More Second Amendment Madness

Exclusive: Elements of the American Right are suggesting that Barack Obama, the twice-elected President of the United States, is a tyrant whose gun-control plans should be resisted by force, a gross and dangerous distortion of why the Framers wrote the Second Amendment, says Robert Parry.

By Robert Parry

The Right’s powerful propaganda apparatus has sold millions of Americans on the dangerous and false notion that the Framers of the U.S. Constitution incorporated the Second Amendment in the Bill of Rights so an armed population could fight the government that the Framers had just created.

As a result of that historical lie, many right-wingers today appear to be heeding a call to arms by buying up assault weapons at a frenetic pace. A “Gun Appreciation Day” is scheduled for the Saturday before Barack Obama’s Second Inaugural, which coincidentally falls on Martin Luther King Day. Thousands of gun owners are expected to turn out waving flags and brandishing rifles.

General Benjamin Lincoln who led a force in 1787 to put down Shays’ Rebellion in western Massachusetts. (Painting by Charles Willson Peale)

The organizer of that effort, right-wing activist Larry Ward, wrote that “the Obama administration has shown that it is more than willing to trample the Constitution to impose its dictates upon the American people.”

In recent weeks, this bogus narrative of the Framers seeking to encourage violence to subvert the peaceful and orderly process that they had painstakingly created in Philadelphia in 1787 also has been pushed by prominent right-wingers, such as radio host Rush Limbaugh and Fox News personality Andrew Napolitano

Napolitano declared: “The historical reality of the Second Amendment’s protection of the right to keep and bear arms is not that it protects the right to shoot deer. It protects the right to shoot tyrants, and it protects the right to shoot at them effectively, with the same instruments they would use upon us.”

The suggestion is that armed Americans must confront the “tyrannical” Barack Obama the twice-elected President of the United States (and the first African-American to hold that office) if he presses ahead seeking commonsense gun restrictions in the face of the massacre of 20 schoolchildren in Newtown, Connecticut, and hundreds of other horrendous incidents of gun violence.

These “revolutionary” Americans have been persuaded that they are channeling the intent of the Framers who supposedly saw armed uprisings against the legally constituted U.S. government as an important element of “liberty.”

But that belief is not the historical reality. Indeed, the reality is almost the opposite. The Second Amendment was enacted so each state would have the specific right to form “a well-regulated militia” to maintain “security,” i.e. to put down armed rebellions.

The Framers also made clear what they thought should happen to people who took up arms against the Republic. Article IV, Section 4 committed the federal government to protect each state from not only invasion but “domestic Violence,” and treason is defined in the Constitution as “levying war against” the United States as well as giving “Aid and Comfort” to the enemy (Article III, Section 3).

Second Amendment’s History

The historical context of the Second Amendment also belies today’s right-wing mythology. At the time of the Constitutional Convention, the young nation was experiencing violent unrest, such as the Shays’ Rebellion in western Massachusetts. That armed uprising was testing the ability of the newly independent nation to establish order within the framework of a democratic Republic, a fairly untested idea at the time. European monarchies were predicting chaos and collapse for the United States.

Among the most concerned about that possibility was General George Washington, who had sacrificed greatly for the birth of the new nation. After the British surrender at Yorktown in 1781 and their acceptance of American independence in 1783, Washington fretted over the inability of the states-rights-oriented Articles of Confederation, then governing the country, to deal with its economic and security challenges.

Washington grew disgusted with the Articles’ recognition of 13 “independent” and “sovereign” states and the correspondingly weak central government, called not even a government, but a “league of friendship.”

As Commander-in-Chief of the Continental Army, Washington had watched his soldiers suffer when various states reneged on their commitment to supply money and arms. After the war, Washington retired but stayed active in seeking reforms that would strengthen the central government’s ability to organize national commerce and to maintain order.

His fears deepened in 1786 when Daniel Shays, a former Continental Army captain, led an uprising of other veterans and farmers in western Massachusetts, taking up arms against the government for failing to address their economic grievances.

Washington received reports on the crisis from old Revolutionary War associates in Massachusetts, such as his longtime logistical chief, Gen. Henry Knox, and Gen. Benjamin Lincoln, who accepted the British surrender at Yorktown as Washington’s second in command. They kept Washington apprised of the disorder, which he feared might encourage renewed interference in American affairs by the British or other European powers.

On Oct. 22, 1786, in a letter seeking more information about the rebellion from a friend in Connecticut, Washington wrote: “I am mortified beyond expression that in the moment of our acknowledged independence we should by our conduct verify the predictions of our transatlantic foe, and render ourselves ridiculous and contemptible in the eyes of all Europe.”

In another letter on Nov. 7, 1786, Washington questioned Gen. Lincoln about the unrest: “What is the cause of all these commotions? When and how will they end?” Washington was especially concerned about the possibility of a hidden British hand.

Lincoln responded: “Many of them [the rebels] appear to be absolutely so [mad] if an attempt to annihilate our present constitution and dissolve the present government can be considered as evidence of insanity.”

However, the U.S. government under the Articles of Confederation lacked the means to restore order. So wealthy Bostonians financed their own force under Gen. Lincoln to crush the uprising in February 1787. Afterwards, Washington remained concerned the rebellion might be a sign that European predictions about American chaos were coming true.

“If three years ago [at the end of the American Revolution] any person had told me that at this day, I should see such a formidable rebellion against the laws & constitutions of our own making as now appears I should have thought him a bedlamite a fit subject for a mad house,” Washington wrote to Knox on Feb. 3, 1787, adding that if the government “shrinks, or is unable to enforce its laws anarchy & confusion must prevail.”

Just weeks later, Washington’s alarm about Shays’ Rebellion was a key factor in his decision to take part in and preside over the Constitutional Convention, which was supposed to offer revisions to the Articles of Confederation but instead threw out the old structure entirely and replaced it with the U.S. Constitution. The Constitution shifted national sovereignty from the 13 states to “We the People” and dramatically enhanced the power of the central government.

The key point of the Constitution was to create a peaceful means for the United States to implement policies favored by the people but within a structure of checks and balances to prevent radical changes deemed too disruptive to the established order. For instance, the two-year terms of the House of Representatives were meant to reflect the popular will but the six-year terms of the Senate were designed to temper the passions of the moment (and senators were initially chosen by state legislatures, not the people).

Within this framework of a democratic Republic where peaceful change was possible though intentionally gradual the Framers criminalized taking up arms against the government. But it was the Constitution’s drastic expansion of federal power that prompted strong opposition from some Revolutionary War figures, such as Virginia’s Patrick Henry who spearheaded the Anti-Federalist movement.

Prospects for the Constitution’s ratification were in such doubt that its principal architect James Madison joined in a sales campaign known as the Federalist Papers in which he tried to play down how radical his changes actually were. To win over other skeptics, Madison agreed to support a Bill of Rights, which would be proposed as the first ten amendments to the Constitution. The Bill of Rights was a mix of concessions, some substantive and some rhetorical, to both individual citizens and the states.

The Second Amendment was primarily a right granted to the states. It read: “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.”

Madison’s political maneuvering narrowly secured approval of the Constitution in key states, such as Virginia, New York and Massachusetts. The First Congress then approved the Bill of Rights, which was ratified in 1791. [For more details on the Constitution, see Robert Parry’s America’s Stolen Narrative.]

Behind the Second Amendment

As the preface to the Second Amendment makes clear, the concern was about enabling states to organize militias that could maintain “security,” which fit with the Constitution’s goal of “domestic Tranquility” within the framework of a Republic.

This concept was amplified by the actions of the Second Congress amid another uprising which erupted in 1791 in western Pennsylvania. This anti-tax revolt, known as the Whiskey Rebellion, prompted Congress in 1792 to expand on the idea of “a well-regulated militia” by passing the Militia Acts which required all military-age white males to obtain their own muskets and equipment for service in militias.

At the time, Madison was in the U.S. Congress and Washington was in the presidency with both supporting the new laws so the “original intent” of the Framers could not be easily misunderstood.

The right “to keep and bear arms” was always within the context of participating in militias or today the National Guard not as the right of individuals to possess devastating weapons that could be used to violently overthrow the U.S. government or to kill its officials. (The recognition of a collective rather than individual right was only reversed in 2008 when right-wing ideologues had gained control of the U.S. Supreme Court and then overturned longstanding legal precedents.)

But if there was any doubt about how the actual Framers saw the Second Amendment, it was answered in 1794 when President Washington led a combined force of state militias against the Whiskey rebels in Pennsylvania. The revolt soon collapsed; many leaders fled; and two participants were convicted of high treason and sentenced to hanging, though Washington later pardoned them.

Beyond this clear historical record that the Framers’ intent with the Second Amendment was to create security for the new Republic, not promote armed rebellions there is also the simple logic that the Framers represented the young nation’s aristocracy. Many, like Washington, owned vast tracts of land and favored domestic tranquility to promote economic development and growth.

So, it would be counterintuitive as well as anti-historical to believe that Madison and Washington wanted to arm the population so the discontented could resist the constitutionally elected government. In reality, the Framers wanted to arm the people at least the white males to repulse uprisings, whether economic clashes like Shays’ Rebellion, anti-tax protests like the Whiskey Rebellion, attacks by Native Americans or slave revolts.

Fabricated History

However, the Right has invested heavily over the last several decades in fabricating a different national narrative, one that ignores both logic and the historical record. In this right-wing fantasy, the Framers wanted everyone to have a gun so they could violently resist their own government.

To build that narrative, a few incendiary quotes are cherry-picked, taken out of context or invented. [See, for instance, Steven Krulik’s compilation of such apocryphal references.]

This “history” has then been amplified through the Right’s powerful propaganda apparatus Fox News, talk radio, the Internet and ideological publications to persuade millions of Americans that their possession of semi-automatic assault rifles and other powerful firearms is what the Framers intended, that today’s gun owners are fulfilling some centuries-old American duty.

It should be noted, too, that Thomas Jefferson, one of the most radical-sounding (though hypocritical) leaders of the Revolutionary War, was not a Framer of the Constitution. In 1787, when the document was written, he was the U.S. representative in France.

There is also the obvious point that the Framers’ idea of a weapon was a single-shot musket that required time-consuming reloading, not a powerful semi-automatic assault rifle that could fire up to 100 bullets in a matter of seconds without the necessity to reload.

However, people like Andrew Napolitano on the Right as well as some dreamy revolutionaries on the Left still suggest that the Framers enacted the Second Amendment so the firepower of people trying to overthrow the U.S. government and kill its agents would be equal to whatever weapons the government possessed.

This crazy notion would be laughable if its consequences were not so horrible. The human price for this phony concept of “liberty” and this bogus history is the horrendous death toll that gun violence inflicts on American society, including the recent slaughter of those children in Newtown.

Yet, instead of recognizing the actual history and accepting that the Constitution was an attempt by the Framers to create a democratic process for peaceful change, today’s advocates of a violent revolution whether from the Right or the Left feed the paranoia and the ignorance of their followers.

Investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s. You can buy his new book, America’s Stolen Narrative, either in print here or as an e-book (from Amazon and


43 comments for “More Second Amendment Madness

  1. Rampant
    January 26, 2013 at 02:45

    Just like the bible people will and do interpet it differently to suit their views. The peoples right to bear arms will not be infringed seems straight forward to me. In a time where are constitutional rights are being stripped away under the guise of national security. I find it incredible that US citizens are just giving their rights up freely. Now the 2nd amendment seems more important than ever. By the time the american people realize how much that has been stolen from us the 2nd Amendment might be our last resort. Lets start taking our constitution seriously again and quit trying to minamize the words that most take for granted.

  2. Killer
    January 26, 2013 at 00:33

    “so an armed population could fight the government that the Framers had just created”

    Your creditability goes out the window when you blatantly lie two lines into the article.

    Just another liberal rag.

  3. Stryker1952
    January 20, 2013 at 19:21

    You make me sick. My Pledge is to the rule of law, The Constitution, no mater how you twist its interpretation. Your allegence is to protect the United States from “all enemies foreign and domestic”. Your are insulting people using words such as “fantasy”, hone your people skills brother, they just inflame the issue. May the United States be that “Shining City on the Hill” for a 1000 years and an example of Republic Freedom that the world envies. If someone breaks down my door with a club, to invade my home to steal everything I got, my wife, my child, my life, I hope my stick is as big as his, preferablely bigger.

    • Stryker1952
      January 20, 2013 at 19:23

      I didn’t mean to reply to you, sorry, but to Mr Robert Parry.

  4. Zeog
    January 20, 2013 at 05:10

    It’s common sense to limit the number of rds in a handgun? Today in the news a womans home was invaded by five men! Five!! She managed to wound two and they fled but what would have happened if she was limited to 7 or 10 rds, that means she can only miss twice and all the other shots must do severe enough damage. This is insane. All it does is give bad guys the upperhand and we shouldnt stand for this BS.

  5. jg
    January 19, 2013 at 23:33

    In the Revolutionary period they fought with primitive muskets that took minutes, not milliseconds, to reload and fire. The had no concept of an AK-47 or an Uzi. They had no concept of people evil enough or stoned enough to invade a schoolyard or a theater and spray deadly bullets into dozens of innocent casual citizens, massacring them for no reason at all but to induce generalized fear. They had no concept of an MK-Ultra program to produce zombie assassins that would kill and not remember anything, or kill themselves and destroy the evidence when it was over.

  6. Paul
    January 19, 2013 at 21:32

    I disagree with the premise of this article. Shay’s Rebellion was not some violent outburst of some “mad-men.” This article skirts the real cause of Shay’s rebellion. Daniel Shay was a soldier in the American army. After years of being away, he came home and found that his home and farm were being repossessed because of back-taxes. This was an insult to him and the many other veterans who faced the same reality after their sacrifice. When no one would give them any consideration, they decided to defend their homes against the repossessors. An army was sent by the central government to crush the fighters. The whhiskey rebellion was fought because the new American government decided to tax the whiskey produced at home and sold to others. Even the British did not tax this, but the new government decided to do so. The taxes were unreasonable so the people fought back.
    Without guns, these people would be unkown and just crushed. I don’t think that banning guns is the answer. Im for laws and regulations which require gun owners to take more responsibility for their weapons and be held accountable for what happens with those guns while registered to them. A reasonable yearly tax or requirement for insurance coverage for gun owners would be acceptable. A car is a more dangerous weapon, but that can’t be take away. But since its a hazard, we pay insurance on it. That makes most of us more conscious of our driving habits. Same can apply to guns. More responsibility and accountability for gun owners YES, bans NO.

  7. Old Papa
    January 19, 2013 at 00:32

    All of the attempts by Obama,Pelosi and Cuomo do little or nothing to curb or prevent gun violence. They simply restrict the rights of law abiding,tax paying citizens. We must imprison all people who would commit a crime such as robbery, rape, murder or virtually any other violent crime with any gun and have “minimum” sentencing of at least 10 years, preferably 20 years. The states of New York and Illinois have the highest crime rates in the nation. They also have the most restrictive gun laws. Criminals don’t care what the laws are. That’s why they are called criminals.

  8. Old Papa
    January 19, 2013 at 00:15

    The function of the government is not to control it’s citizens, but to serve it’s citizens. A government of the people, by the people and for the people. The governments of Russia and China of the previous century were governments who controlled their citizens. Ask Russian-Americans how they liked living under Communism. The government of the United States must be limited in it’s power over it’s citizens. Ronald Reagan once said “A government big enough to give you everything you want, Is also big enough to take it away”. Be careful what you wish for, You may get it.

    January 18, 2013 at 11:27

    The Second Amendment was never intended to be a mechanism by which the government would allow itself to be overthrown – its leaders would have to be insane to approve their own suicide this way. The function of government, all government, is to control its citizens. The men who fought England and framed the Constitution were wealthy landowners and slaveholders, who disenfranchised
    through suffrage qualifications at the state level almost 90% of the American people. They met in Philadelphia with the announced intent to revise the Articles of Confederation and then to submit the changes to the state legislatures for approval but instead, in secret session, they threw out America’s first constitution altogether and replaced it with a strong central government with all the power in their hands. They then sent it to select ratifying conventions of hand-picked delegates where only a tiny fraction of Americans were allowed to vote to accept or reject this virtual coup d’etat.

    It is impossible after such a breathtaking power grab that they would deliberately install a mechanism by which the people could remove them from that power. “Well-regulated” means by them, on their behalf, period.

  10. gregorylkruse
    January 17, 2013 at 16:36

    I hope I can be forgiven for being afraid that I might be shot down in the street by some jerk who doesn’t like the looks of me or doesn’t want to hear what I have to say. I’m not going to buy a Bushmaster to defend myself against such a person; I am entirely at his mercy. From what I hear from those kinds of gun owners, there isn’t much mercy in them.

  11. viraavi
    January 17, 2013 at 16:35


    I would not make a blanket statement about NRA as a Terrorist organization. But, certainly, some of the brass of the NRA almost, aid and abet domestic terrorists. The purpose and the import of the Second Amendment has been well documented, most recently, in the Heller case by the Supreme court. Ignoramuses on the far-right want us to believe that any law about gun control is an infringement of one’s right. Rights do come with responsibility and if sanity prevails with the almost dysfunctional Congress we could get some semblance of a control soon. AM I dreaming? May be!

  12. JymAllyn
    January 17, 2013 at 12:39

    The Fifth Estate –

    Political historians describe the Free Press of the US as the Fourth Estate helping to keep the action of the Executive, Congress, and Supreme Court open and free of corruption.

    And the oversight of the Fourth Estate works, except for the Vietnam War, the 2003 invasion of Iraq, and the financial screwing of the global economy by the US financial industry.

    However, we now are establishing a Fifth Estate, with the NRA as its primary spokesperson.

    When the Second Amendment was created, it had two primary functions: to provide the state and local GOVERNMENTS with the military resources to provide law and order within its governing area, and to insure that those state and local GOVERNMENTS maintained control over those militia rather than have them become at the disposal of the Federal Government.

    Despite the interpretation of the NRA and anti-Obama fanatics, the Second Amendment says nothing about letting anyone, whether sane or a Birther, have access to unregistered guns.

    The desire to have an unregistered gun implies that you don’t trust your own government, and also implies that you want the ability to overthrow it.

    Regardless of the also implied penis inferiority that is implied by obsessively wanting to have your own gun, the desire to have an unlicensed, unregulated gun, where a hand gun or assault weapon, also is indicative of your desire to be a terrorist, which is defined as someone who wants to overthrown their own government.

    Ergo, the NRA is a Terrorist organization, and its supporters likely need to have a psychological examination as well as have their guns registered.

  13. viraavi
    January 16, 2013 at 15:31

    With all the rhetoric in favor of owning a gun ( any kind that’s availalble to any nut who goes to a gun show!), would someone “educate” me in the history of the Second Amendment, as it exclusively pertains to the Southern Whites who wanted to perpetrate Slavery forever?

    And why was there a hue and cry to curtail the Second Amendment right to bear arms when the Black Panthers obtained guns galore?

    Oh! We have the right to bear arms but not they? Is it?

    The present day NRA leadership should be taught history. Can’t they hire a former history professor who could not get tenure at a small southern college even after seven years of “teaching?”

  14. cộng đồng
    January 16, 2013 at 13:54

    I’ll sum it all up with a poem I wrote. It’s below.

    Revelation – updated for our time into seven verses

    There once was a dream of humane freedom,
    but they declared a Dire Emergency;
    all that’s left is buying, selling, carrying guns.

    There once was a dream of peace,
    but they made it beg for mercy,
    then butchered it anyway.

    There once was a dream of self-government,
    but they auctioned it off piecemeal to the highest bidders;
    now the laws are written and construed in corporate boardrooms.

    There once was a dream of justice,
    but they shrank it and shrank it further,
    then drowned it in a bathtub.

    There once was a dream of equality
    but the fat cats wanted it all,
    so they dashed the dream’s brains out on the pavement.

    The brazen sun looked down on all the mayhem;
    it grew hotter and hotter still, until
    the doers and shakers turned into prunes.

    Now they’ve taken their rightful place
    at the ass-end of the queue while angels
    hand out polished stones to the masses.

    * * *

  15. Glen Pierce
    January 15, 2013 at 17:03

    I must be super smart. I didn’t need to completely read this fine article. I used common sense. Assault guns/mags for home owners is bad. Next, they will want hand grenades and howitzers? Sadly Hee-haw Hee-haw (with Dominick donkey song gusto). If they are so hell bend on weapons, let’s allow them undercover bow and arrows. Or better yet, sling shots. Oh, I write so silly. Then again, I am writing to silly assault gun owners. Hee-Haw.

  16. John
    January 14, 2013 at 23:33

    Sorry, Robert, but I must strongly disagree with your very first sentence, and thus the basis of this entire post:

    …and false – notion that the Framers of the U.S. Constitution incorporated the Second Amendment in the Bill of Rights so an armed population could fight the government that the Framers had just created.

    You seem not to consider that the bloody seven-year war, triggered by the British attempt to seize citizen arms and ammunition stored near Concord, was fought against the existing, legitimate government that had become increasingly tyrannical. So why wouldn’t the founders have been concerned that such could happen again (as, in fact, is happening: PATRIOT Acts, unlimited data-gathering, NDAA, TSA goons metastasizing not just to train and bus stations, but to sporting events and even high school proms,…). In fact, there is much in the writings of the founders to support this concern.

    A few excerpts:

    George Washington:
    A free people ought not only to be armed and disciplined, but they should have sufficient arms and ammunition to maintain a status of independence from any who might attempt to abuse them, which would include their own government.”

    Thomas Jefferson:
    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.”

    John Adams:
    Arms in the hands of the citizens may be used at individual discretion for the defense of the country, the overthrow of tyranny or private self-defense.”

    • leftover
      January 15, 2013 at 11:51

      Please verify your quotes with a source.

      The Jefferson quote, for instance, is listed at as a Spurious Quotation. (“This quotation has not been found in any of the writings of Thomas Jefferson.”)

      The other quotes from Washington and Adams appear to be jumbled, rewritten for effect.

  17. Jym Allyn
    January 14, 2013 at 21:41

    As a former Army Reserve Officer, PTA President, and Scoutmaster, I am a firm believer in the need for weaponry and the need for a “well regulated militia.”

    I have an older son that has had three tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, numerous commendations, but only one Bronze Star. My younger son is an Eagle Scout and an eighth grade science teacher.

    The rampant availability of weapons outside of a “well regulated militia” leads to terrorism and crime, and is something that is always advocated by insurgents.

    Question: Are you part of the Militia or part of the Insurgency?

    • Alfred Charles
      January 14, 2013 at 23:31

      Sir, thank you for your service.

      “I ask, sir, what is the militia? It is the whole people, except for a few public officials.”
      — George Mason

    • Jym Allyn
      January 17, 2013 at 11:55

      PS. The NRA has become a Terrorist organization.

  18. Evan Stevens
    January 14, 2013 at 21:20

    “There is also the obvious point that the Framers’ idea of a weapon was a single-shot musket that required time-consuming reloading, not a powerful semi-automatic assault rifle that could fire up to 100 bullets in a matter of seconds without the necessity to reload.”

    Fulminates- compounds that ignite gunpowper without flame or spark- what we use in bullets today
    The earliest research into these substances was made by a Frenchman named Peter Bolduc, prior to 1700. There were several reports published between 1712 and 1714 by the Royal Academy of Sciences, of experiments by Nicholas Lemery. Bayen, the chief physician of King Louis XV discovered mercury fulminate in 1774, Fourcroy studied them in 1785, Vauquelin in 1787, and Berthollet discovered silver fulminate in 1788. Until then, no one thought of using fulminates to firearms.

    Puckle Gun – 1718
    In 1718, James Puckle of London, England, demonstrated his new invention, the “Puckle Gun,” a tripod-mounted, single-barreled flintlock gun fitted with a multishot revolving cylinder.

    By 1532, the Nuremberg city council complained that although law-abiding citizens were not allowed to own wheel-lock handguns, highwaymen and robbers all carried them, so that the law was unenforceable.

    Since you go all the way to 1792 referencing technology of “the time” I thought you could stand to see what the landed gentry who wrote the constitution surely knew – that guns existed that were essentially semi-automatic, and that technological advancements were always occurring.

    I have voted for only one republican candidate and have voted in every election since 1970.

    I favor gun BUYER screenings, but the states are very poor at enforcing the federal regs we already have now. Like outlawing pot, when you have 200 million gun owners, be accurate and careful about what you say about what you want outlawed and your legal/historical reference.

  19. lastcamp2
    January 14, 2013 at 21:19

    I would have been worth mentioning that the slave Southern states, Virginia in particular, demanded the Second Amendment’s provisions because of their fear of insurrections by the enslaved. They kept militias on hand for the very purpose of putting down slave revolts, hence the “well regulated militia” provision in particular.

    You can find this documented in several places. Here is one:

    ” Virginia was nearly half black, and the white population lived in constant fear of slave insurrection. The main instrument of control was the militia. So critical was the militia for slave control that, in the main, the southern states refused to commit their militia to the war against the British. The Constitution, however, would transfer the lion’s share of the power over the militia to Congress. Slavery was becoming increasingly obnoxious to the North, and southern delegates to the Philadelphia convention demanded and got an agreement, somewhat cryptically written into the Constitution, that deprived the federal government of authority to abolish slavery. Mason and Henry raised the specter of Congress using its authority over the militia to do indirectly what it could not do directly. They suggested that Congress might refuse to call forth the militia to suppress an insurrection, send southern militia to New Hampshire….”

    Times haven’t changed so much, after all. There is palpable racism among those clamoring about gun “rights.”

  20. Evan Stevens
    January 14, 2013 at 21:01

    Amendment I
    Freedom of speech- “…right of the people…”

    Amendment II
    “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.”
    “…right of the people…”

    Amendment IV
    Unreasonable search and seizure
    “…right of the people…”

    In only one of theses three instances do you consider “right of the people” to mean a right of the collective rather than of the individuals?

  21. Hillary
    January 14, 2013 at 21:01

    The West has always been obsessed with stealing the holy land from the Arabs, and so history continues to repeat itself.
    The new Western “crusaders”both Western Christian and Jewish Zionists continue to make their dubious claim on Palestine this time using far more sophisticated deadly weapons than the old Crusaders used against innocent Palestinians and other Arabs, both Muslim and Christian.
    Since the violent creation of the Western Zionist state of Israel in 1948 and the PNAC neocon attacks on Iraq , Libya , Syria and other Muslim countries American brutal imperialism continues to enable the violent ethnic cleansing of Palestine by the Jewish invaders to continue.

    • Jim Henderson
      January 20, 2013 at 15:40

      Don’t use reason or accepted principles and canons of constitutional interpretation. Just because the same phrase appears in multiple places doesn’t mean it means the same thing each time. Learn to play fair.


  22. cộng đồng
    January 14, 2013 at 21:00

    Deborah –
    1. I am in support of rational restrictions on the type of weapons that can be used, but according to the recent Supreme Court decision, weapons to be used for lawful purposes cannot be totally banned. That does, however, leave room for restrictions and licensing, etc. If one looks at Madison’s draft for the amendment, it becomes apparent that his view (and that of many other American “leaders” in the 18th century and others later in the 19th century) was that possessing and using weapons WERE viewed as a fundamental right. In view of the murderous progress in the technology of firearms, however, if a majority of Americans disagree with the Founders and the Supreme Court’s District of Columbia v. Heller decision, they can band together to organize and elect representatives and senators who will pass a constitutional amendment to that effect. That is one of the glories of our Constitution.
    2. Those who think that having weapons, even automatic weapons, will somehow ensure that tyranny will be overthrown can only be living in a dreamworld. The National Guard and regular military services have overwhelming firepower, including not only automatic weapons, but artillery, armed aircraft, tanks, missiles, drones, and other weapon systems we don’t even know about. The way to avoid tyranny it is to actively participate in the political process at all levels to ensure that tyranny doesn’t come about.
    3. I use an alias because, although the great majority of people – including gun owners – are decent, peaceful, and relatively reasonable people, there are enough wing-nuts out there in the good ol’ US of A to make using one’s real name worrisome to me.
    4. My question to Bob Parry, Deborah, mentioned absolutely nothing about my position vis-a-vis the 2nd Amendment, so I don’t see why you addressed your inaccurate “call to arms” observation to me at all.

    • Captain Shays
      January 16, 2013 at 12:12

      The Germans had overwhelming force to the French but the French still fought back. The Brits had overwhelming force to the Patriots but the patriots still fought back. In fact, our founders fought our Revolution against their own government which was the most powerful military in the world at the time.
      Every military leader in the world knows that they would need at least 100 regular troops to equal 1 guerilla because of the effectiveness of people who are defending their own families. Regular troops are under command by their leaders and are usually invaders. Militia are under no command but of their local leader who is also defending his home and family. This can never be underestimated or discounted.
      French women armed with only a single shot weapon would ask a German soldier to light her cigarette. When he wwas distracted by her attractiveness and reaching for a light, she would shoot him and take his military weapon and that is how the French armed themselves against an overwhelming force.
      Our founders wanted the militia (ALL men able to carry arms) to be an equal force to the regular military. I will not be shaken from this understanding.

      • Bob Loblaw
        January 18, 2013 at 13:18

        The Afghans too showed how puny popguns(and IEDs) in the hands of fighters defeated the “strongest” military ion the world, twice.

        But it is still folly to believe Americans (who are taught to surrender in a real fight, but kick serious butt in video games) ever could mount an armed resistance of any consequence. Make no mistake, one special forces man could take out a village of Bubbas without much trouble.

  23. Independent Voter
    January 14, 2013 at 20:16

    The only thing that separates the Constitution from any other piece of paper is the 2nd Amendment. Without it, politicians would abuse their power even more than they have already. Our politicians are systematically destroying the Constitution and it is up to the citizens to step up and protect our freedoms.

  24. xsnake
    January 14, 2013 at 18:41

    “The right to keep and bear arms shall NOT be infringed.” Get over it pinkos.

    • Deborah Geary
      January 14, 2013 at 19:28

      Leave your real names. The second ammendment, (sorry xsnake, dong, and Rehmat or whatever your names are) specifically deals with a “call to arms” as in, i.e., the American Revolution. It was written by people who knew nothing about clips and assault weapons. Why is it that assault weapon proponents are so good at loosely interpretting the Constitution’s Second Ammendment, yet deny marraige to people who love one another – or, the right for a woman to decide the outcome of her own body. White men (not all, thankfully) are always blasting everything except for the Second Ammendment idea that they worry their handguns and rifles are being sold down the river???? Assault weapons about riddling children and human beings like swiss cheese.

      • Alfred Charles
        January 14, 2013 at 20:15

        There is zero power afforded to the Federal Government by the Constitution pertaining to firearms. The states can create laws to limit access to guns. The Second was written to only further empower the states and to limit the Federal Government’s rule.

        • Kim Wilson
          January 20, 2013 at 14:41

          You guys always like to leave out the “well regulated” part of the amendment don’t you?

      • Paul
        January 14, 2013 at 20:43

        Deborah, the “call to arms” does not appear in the second amendment, however “the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed” does, its not complicated. “The right of the people” refers to American citizens, “keep and bear arms” refers to owning and using weapons like rifles, and “shall not be infringed” means that government is not able to impose any such law that would interfere with our right, as Americans, to keep and own arms.

        Your technology argument, is totally bogus, since the internet didn’t exist then yet your ability to express yourself on it, is still protected by the 1st Amendment.

        Anyone that tell you that the second amendment is not about restricting the governments ability to regulate our ability to keep and bear arms is lying to you.

        • Thomas Aquinus
          January 16, 2013 at 12:03

          oh you right wingers always quoting the 2nd amendment out of context. It appears as if you conveniently forgot the part about “a well regulated militia”. That’s okay, you apparently haven’t taken your meds today, so I will give you this one. LOL

        • ExpatZ
          January 17, 2013 at 09:20

          You selectively (as all gun nuitters do) leave out the quslifier: A well regulated militia.

          Unless you are National Guard that “right” to bear arms doesn’t apply to you.

      • Captain Shays
        January 16, 2013 at 11:56

        Deborah. It doesn’t matter whether they knew about modern weapons. They wanted us to be an equal force to our regular army so that our government would always be respectful of that force.

        : “Who are the militia? Are they not ourselves? Is it feared, then, that we shall turn our arms each man against his own bosom. Congress have no power to disarm the militia. Their swords, and every other terrible implement of the soldier, are the birthright of an American… The unlimited power of the sword is not in the hands of either the federal or state governments, but, where I trust in God it will ever remain, in the hands of the people.” – Tenche Coxe, The Pennsylvania Gazette, Feb. 20, 1788.


        “Are we at last brought to such a humiliating and debasing degradation, that we cannot be trusted with arms for our own defense? Where is the difference between having our arms in our possession and under our own direction, and having them under the management of Congress? If our defense be the real object of having those arms, in whose hands can they be trusted with more propriety, or equal safety to us, as in our own hands?, 3 Elliot Debates 168-169.

        The author makes reference to Shays Rebellion here;

        “The historical context of the Second Amendment also belies today’s right-wing mythology. At the time of the Constitutional Convention, the young nation was experiencing violent unrest, such as the Shays’ Rebellion in western Massachusetts. That armed uprising was testing the ability of the newly independent nation to establish order within the framework of a democratic Republic, a fairly untested idea at the time. European monarchies were predicting chaos and collapse for the United States.”

        Well, whnile in France, Thomas Jefferson recieved news of Shays Rebellion in a letter from his friend. He wrote back in a letter that included one of his most famous quotes;

        “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.”, letter to William S. Smith, 1787, in S. Padover (Ed.), Jefferson, On Democracy (1939), p. 20.

        Also, not the descrepency between an individual’s right to keep and bear arms, and that of the well regulated militia. We need to keep in mind what the founders intended. They were for the most part dubious about standing armies and saw them as one of the greatest threats to liberty. During the Constitutional Convention, they wrote letters to Switzerland in admiration of their long history of peace and called them “our sister nation”. As we know, Switzerland has a foreign policy that is based on armed neutrality and non interventionism. At the time of our Convention, they were entering their 400th year of peace. Besides their foerign policy of armed neutrality, the founders also admired their style of defense, which was a militia style of defense. Militia in the eyes of our founders was comprised of every man able to carry and use a weapon to defend their country.

        Rep. Elbridge Gerry of Massachusetts: “What, sir, is the use of a militia? It is to prevent the establishment of a standing army, the bane of liberty.” Rep. of Massachusetts, I Annals of Congress at 750 (August 17, 1789).

        : “To preserve liberty it is essential that the whole body of the people always possess arms and be taught alike, especially when young, how to use them…” (LIGHT HORSE HARRY) LEE, writing in Letters from the Federal Farmer to the Republic (1787-1788)
        Richard Henry Lee: “A militia, when properly formed, are in fact the people themselves…and include all men capable of bearing arms.” (Additional letters from the Federal Farmer, at 169, 1788)

        The Swiss based their foreign policy and their style of defense on the Christian Just War Principles which came about during the First century.
        The early Church was torn between being a good Christian, turning the other cheek and so forth and a desire to defend their families from foreign invaders. So the clergy at the time sent out a commission to search the scriptures to see if or when a person could kill another human being and not be in violation of the Commandment that is correctly translated “thou shall not murder” (not “kill”).
        They found four instances where that might be the case;
        1: capital punishment
        2: by accident
        3: in self defense
        4: in defense of your loved ones (we actually have an obligation) or the innocent.

        They surmised that if there was an invading army on the border of your country that if they penetrated the border they would certainly do harm to you, your family and the innocent so in that case it was justified to take up arms and to kill the inhvaders.

        But they also made other provisions
        The response must always be in proportion to the threat. In other words, after fending off the invasion, you would not be justified in then, going into the other country and start killing them and their families.
        Your government must do all that they can to avert war by peacefull means. If that failed, they must put the other country on notice by declaring war as a warning that we will defend ourselves to the point of death.
        We are not justified in taking pleasure in the killing or to increase their suffering. Torture is out of the question.

        Our founders much like the Swiss were also concerned about empires. The last thing our founders wanted for us was to become an empire because all empires in history failed. First, empires required more and more resources, human and logistic so therefore to acquire those resources, they needed to continuelly self-expand which our founders understood to be inherently unsistainable. In every case, once the empire reached a critical mass to pay for their unsustainable self expansion, they started to debauch their currency which in turn created an environment of political and social unrest. In response to that unrest, they always turned their military in on their own people.

        We must understand the respect for the Swiss and our founders admiration and relationship to Switzerland if we’re really to understand the nature of the Second Amendment. Yes, they wanted a militia style of defense where every able bodied person is to be armed. They understood that you wouldn’t need to force people to defend their own family or their country from an invasion. The govenrment wouldn’t need to use propaganda like they did with Iraq, or Vietnam. They wouldn’t need to create the conditions for war like Wilson did in WWI or FDR did in WWII. They were loathe to meddle in the affairs of other countries like we do now and as was started during the progressive era and by progressives.
        So our foreign policy is directly related to our right as individuals to keep and bear arms. It’s based in a philosophy of peace, and justice and a God given right to defend your person and your family.

        There are many differences between what the founders designed yet many similarities to the Swiss.
        For one thing, the Swiss had and still have a mandatory conscription (the draft). The founders didn’t agree with that as they felt it was a form of ownership by the govenrment able to take free men and force them into service. Hamilton addressed this in Federalist Paper #29. Again it is based on the understanding that if this country was under a serious threat you wouldn’t need to force people to defend their own family or their country which is one and the same.
        But knowing all this, there is a common knowledge that we have a right to defend our own life and our family so it should go without saying that owning a weapon is an individual right just like every other right mentioned in the Constitution where “the people” have rights. They are ALL individual rights and it’s not only absurd, but a dangerous lie to attribute ANY right to collective rights.

        • amjp
          January 18, 2013 at 01:08

          Trench Coxe’s comment was made before the Constitution took effect in March 1789, although it had been written previously. What he refers to, then, were the Articles of Confederation.

    • leftover
      January 15, 2013 at 11:36

      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.”
      The 2nd Amendment must be considered in its entirety.

      Even though the Supreme Court in Heller appeared to extend the scope of the 2nd Amendment to individuals, in certain circumstances, and played with the notion of “common usage” trying to rationalize what, if any, types of weapons might be protected within the law, it also said:

      “Although we do not undertake an exhaustive historical analysis today of the full scope of the Second Amendment, nothing in our opinion should be taken to cast doubt on longstanding prohibitions on the possession of firearms by felons and the mentally ill, or laws forbidding the carrying of firearms in sensitive places such as schools and government buildings, or laws imposing conditions and qualifications on the commercial sale of arms.”

      So, it would appear, that Heller does not restrain Congressional authority and power to act in the public interest, (i.e. protect the public from an exacerbated threat regarding a particular crime), by creating definitions, imposing conditions and qualifications on the commercial sale of semiautomatic firearms, (i.e. those firearms capable of firing as fast as the trigger can be pulled). Second Amendment rights, as extended to individuals, would be preserved, and the public safety would be enhanced.

      Executive action might present some problems. But really…it’s Obama…does anyone, looking at his record thus far, think that he’s going to do anything that inhibits profits of the firearms industry in this country? We supply the world with the tools for death and destruction. And he’s already refused to sign an international gun control initiative from the United Nations.
      And considering the rhetoric thus far, Congress seems entirely willing to repeat the same mistakes, enact more of the same ineffective legislation that does nothing to protect the public from the kind of threat to the public safety that so brutally compounded the tragedy at Newtown, (and numerous other mass killings).

      So relax…it doesn’t look like anybody is going to take away your toys.

    • Mike Martin
      January 21, 2013 at 10:25

      xsnake, since you are a clearly devout Constitutional originalist then you should be permitted, without restriction, to own as many guns of the type as were available at the time the 2nd Ammendment was drafted. I’d hate to infringe on your right to your muzzleloaders and flintlocks.

  25. rosemerry
    January 14, 2013 at 16:54

    Obama has many faults, especially he has poor judgment in choosing advisers, but his tendency to use coercion, violence, drones, invasions, surges at every opportunity certainly does not give the impression of someone against the “normal American” use of guns. he does what he thinks will suit his backers, as Rehmat mentions.

  26. cộng đồng
    January 14, 2013 at 15:58

    Just who are “these dreamy revolutionaries on the left”, Bob. You name a number of people on the “right”. But never seem to pin down exactly who on the “left” are those supportive of unrestricted possession of weapons to fight the government if necessary. Please mention someone.

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