“In the writings and speeches of the American founders, the threat of disarmament was always a casus belli, which makes sense for practical and ideological reasons. None of the natural rights codified in the Constitution — none, not freedom of speech, press, or religion, or the ability to vote or demand due process — had a longer or deeper history in English common law and tradition than the right to defend oneself.
“Guns were so prevalent, in fact, that some framers noted that a tyrant would never take the nation because the general public outarmed the state. Noah Webster reasoned: “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.” His only mistake was trusting that the whole body of the people would always uphold the Constitution.”
The right to keep & bear arms has always been an individual right, not a collective one.
This week, retired Supreme Court justice John Paul Stevens wrote an op-ed in The New York Times that advocated a position most liberal pundits and activists have been incrementally working toward for a long time: repealing the Second Amendment. And while many liberal columnists argued that Stevens had only given fodder to gun advocates — because his position is unfeasible right now — not one whose piece I read argued that Stevens was wrong on the merits. Not one claimed that American citizens do, in fact, have an inherent individual right to protect themselves with firearms.
Whether repeal of the Second Amendment is feasible or not, historical revisionism is meant to mangle its meaning into irrelevancy. Stevens claims that his conception of gun rights is “uniformly understood” yet offers no legal precedent to back up the contention. Stevens claims that the Second Amendment’s explicit mention of the right of “the people” does not create an “individual right,” despite the inconvenient fact that other times the term is mentioned, in the Fourth, Ninth and Tenth Amendments, the amendments have been found to protect the individual rights of the people.
Repeal the Second Amendment? 39 Percent of Democrats Say Yes
Now, I’m not a legal scholar, but the idea, as the former justice argues, that the Founders wanted no limits on the ability of federal (or even state) government to take weapons from law-abiding citizens conflicts with the historical record. Never once in the founding debate did a lawmaker rise to argue that gun ownership should be limited. Most state constitutions already featured language to protect that right. A number of states demanded that the national constitution include such a provision.
by David Harsanyi