When the Second Amendment was adopted in December of 1791, the thirteen former colonies were less than a decade removed from their revolution against Great Britain (Brooks). To kick off the war, British forces attempted to take the arms of local militias at Lexington and Concord and the next day, successfully, at the Gunpowder Incident at Williamsburg, Virginia (Theobald). From the beginning, the Second Amendment meant to protect the people’s right to defend themselves and a free state. In meant this in 1791, in 2016, in the 224 years in-between and it still means it in 2017. As James Madison said, “The right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed; a well-armed, and well-regulated militia being the best security of a free country” (J. Madison).
The right to bear arms shall not be infringed upon because it is necessary for the security of a free state. In the words of Noah Webster, “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 band of regular troops that can be, on any pretense, raised in the United States” (Webster).
Often times, we become complicit and only evaluate the merits of the Second Amendment on the present. The Second Amendment was meant to protect us in the present but it was also meant to protect us in the future. As the conservative commentator, Ben Shapiro said, “I fear the possibility of a tyranny rising in the country in the next fifty to a hundred years. Let me tell you something, Piers. The fact that my grandparents and great-grandparents in Europe didn’t fear that is why they’re now ashes in Europe. So this…revisionist history where there’s never any fear of democracy going usurpations or tyrannical is just that. It’s fictitious.” He went on to say “They may not turn on me, they may not turn on my children. But the fact is this; history is replete with democracies going tyrannical. It happened in France in the 19th century, in Spain in the last century, happened in Germany, in Italy. It has happened repeatedly, it has happened in Japan” (Pollak).
As political activist Tiffany Madison said, “If all control boils fundamentally to force, how can one resist aggression without equal force” (T. Madison). A free state cannot and does exist in any permeate way if it is dependent on a Utopian outlook of the world where power is only in the hands on angles. Without the right to bear arms, our existence within a free state is dependent on others. It is only through that right that our destiny as a country is in the hands of the people. The meaning of the Second Amendment is to protect that. The Second Amendment means to keep in bear arms.
Thomas Jefferson, the third President of the United States and author of the Declaration of Independence, said: “No Free man shall ever be debarred the use of arms” (Thomas Jefferson’s). The Declaration of Independence states that “Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, that whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it…” (The Declaration). The people are given the right to overthrow and install a new government. The twenty and twenty-first century made it clear, either take revolution into your own hands or pray.
Using the Brown Bess, Charleville and Pennsylvania Rifle, the Continental Army, and various militia groups exercised their right to overthrow the crown in the colonies (List of Infantry Weapons). Without arms, there would have been, and continues to be no way to protect liberty from tyranny. While rights to speech, to petition and to peaceably assemble are fantastic and preferable tools, they are gifts, not rights, without the ability to protect them. Now it is not difficult to hear someone argue that there is no longer a need for the Second Amendment in the modern era, but, in fact, Americans have used the right to bear arms in order to protect a free people in the modern era. In August 1946, dozens of armed war veterans faced off against over one hundred Deputies. The people of Athens, Tennessee rose up against the local government over political corruption and voter intimidation. In the end, the people won and disbanded and replaced the county government, like the Declaration of Independence prescribed. Without the right to bear arms, a free people could neither be maintained in the thirteen colonies or in Athens. It is what was achieved in the colonies and in Athens that is meant by the Second Amendment.
It is a common misconception that the Second Amendment gave us the right to bear arms. The right to bear arms pre-existed the Second Amendment. Rights come before movements which are created to protect those preexisting rights. This means that rights do not come from man or government but from a higher source. In the end, the Second Amendment means to control my own destiny. My security, survival, and food are in my own hands with the Second Amendment. We live in a time where riots are breaking out across the country, terrorists can strike at will and any other of numerous threats can end our lives as we know them. We cannot always rely on someone else to be there for us but with the second amendment, we do not have to.
“Breitbart’s Ben Shapiro vs. Piers Morgan On Gun Control.” RealClearPolitics. N.p., 10 Jan. 2013. Web. 26 Dec. 2016.
Brooks, Chad. “The Second Amendment & the Right to Bear Arms.” LiveScience. N.p., 22 Jan. 2013. Web. 26 Dec. 2016.
“The Declaration of Independence.” Heritage.org. The Heritage Foundation, n.d. Web. 25 Dec. 2016.
“List of Infantry Weapons in the American Revolution.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, n.d. Web. 25 Dec. 2016.
Madison, James. “Annals of Congress.” Magna Carta Uncovered (n.d.): n. pag. Archives.org. National Archives and Records Administration. Web. 8 June 1789.
Madison, Tiffany. “A Quote.” Goodreads. N.p., n.d. Web. 25 Dec. 2016.
Pollak, Joel B. “British CNN Host Calls US Constitution ‘Your Little Book'” Fox News. FOX News Network, 11 Jan. 2013. Web. 26 Dec. 2016.
“Second Amendment.” Legal Information Institute. Cornell Law School, n.d. Web. 25 Dec. 2016.
Theobald, Mary Miley. “The Monstrous Absurdity – The Gunpowder Theft Examined.” History.org. Colonial Williamburg, Summer 2006. Web. 25 Dec. 2016.
“Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello.” Monticello.org. Thomas Jefferson Foundation, n.d. Web. 25 Dec. 2016.
Webster, Noah. “Property: Noah Webster, An Examination into the Leading Principles of the Federal Constitution.” UChicago.Edu. The University of Chicago, n.d. Web. 25 Dec. 2016.