’ interpretations. Scholars should also have read the Anti-Federalists’ interpretations, since they were the ones that demanded the Bill of Rights be included to limit the power of the Federal government to usurp people’s individual rights.
Where is the proof? Thomas Jefferson wrote “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.” James Monroe stated that “the right to keep and bear arms” is a basic human right. Supreme Court Justice Scalia reaffirmed this in the Heller case.
George Mason wrote “Every Husbandman will be quickly converted into a Soldier, when he knows and feels that he is to fight not in defence of the Rights of a particular Family or a Prince: but for his own.” And then he gave examples throughout history where people were able to defend their freedom because they were armed. For example in Switzerland, citizens were then and are now required to be armed. Mason wrote “It is this which preserves the Freedom and Independence of the Swiss Canton, in the midst of the most powerful nations.”
On May 6, 1792 Congress passed an act requiring every male (with certain exceptions, e.g. on religious grounds) between 18 and 45 have a “musket or firelock.” This was similar to the Swiss requirement that every man should be armed.
Even Federalist James Madison, who is credited with drafting the Second Amendment, in Federalist #46, wrote of his contempt for governments that were “afraid to trust the people with arms.”
Knowing the above, there should be no doubt that the Second Amendment was ratified to protect “the right of the people to keep and bear Arms.” One reason our country is currently in such disarray is that our citizens’ lack of knowledge about the Constitution and Bill of Rights has allowed heavy-handed government elites to seize unconstitutional powers at the expense of our personal freedoms.
James F. Davis is the president of Accuracy in Academia.
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