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The ‘Right to Keep and Bear Arms’ — Gun Grabbers v. The Framers

Continued from Part one here

“And bear”. “To bear” meant “to carry on or about the person.” The Founders meant for us to be instantly capable of using arms to defend ourselves at a moment’s notice. Without further modifiers, this phrase back then NEVER implied hunting or merely possessing arms! (By the way, the colonies and states never allowed the insane or violent felons to possess arms. See, The Founders’ Second Amendment, by Stephen P. Halbrook.)

“Arms”. Then and as understood today, refers to weapons that could be carried on the body by a soldier or citizen. Consequently, the 2A guarantees that any modern infantry weapon that is or can be carried by the modern soldier can be owned and used by any law-abiding citizen today. “Arms” in the Founders’ day included firearms of all kinds, and bladed weapons: pikes, swords, knives, and tomahawks. Cannons were called “Ordnance” in dictionaries of the day. Gun grabbers often cynically ask, “Well, does that mean machine-guns, cannons and nuclear missiles?” To that I give a qualified, “YES!”. It is, in fact, legal under federal law in the US today to own a working tank, surplus military aircraft, surplus naval vessel, or cannon (depending on your state) if you have the money to buy it, pay the necessary permit fees, and are able to afford such luxuries.

Article I, Sec. 8, Cl. 11, of the Constitution gives Congress the power “…to grant Letters of Marque and reprisal….”. A Letter of Marque and Reprisal made a citizen who had a ship a legal pirate during times of war. We used these “Privateers” extensively against England’s merchant shipping in both the Revolution and the War of 1812, when our Navy was very small. Under international law, a privateer can take enemy ships and sell them and their cargoes to the highest bidder. Many privateers became quite wealthy, but to intimidate and fight enemy merchant ships and naval vessels, they needed proper armament: cannons. The “Letters of Marque and Reprisal clause” implies that American citizens could legally buy state-of-the-art cannon to defend merchant ships from pirates, privateers, and enemy ships, as well as arm their own ships for offensive action. The Founders intended for law-abiding citizens to own crew-served weapons if they wanted, needed, and could afford them.” “But what about nukes?” cry the gun grabbers. “No, idiots!”, I reply. Congress has made it illegal to own nuclear weapons. DUH!” True weapons of mass destruction, like nukes, biological and chemical weapons, are necessarily forbidden to the public and their use, even by the military, is legally limited by the law. In any case, they are not fit weapons for either side in a civil war or revolution since they would indiscriminately kill members of your own country and your own side.

In 1833, Chief Justice Joseph Story wrote, “The militia is the natural defense of a free country against sudden foreign invasions, domestic insurrections, and usurpations of power by rulers.” A Familiar Exposition of the Constitution of the United States (Story, 1840) (emphasis added). Therefore, private arms in citizens’ hands guarantee the ability of the citizens to revolt against tyranny, just as or Founders did.

In fact, the Bible gives us the basis for the 2A in Psalm 149: 5-9, stating:

Let the godly ones exult in glory, let them sing for joy in their beds, let the high praises of God be in their mouth, and a two-edged sword in their hand, to execute vengeance on the nations and punishment on the peoples, to bind their kings with chains, and their nobles with fetters, to execute on them the judgment written. This is an honor for all His godly ones. Praise the Lord!

Is this not what we did to England in our Revolution? It is what the Founders intended that we do “…when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same object, evinces a design to reduce them under absolute despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such government, and to provide new guards for their future security.” The Declaration of Independence.

“Shall not be infringed”. Means not to go beyond the limits of the law, or to limit or undermine it. According to legal interpretation, “shall” in a statute, always means “must”, as in the 1st Amendment, where it starts, “Congress shall make no law….” In that amendment, it is clearly understood that Congress is prohibited from establishing a State Religion. In the same way, the free exercise of the 2A is not to be inhibited or encroached upon by federal law. In The Federalist Papers, Madison said, the Constitution held that fundamental rights, (like those acknowledged and protected by the Bill of Rights) could not be interfered with by the states or the federal governments.

This is why the Founders put up with all of England’s trampling of their rights until it came to take their arms and ammo, their last means of resistance after King George and Parliament refused to listen and closed the courts to them. Once the Redcoats came to take their guns and ammo, that was the trigger for open war. Without the individual right to keep and bear arms of military quality, there are no other enforceable rights.

By the rude bridge that arched the flood,
Their flag in April’s breeze unfurled,
And there the embattled farmers stood,
And fired the shot heard ‘round the world.

— Ralph Waldo Emerson.

Image: Excerpted from: CC0 Creative Commons; https://pixabay.com/en/minuteman-statue-lexington-1056754/

Greg Hopkins

About the author, Greg Hopkins: Greg Hopkins is a recovering lawyer, city prosecutor, police Use-of-Force law instructor, former city judge in two towns and criminal defense lawyer. He’s been teaching the Bible to teens and adults for 40 years. He now trains CCP holders and armed church security teams in self defense law. He also does expert witnessing in firearms and self defense cases. His book is A Time To Kill: The Myth of Christian Pacifism, on the Bible and Self Defense. View all articles by Greg Hopkins

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