Founding Fathers on the Second Amendment


I.       Introduction: Non-Violence movement’s effect on public weapons debate

When Gandhi’s success at using passive resistance was recognized, many groups embraced non-violence; not just as a means to a political objective but THE only legitimate means. It is into this environment that the latest debates and struggles about gun confiscation and control are being held.


II.     Framing the debate of Public Safety vs Securing Democracy

I wish to briefly address the value of Government control of all weapons. There are two main points that must be addressed. Those who are promoting government control and confiscation cast the debate as one of personal, family or public safety. The second issue I consider overarching. This issue is how private possession of arms is a key to maintaining the people free of tyranny.


The “second amendment” right is often couched in terms of hunting and personal protection.  These are interesting but hardly national in scope, but what is this about protecting the free State?


George Washington made the point so clear as to defy any misunderstanding.

" 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. "
- George Washington


I trust it is not lost on anyone that George Washington is not talking here about pheasant hunting!    (pause)   But let me set that aside for a moment and address the issue of public and private safety.


III.   Public Safety (Chart)

A.    There are many myths promoted about guns and safety – take suicide for instance.

Japan, which prohibits all firearms, has a suicide rate of more than twice the U.S. level.” Clearly the mere availability of additional handguns does not have any discernable link. Similar statistics are born out in several European studies.  In America, a steady increase in handgun ownership has had no affect on suicide or homicide rates.  This conclusively proves that gun availability has no correlation with homicide or suicide rates.



B.     Another myth is just how big is the problem. (CHART)

One thing that has increased dramatically is population and information access. Those two together mean that even though the homicide and suicide rates are flat or even falling, the steady flow of information from every corner of the land means a steady diet of horrors are always available. Additionally, the media has done a great deal to steer the debate on gun safety. For example, a recent hostage situation was thwarted by a citizen who was carrying a concealed gun. Remarkably, the fact that he used a gun to thwart the crime was not reported. Surveys show that over 1 million defensive gun uses (DGU's) per year occur by law abiding citizens.

National survey conducted by Gary Kleck, a Florida State University criminologist in 1993.


Thomas Jefferson said, “Laws that forbid the carrying of arms... disarm only those who are neither inclined nor determined to commit crimes...Such laws make things worse for the assaulted and better for the assailants; they serve rather to encourage than to prevent homicides, for an unarmed man may be attacked with greater confidence than an armed man.”
-Jefferson's "Commonplace Book," 1774-1776, quoting from On Crimes and Punishment, by criminologist Cesare Beccaria, 1764


IV.  Transition back to main item –So if public safety is not, in fact, an overarching critical issue, what then is the government’s interest in private weapons?

 “But” you say, “isn’t the government of the people by the people and for the people?”  I would respond, “Is there such a thing as the Tyranny of the Majority?” Perhaps we can learn something from Hitler in this regard?

A.   Hitler benefited from the previous regime’s  Gun control laws

The key point many fail to see is that Hitler did not need the 1928 Gun control Law on Firearms and Ammunition to attain power – he did that quite handily at the democratic ballot box!  However, once in power, the lack of weapons in the general population assured him that the people would never be able to rise up against him.

B.    Stalin used Gun control

That same scenario was repeated in Stalinist Russia. No sooner was revolution “of the people” concluded -  that mass confiscations of weapons took place neutering the population from further uprising against the people’s new masters. "Ideas are more powerful than guns. We would not let our enemies
have guns, why should we let them have ideas." -- Joseph Stalin

V.    Transition to American issues: Founding Fathers on “power in the People”:

Stalin wasn’t by any means the 1st ruler to fear an armed people. The English and their colonial derivatives did not trust the people with real power. The miracle of America was that the founding Fathers declared that a legitimate Government derives it’s just powers from the people and via the Bill of Rights to made sure that it would ever remain so by assuring that real tangible power remained invested in the people.


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.”
James Madison,The Federalist Papers, No. 46.


Jefferson declared, “The constitution[] assert[s], that all power is inherent in the people… that it is their right and duty to be at all times armed.”
-Thomas Jefferson to John Cartwright, 1824. Memorial Edition 16:45, Lipscomb and Bergh, editors


VI.  Transition to Current events: Can a modern nation really fall into fascism? Is this a real issue?

I’m sure there are some, who still at a gut level, can’t relate to fascism in Europe. Then let us look at the slippery slope of weapon confiscation occurring to our English neighbors.

A.   Canadian weapon history

Canada now requires photo-ID, character witnesses, tests, a mandatory 28-day waiting period licensing to acquire or possess firearms or ammunition and background and screening. A federal record-keeping systems tracks all weapons and individuals.  Almost all handgun possession is now prohibited.


B.    Australian weapon history

Having disarmed its citizens of lawfully owned firearms, the government of Australia has now passed the Defense Legislation Amendment Bill 2000 (Aid to Civilian Authorities) which gives the Australian army the authority to use "reasonable and necessary force" to suppress civilian unrest. The definition of "reasonable and necessary force," it goes without saying, is left up to the government . .


VII. I’ve heard some debaters who said, “Nobody wants to take away the guns, It’s just registering them.

There are those with a bad case of ostrich disease who want a desired outcome so bad that they convince themselves we are special and that neither the lesson’s of history nor the current experiences of our neighbors apply to us. But truly their experiences are at our very doorstep. A recent poll indicated that 40% are in favor of banning the civilian possession of handguns. Almost 20% are in favor of banning the civilian possession of any kind of firearm.

(Source: Kleck, Gary, Targeting Guns: Firearms and Their Control, p 105, 345-46. Walter de Gruyter, Inc., New York 1997)

Some Government Agents and quite a few politicians openly promote Gun Banning. For instance The Chairman, U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission  writes,

 “… we could possibly ban bullets under the Hazardous Substances Act.
Richard O. Simpson, Chairman, U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. 1973.


Or, from the Violence Center come this jewel

,“… Under [health and safety laws] , handguns [c]ould be banned…”.
"The False Hope of the Smart Gun," Violence Policy Center (cited March 16, 1999).


VIII.         Are the Founding Fathers concerns relevant today? Can Civilian weapons in a modern time really protect our freedoms?

The wisdom of the past should not be dismissed too quickly. Britain was forced to the negotiating table in Northern Ireland and the government of Israel felt obliged to enter the negotiations with the P.L.O. Indeed recent history in Vietnam and Bosnia teaches us compellingly that armed citizens can restrain, deter, or repel even a modern army. Consider Chechnya where "[m]ore than 40,000 soldiers from the Russian army ... [were] humbled by a few thousand urban guerrillas who mostly live at home,[and] wear jeans...”

Rabkin, Jeremy, "Constitutional Firepower" The Journal of Criminal Law & Criminology, Northwestern, University, School of Law, Fall 1995, p. 245

Bursor, Scott, Toward a Functional Framework for Interpreting the Second Amendment.


A.    But would our people ever resort to what seems unthinkable in the present context?

Certainly we should never encourage armed uprisings because a particular group feels slighted by the political process and the Second Amendment does not guarantee immunity from punishment for insurrection; it only guarantees the capacity for resistance. This idea is best expressed in the Declaration of Independence: "Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed [or challenged] for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed."


IX.  Conclusion

Political forces have inflated gun safety issues to avoid addressing the real underpinnings of power and control.  This is why the issue seems so polarized along political lines. In fairness, many – no - certainly most people who are caught up in the emotional pleas about gun confiscation would never countenance removing the peoples power, but that’s exactly what happens; literally, the power would leave the people. Patrick Henry Said “Give me liberty or Give Me death.” The freedom and power in the people so costly purchased by our forefathers should never never be bartered away.