Intellectual Ammunition Pt 2: The Constitution and Founders

P. Gardner Goldsmith | November 9, 2018

In the first part of this series designed to offer deeper, longer-standing intellectual ammunition for visitors to MRCTV, we looked at many of the popular political myths associated with the deceptively euphemistic term “Gun Control”. Now, we study the supposed rulebook for the federal government, the US Constitution, analyze the “constitutional” arguments of those who push gun restrictions, and see what the people of the Founding era believed about the right to keep and bear arms.

Many pushers of gun “control” don’t mention amending the US Constitution. Instead, they “read” the very clear, deliberatively written, wording of the document to mean what they want it to mean.

But the Second Amendment is clear:

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.

Anyone who has read pretty much anything about what the Founders believed at the time knows that the Militia was not the “National Guard”, it was all male citizens of gun-bearing age, and the final clause, “the right to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed” is the action clause, strictly prohibiting any government – be it federal, state, county, or local – from imposing any statutory impediment on the right of an individual to acquire, own, sell, or use a weapon – any weapon -- for defensive purposes.

This concept goes back to Aristotle, who believed in the inherent Natural Right of people to fight oppressive government and who greatly influenced the Founders. 350 years B.C, he said:

Those who possess and can wield arms are in a position to decide whether the constitution is to continue or not.

Aristotle’s implication is that despotism lies in the hands of agents of the states when they wield weapons against unarmed citizens.

Indeed, as the brilliant author, Dr. R.J. Rummel, observed in his books, “Death by Government”, and “Power Kills”, governments of all stripes have slaughtered six times as many of their own people in the past 100 years as have died in all the wars of that period -- combined.

So perhaps Aristotle was on to something…

It turns out, he was. And many of the greatest thinkers who influenced the writing of the so-called “rules” of the US Constitution offered the same principled thoughts supporting the inherent right of an individual to defend himself or herself.

The great Roman teacher Cicero said:

There exists a law inborn in our hearts that if our lives are endangered by plots or violence or armed robbers or enemies, any and every method of protecting ourselves is morally right.

James Madison, the man who took the best-known notes on the Constitutional Convention, wrote:

The advantage of being armed, which the Americans possess over the people of almost every other nation, forms a barrier against the enterprise of ambition. Kingdoms of Europe are afraid to trust the people with arms.

Said Patrick Henry in 1788 at the Virginia Convention:

The great object is that every man be armed.

Cesare Becarria, the Italian criminologist greatly admired by Thomas Jefferson wrote:

False is the idea of utility that sacrifices a thousand real advantages for one imaginary or trifling inconvenience; that would take fire from men because it burns, and water because one may drown in it… The Laws that forbid the carrying of arms are laws of such a nature. They disarm those who are neither inclined nor determined to commit crimes.

George Mason said:

To disarm people is the best and most effectual way to enslave them.

And Thomas Paine wrote:

The supposed quietude of a good man allures the roughian… while, on the other hand, arms, like laws, discourage and keep the invader and plunderer in awe and preserve order.

The first battle of the American Revolution, the “Shot Heard ‘Round the World” came at Lexington, Massachusetts, and rolled on to Concord, MA – specifically because the British military was trying to colonial guns. For some bizarre reason, the colonists didn’t comply with the government commands.

Good thing. Human history is clear on the disastrous effects of civilian disarmament. Just recall:

Lenin and Stalin, starting in 1918, seized firearms in Soviet Russia as the first step towards multi-nation property seizure, incarceration of dissidents, suppression of free speech, forced relocation, and a command-and-control system that saw tens of millions die during their regimes alone.

Hitler used a pre-Nazi German gun registration law to target firearm owners and seize guns, leading to results similar to those instituted in Soviet Russia and its captive nations.

Mao followed Lenin, Stalin, and Hitler, leading to the extermination of between 60 and 120 million people.

And many, many more.

In her voluminous book, “To Keep and Bear Arms: The Origins of an Anglo-Saxon Right”, Professor Joyce Lee Malcolm stated:

The Second Amendment was meant to accomplish two distinct goals. First, it was to guarantee an individual’s right to have arms for self-defense… These privately owned guns were meant to serve a larger purpose as well. The customary American militia necessitated an armed public, the militia (being) the body of the people. The argument that today’s National Guardsman, members of a select militia, would constitute the only persons entitled to keep and bear arms has no historical foundation.

Wise words to remember as we hear the “gun control” pushers claim that the Founders wanted to see the members of a government military have sole possession of arms.

As Antonin Scalia wrote about the Second Amendment in his opinion for the majority in the 2007 “District of Columbia v Heller” decision:

The operative clause’s text and history demonstrate that it connotes an individual right to keep and bear arms.

Of course, we don’t need Scalia or anyone else to explain this. It’s simple logic. Rights are inherent to individuals, and groups are just assemblages of individuals. Each person has his own right to self-defense. In fact, even putting the question to agents of the state, as conservative as Justice Scalia was, leaves our rights open to threats.

When we conclude this series on “gun control”, we will look more closely at the “Heller” decision, and see why it’s not as praise-worthy as some imagine, what language was slipped in at the very end to make it actually a very dangerous decision for gun-rights advocates, and why, logically, people who want safer societies should want more firearms in civilian hands.

Thank you for reading!

You can check out our earlier installment by clicking here.