By David S. Petolicchio
In the wake of two major mass shootings over the weekend, renewed calls for gun control once again dominate the political arena. The initial reaction to mass shootings by the democrat party has, historically, been to call for some form of gun control, whether it be an assault weapons ban or a proposal to restrict magazine capacity, legislation is consistently proposed by the democrat party to restrict access to weapons. Republicans, while generally more resistant to gun control, have their own history of caving to pressures for enhanced gun control or expanded background checks, even President Ronald Reagan supported an assault weapons ban in 1994. It could certainly be argued that the majority of these actions are well-intended and are genuine proposals that seek to protect the citizens, however, the end result is the same: government restriction on a fundamental right designed to protect the people…from the government.
Once more, our country is debating, with great fervor, the viability and justification for turning over more of our natural rights to the observation and regulation of government agencies. Such moves completely fail to accept the fundamental purpose for the second amendment in the first place. Of course, this issue is not a partisan one, it is a case of liberty versus government regulation and restriction. Republicans and democrats alike, as stated previously, are both inclined to pass legislation that harms the natural rights of the people and such moves are inexcusable for any consistent proponent of our constitution and its philosophical basis.
The United States wasn’t exclusively founded on a specific time, contrary to popular opinion. The philosophy and law that lead to the creation of this country was based, instead, on the understanding of human nature itself. This presupposition being that, mankind, when given power, becomes a substantial and potentially ruthless threat to his fellow man. This key premise has certainly not changed, if anything, it has become that much more evident in our tumultuous modern age. To trust government with great and expansive power is to lose liberty, and to lose it with serious and often catastrophic consequences. As horrendous as mass shootings and terror attacks may be, to allow the oppression of people’s liberty is never the answer. As established by the countless tyrants in history, government is just as potentially evil and violent as any individual.
It is imperative that any consideration regarding the reduction or regulation of the second amendment is predicated is first upon the text of the amendment itself. The Second Amendment from the United States Bill of Rights reads, “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.” This amendment contains two clauses, first the right of the people to form militias. The second clause establishes the right of the individual to be armed. Both of these important clauses are concluded by the famous phrase “shall not be infringed”, asserting the fundamental rights previously expressed can’t be eroded by the government.
While it may seem evident that to regulate or control arms in any manner would be an overt encroachment on guaranteed liberty, our society has grown so accustomed to disregarding that which is true, and replacing it with that which is comfortable. To further elaborate the point of the second amendment, consider the following quotations from a mere handful of founding fathers:
Thomas Jefferson in a letter to John Cartwright wrote, “…that it is their right and duty to be at all times armed; that they are entitled to freedom of person; freedom of religion; freedom of property; and freedom of the press.”
George Mason, stated in 1788 that, “Forty years ago, when the resolution of enslaving America was formed in Great Britain, the British parliament was advised by an artful man, [Sir William Keith] who was governor of Pennsylvania, to disarm the people. That it was the best and most effectual way to enslave them.”
Patrick Henry said in a speech from 1788, “Guard with jealous attention the public liberty. Suspect everyone who approaches that jewel. Unfortunately, nothing will preserve it but downright force: Whenever you give up that force, you are inevitably ruined.”
In a 1787 letter, Thomas Jefferson again, stating the philosophy behind the right to arms, wrote “…What country can preserve its liberties if their rulers are not warned from time to time that their people preserve the spirit of resistance? Let them take arms. The remedy is to set them right as to facts, pardon & pacify them. What signify a few lives lost in a century or two? The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots & tyrants. It is its natural manure.”
There are, of course, a multitude of other available quotations from our founding fathers that can be found within the Federalist papers as well as their personal correspondence. It isn’t challenging to determine what the premise behind these positions was. The founding fathers had firsthand experience with a tyrannical government that abused its people and arbitrarily trampled on the rights of citizens, often disarming those populations deemed too troublesome. They recognized the necessity for arms as a means to safeguard individual liberty and to remind those in government to whom their loyalties belonged. The abuse of liberty is much more of a difficulty when the entirety of the people are armed and capable of their own defense as well as the defense of their community.
In summation, tragedies make people emotional (justifiably so) and often inclined to reject reason. In such times it is more important than ever to be reminded that legislation must not be led by such irrationality, instead, legislation should be approached with serious consideration and upholding the primary concern of protecting individual liberty.