I’ve recently been reading and watching some videos on the Second Amendment and the absolute right (yes, Joe, I said absolute) of the individual to keep and bear arms.
For those unfamiliar with the term “to keep and bear arms,” to keep is to have or accumulate, to own. To bear – well I’ll let one of the founders, Noah Webster, define it. In his dictionary, first published in 1828, he defined “bear” as “to wear; to bear a mark of authority or distinction; as to bear a sword.”
One of the videos I watched was a “Ted Talk” titled “The Much Misunderstood Second Amendment,” by attorney William Harwood, which took place in Portland, Maine, in 2018.
Immediately the red flags popped up that this talk was not going to be an advocacy for the right to keep and bear arms. Harwood is a lawyer, which likely means he puts more stock in court rulings and precedent than the Constitution or the founders. And third, it took place in left-leaning Portland, Maine.
Harwood said that “the other nine amendments have never been the subject of the intense scrutiny and controversy about their basic purpose and meaning as has the Second Amendment.”
He never really explained why, so allow me.
For well over a century, the Second Amendment stood, as did the other nine, virtually unmolested. Then a funny thing happened (not funny ha ha).
The progressive era began, really with Andrew Jackson, and obtained a permanent foothold during the Woodrow Wilson administration, expanding its influence for decades to come. However it wasn’t until the 1960s that the term “gun control” became vogue, with the assassinations of the Kennedys and Martin Luther King Jr.
Why is this important? Because progressives then and now seek control. And the easiest way to control the populace is through government, as we’ve witnessed recently. But they also know that an unarmed populace is a hell of a lot easier to control than an armed one – thus the continued push for “common sense” gun control.
And this is why there are Ted Talks with “expert” lawyers like Harwood who rail against pro-gun organizations like the NRA. During his lecture, he said that it was the NRA that came to the conclusion that the Second Amendment granted the absolute right of every American citizen to have a gun. He even showed a short clip of the late great Charlton Heston, then president of the NRA, exclaiming, “It’s the right we turn to when all else fails.”
Harwood’s response to this is typical of lawyers. He asserted that the idea of a right to bear arms being absolute had little support from lawyers, judges and legal scholars. But why would they? They spend all their time studied rulings and precedent and very little, if any, studying the actual Constitution and the Founders’ writings.
It’s also why they trot out our semi-conscious President Biden to proclaim that no right is absolute. This despite the fact that the Founders used the term “shall not be infringed,” or a derivation of it, in all the amendments of the Bill of Rights.
But you don’t have to take my word for it, or even Moses’ (Charlton Heston).
To be sure, the Federalists and the Anti-Federalists did argue about the necessity of the proposed Bill of Rights, including the Second Amendment. But the Federalists argument against the Second Amendment was simply that the American people were armed and the federal government already had no authority to disarm the citizenry. Sounds pretty absolute to me.
But what of states disarming the citizens? That was finally put to bed in 2010 with the McDonald v. City of Chicago decision, stating that the 14th Amendment protects the people from being disarmed by the states. And the Supreme Court’s 6-3 decision this week, written by the great Clarence Thomas, reiterates the point.
But what of the Founders? Thomas Jefferson wrote: “What country can preserve its liberties if their rulers are not warned from time to time that the people preserve the spirit of resistance. Let them take arms.”
Richard Henry Lee wrote: “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.”
Many other Founders had the same sentiment, but perhaps the most compelling came from Founder Tench Coxe. He is not renowned like Washington, Jefferson, Madison and Adams. However, he was quite an influential voice, and served in the Cabinets of the first four presidents.
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 hath no power to disarm the militia. Their swords, and every other terrible implement of the soldier, are the birth-right of an American. What clause in the state or federal constitution hath given away that important right. … 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.
And that, my friends (h/t: John McCain), is enough said of the absolute right of the American citizen to keep and bears arms.
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