The Second Amendment Debate

Arguments over the Second Amendment to our Constitution take many forms, many based on incorrect, postmodern (but I repeat myself) historical analyses, and present-day biases. I am not a Constitutional scholar, but after reading some of them, one longs for a little common sense.

I. The word "people" occasions much discussion. I suggest that the Founding Fathers, being legislators, were accustomed to choosing their words carefully. The words "Congress", "United States", "States" and "people" all appear in the Bill of Rights, suggesting that the authors knew and cared about the distinctions between them. So when the Second Amendment says that, "the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed," it seems that it would require convoluted logic to obtain the meaning "state" for "people". The Fathers would have used the word "State" here had they meant that alone.

II. Those favoring an armed citizenry sometimes cite the fact that no individually-armed nation has fallen into totalitarianism, unless its citizen's arms were first confiscated. Liberals counter this with arguments that go something like the following:

You can't stop such a thing, so why try? Even if the Jews in Nazi Germany had been armed with handguns, they would have been no match for Nazis armed with tanks and rifles, easily able to go door-to-door, or to destroy entire apartment buildings to get to the occupants. Today, American soldiers would be so overwhelmingly armed that no guy with a handgun would stand a chance! The police or military would just pull a "Waco", and it would be over!

This is a typical templated liberal argument [1], which misses the point. I will grant that if a majority of citizens have lost what it takes to remain a free nation (see elsewhere on this website), then that nation will descend into some debased state such as totalitarianism. However, the ability to postpone such a descent, and thereby retain even one more day, week or month of freedom is worth it. Gun ownership will slow tyrants down measurably.

(And yes, I am aware that Jews in 1930's Germany were not typically armed, and were relatively passive in the face of growing hatred. Thus, guns weren't much of an issue then. But it is worth a moment's thought to consider that the Nazis wanted to plunder the Jews, not merely to destroy them. They wanted the Jews' homes, their possessions, and even the gold from their teeth. Simply destroying their homes with tanks, or burning them to the ground did not fit the Nazis' plans. Had they been more vigilant, the Jews could have delayed their demise, allowing more to escape.)

III. The other argument commonly made for a personal right to own a firearm is one of practicality, namely that guns are an efficient means of personal protection. I will make the following bold claim: the right to own a means of personal defense is more fundamental than the individual rights to life, liberty and property. (It should have been included in the Declaration, but the Founding Fathers could not foresee everything.)

How can this be? Consider the hypothetical converse: You have a personal right to life, liberty and property, but you do not have the right to take any personal measures to ensure that you retain those rights. You can only depend on elected or appointed bodies (police, prosecutors, legislators, etc.) to ensure the fundamental rights. Hence, for most people, voting and calling 911 when victimized--if still alive afterwards--is all they could do.

If that were the case, then what of the first three rights mentioned above? If they are truly held on a personal level, then the right to protect and ensure them must also be held individually. In fact, the right to defend and protect other rights could almost be called a "meta-right", as it overarches all other individually-held rights. It is illogical to say that a right is held by a person, but that the right to fight for it is not.

Gun ownership, which is a practical means of attempting to hold other basic rights, is therefore more fundamental even than life, liberty and property.


[1] The liberal template is "You can't stop X, so why try? Just accommodate it as best you can." This gives such ideas as, "You can't stop teenagers from having sex, so you had better give them plenty of condoms," or "You can't stop drug abuse, so you had better pass out plenty of clean needles." Giving up a fight against something harmful shows cowardice and a lack of true compassion and wisdom.