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Framing the Debate on the 2nd Amendment

Framing the Debate on the 2nd Amendment

Framing the Debate on the 2nd Amendment

by Cornel Rasor

If you believe the constitution and bill of rights protects our right to defend ourselves from each other only, this is not for you…

If we frame the debate, we control the outcome and even most of the responses. The media and those fearful of liberty who seek only security have created the parameters within which we are allowed to discuss arms in America.

“My dad had three bolt action rifles and a 22 and a shotgun. We never needed anything more than that.
Debate parameters – hunting. Why would anyone need more than a bolt action or a 22?

“Who needs a 30 round mag to stop a burglar?”
Debate parameters – self defense in a home environment.

“The only people who have high capacity mags and military style semi-auto black rifles are those who fear the government.”
Debate parameters – military type weapons = militant anti-government types.

“This isn’t about gun control, it is about sensible regulations.”
Debate parameters – The federal govt has the responsibility to enact sensibly proper gun regulations.

“The Moments of Silence in the House have become an abomination. God will ask you, “How did you keep my children safe”? Silence.”
Debate parameters – God wants government to regulate weapons.

“Until we face down the gun lobby and have the spine to take the steps necessary to protect our families, there is blood on our hands.”
Debate parameters – The gun lobby is rendering our families unprotected.

Thus, the national discussion of arms control goes. With the debate so directed, one cannot hope to bring constitutional essence to the table without being branded a vicious supporter of the murder of innocents. Any support for arms freedoms is treated with disdain at the least escalating to horrified calls for retribution on the other end.Now let’s frame the debate using 1776-1789 parameters and the words of the founders themselves. (Note, because of the plethora of founding statements regarding the natural right to bear arms, we will use only a few selected quotes)

Distilling the debate parameters to a few statements is difficult but I postulate the following and I believe these are true to both the letter and the spirit of the times:

We have just come through a long bloody war with Great Britain, a State that began the process of subjugating us with onerous rules and regulations mandating forced purchases and creating and expanding debilitating taxes.

This process culminated in an attempt to deprive us of our military arms and render us powerless to resist tyranny. We must create a permanent document giving certain powers to a new national government while giving careful attention to preventing anything like this from ever happening again. The people must be sovereign and have their God-given natural rights protected and safeguarded by creating many protections. These protections will guard unalienable personal rights by dividing the national power among several branches and by maintaining the jurisdictional sovereignty of the States in every area not delegated to the national government.

The ability of the people to restrain the national government should it attempt to escape the strictures imposed upon it must be surely guarded by no delegation of power to the national government over arms whatsoever.

I believe those statements get at the heart of the purposes of the founders and when the debate is thus encompassed with the founding – time immemorial principles, the responses will be markedly different than today’s nonsensical rhetoric. It is important that we repair to the document containing the protections, the constitution itself and the surrounding documents of the times:

“On every question of construction (of the Constitution) let us carry ourselves back to the time when the Constitution was adopted, recollect the spirit manifested in the debates, and instead of trying what meaning may be squeezed out of the text, or invented against it, conform to the probable one in which it was passed.” (Thomas Jefferson, letter to William Johnson, June 12, 1823, The Complete Jefferson, p. 322)
Here then is such discussion within the parameters thus described:

There is no national permission to regulate weapons per the tendency of states to gravitate to tyranny if unrestrained.
Debate parameters – 2nd Amendment; newspaper articles of the day, debates of the constitutional convention.

• “The right of the people to keep and bear arms has been recognized by the General Government; but the best security of that right after all is, the military spirit, that taste for martial exercises, which has always distinguished the free citizens of these States….Such men form the best barrier to the liberties of America” – (Gazette of the United States, October 14, 1789.)

• “…to disarm the people – that was the best and most effectual way to enslave them.” (George Mason, 3 Elliot, Debates at 380)

• “Before a standing army can rule, the people must be disarmed; as they are in almost every kingdom of Europe. 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 bands of regular troops that can be, on any pretense, raised in the United States” (Noah Webster in ‘An Examination into the Leading Principles of the Federal Constitution’, 1787, a pamphlet aimed at swaying Pennsylvania toward ratification, in Paul Ford, ed., Pamphlets on the Constitution of the United States, at 56 (New York, 1888))

The people by natural right must be able to defend against both local and national threats and have the weaponry to facilitate both. (Oh my, let the hand wringing begin!)
Debate parameters – Debates of the constitutional convention, debates of the several states, The Federalist, newspaper articles of the day.

• “What, Sir, is the use of a militia? It is to prevent the establishment of a standing army, the bane of liberty…. Whenever Governments mean to invade the rights and liberties of the people, they always attempt to destroy the militia, in order to raise an army upon their ruins.” (Rep. Elbridge Gerry of Massachusetts, spoken during floor debate over the Second Amendment [ I Annals of Congress at 750 {August 17, 1789}])

• “Americans have the right and advantage of being armed – unlike the citizens of other countries whose governments are afraid to trust the people with arms.” (James Madison, The Federalist Papers #46 at 243-244)

• “the ultimate authority … resides in the people alone,” (James Madison, author of the Bill of Rights, in Federalist Paper #46.)

• “…but if circumstances should at any time oblige the government to form an army of any magnitude, that army can never be formidable to the liberties of the people, while there is a large body of citizens, little if at all inferior to them in discipline and use of arms, who stand ready to defend their rights…” (Alexander Hamilton speaking of standing armies in Federalist 29.)

• “As civil rulers, not having their duty to the people before them, may attempt to tyrannize, and as the military forces which must be occasionally raised to defend our country, might pervert their power to the injury of their fellow citizens, the people are confirmed by the article in their right to keep and bear their private arms.” (Tench Coxe in ‘Remarks on the First Part of the Amendments to the Federal Constitution’ under the Pseudonym ‘A Pennsylvanian’ in the Philadelphia Federal Gazette, June 18, 1789 at 2 col. 1)

• “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 government, but, where I trust in God it will ever remain, in the hands of the people” (Tench Coxe, Pennsylvania Gazette, Feb. 20, 1788)

• “Are we at last brought to such humiliating and debasing degradation, that we cannot be trusted with arms for our defense? Where is the difference between having our arms in possession and under our 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?” (Patrick Henry, 3 J. Elliot, Debates in the Several State Conventions 45, 2d ed. Philadelphia, 1836)

Of course there is much more and I have neglected to treat each objection at the beginning of this paper individually because the general answers and quotes provided, clearly show the intent of the founders. No prohibitions of arms were contemplated in the newly formed nation consisting of the united States.

We contemplate restrictions, or should I say more of them today, we do so at the peril of succumbing to an oppressive regime the likes of which has not yet arisen. Those elected to the offices that consider such restrictions have no constitutional powers to enact those restrictions. To the contrary, the elected who threaten our liberties today are violating their oaths of office wherein they solemnly pledged to protect and support the very document they daily abrogate.

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