At difficult stages in our country’s history, we turn to the wisdom of our founding documents for guidance.
The Bill of Rights was ratified by Congress in 1789. Despite having already fought a war for independence from England, the states had not yet formed a unified national identity.
The individual states still considered themselves to be rather distinct from one another. Many considered themselves to be Virginians or New Yorkers, but certainly not Americans.
This perspective is important when examining the original intent of the Bill of Rights.
The Bill of Rights is fundamentally a set of limitations on government power. But which government power did the Founding Fathers have in mind when writing it?
In 1789, the United States lacked an army. England had evacuated many of its troops after the Treaty of Paris in 1783, but they maintained a continuous presence.
Knowing this, the Founding Fathers had the British in mind when they ratified the Bill of Rights. That is the tyrannical government power that motivated this call to action.
THESE are the soldiers they no longer wanted to have “quartered in any house” (Third Amendment).
THIS is the government power against which they sought freedom of speech (First Amendment), the right of the people against unreasonable searches and seizures (Fourth Amendment), and trial by jury (Sixth Amendment).
The Second Amendment was also written with British government power in mind.
“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.” (Text of the Second Amendment to the Constitution)
In 1789, individual states had no means of physical protection against British troops except for their state militias, which had banded together to fight the war a decade earlier. The Second Amendment was written to maintain security in light of a continued foreign military presence.
It made total sense at the time. Props to the Founding Pops!
Fast forward 228 years to 2017…. Do we have a foreign military presence in the United States? NO
Does the United States have an army to protect our citizens in the event that a foreign military presence were to threaten us? YES
Misinterpretation of the intent of the Second Amendment has resulted in a country of entitled individual gun owners. While many may be responsible gun owners, the alarming rate of gun violence screams that we have a problem.
The Second Amendment was designed to protect the “security of a free state” and in that, it is failing.
Today’s distortion of our right to bear arms is a miscarriage of the Second Amendment, and it is literally killing us.