A Fresh Look at the 2nd Amendment

The original intent

shooter-695324_1280The 2nd Amendment was adopted approximately 225 years ago.  It states, “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.”  There has been much debate in regards to the meaning of the 2nd Amendment over the last couple hundred years.  There are many questions that seem unanswered.

What did the Founding Father’s have in mind when they wrote the 2nd Amendment?  Did they imagine a future world in which only muskets were protected under the law?  Did they believe that the 2nd Amendment should only protect hunting or target practice?

While there are multiple quotes that give us insight as to what they intended, there is one that pretty much sums it all up.  “The strongest reason for the people to retain the right to keep and bear arms is, as a last resort, to protect themselves against tyranny in government.” Thomas Jefferson

The Militia

One of the most frequently asked questions regarding the 2nd Amendment has been in regards to the meaning of the word militia.  What or who is the militia?  There are some who would say that the militia is the armed forces or the military.  Although, it seems odd that the Founding Father’s would want to ensure that the military would always be armed, since it generally goes without saying that military forces are armed.

In order to truly understand what the Founding Father’s meant by “militia”, we need to know how they defined it.

  • “A well regulated militia, composed of the body of the people, trained in arms, is the best most natural defense of a free country.” James Madison
  • “I ask, sir, what is the militia? It is the whole people except for a few public officials.” George Mason
  • No freeman shall ever be debarred the use of arms.  Arms in the hands of citizens may be used at individual discretion in private self-defense.” Thomas Jefferson
  • A militia, when properly formed, are in fact the people themselves. They include all men capable of bearing arms. To preserve liberty is essential that the whole body of people always possess arms and be taught alike how to use them.” Thomas Jefferson

Shall not be infringed

The word infringed is defined… “to commit a breach or infraction of; violate or transgress:”  In other words, an infringement is anything that blocks or prevents someone from doing something.  Examples of 2nd Amendment infringements include waiting periods, background checks and banning certain types of firearms or ammunition.  There is no evidence to support the idea that the Founding Father’s believed that the 2nd Amendment would only apply to muskets.  Remember that they passionately believed in the people’s right to defend themselves against a tyrannical government.

Many Americans would probably disagree with this assessment for various reasons.  You may be one and if that is true, I encourage you to research the Founding Father’s quotes regarding firearms.  Maybe you disagree with their words, but it’s difficult to argue that they had a nonchalant attitude regarding firearms.  It is clear that they valued liberty and would have challenged a slow process of restricting gun rights.  “I would rather be exposed to the inconveniences attending too much liberty than to those attending too small a degree of it.”  Thomas Jefferson

The 2nd Amendment has been abused over the last two hundred or so years, but it is still alive.  It is still the law.  Whether you like firearms or not, I encourage you to respect the 2nd Amendment.  And here is why…  Ultimately freedom exists because God allows it to.  God has blessed our nation with more freedom than any other nation in history.  A big reason for that is the 2nd Amendment.

The Difficulties of Pure Democracy

What is a Democracy?

us-capitol-477987_640The United States is a Democracy, right?  It is often said that as Americans we live in a Democracy.  We vote for the candidate of our choice, our public officials make and enforce laws, and we define that as the democratic process.  Why is the United States of America considered a democracy today?

The word democracy comes from the Greek words “demos” (common people) and “kratos” (rule).  In other words, in a democracy the people rule.  Democracy is commonly defined as majority or mob rule.  While that may seem somewhat like what we have in our great nation, there is a big difference between our form of government and pure democracy.

Several years ago I took a Business Law class, while attending Community College in Northern California.  I remember one day during class, the professor was discussing our nation’s form of government.  He plainly told the class that our nation is a democracy.  I respectfully disagreed and politely argued that we have a republic.  The professor paused briefly and then said that we technically have a democratic-republic.  At that time I decided that I would not continue to press the conversation, but I have often wondered what would have happened if I had pressed further.  Would this professor have eventually agreed that our nation is a republic?

What is a Republic?

The word republic comes from the Latin word “res publica” or the public thing.  The public thing refers to the law, which in the case of our nation the law is the U.S. Constitution.  Our nation was founded as a republic.  Does this phrase sound familiar, “and to the Republic for which it stands…”?  At the conclusion of the Constitutional Convention of 1787, Benjamin Franklin was asked what form of government the new nation was to become.  To that he replied, “A Republic, madam, if you can keep it“.  The Constitution, in article 4, section 4 assures each state a republican form of government, “The United States shall guarantee to every State in this Union a Republican Form of Government…”

A republic offers the following benefits to a free society that a democracy does not…

  1. A rule of law that is designed to ensure inherent liberties are protected
  2. Separation of powers – executive, legislative, and judicial
  3. Limited federal government and bureaucracy

There have been no amendments to the Constitution that changed our form of government.  Article 4, Section 4 still remains in tact.  We need to remember that the founding fathers put checks and balances in the way governing officials are elected, i.e. the electoral college and the delegate process.

Learn a Lesson from History

Have you noticed that the more our nation becomes like a democracy, the further our nation drifts from liberty?  The founding fathers warned us about the turmoils of a pure democracy…

“Remember democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes, exhausts, and murders itself. There never was a democracy yet that did not commit suicide.” ~ John Adams

“Democracies have ever been spectacles of turbulence and contention; have ever been found incompatible with personal security, or the rights of property; and have in general been as short in their lives as they have been violent in their deaths.” ~ James Madison

While it is evident that our nation is still technically a republic, we are losing it.  In many ways our government is beginning to behave like a democracy, but is that really a good thing?  It has been said that democracy is similar to two lions telling a zebra what the dinner menu is.  Are you beginning to feel like the zebra in this scenario?  What are you going to do about it?

Understanding the Wall of Separation

It has been said that religion and politics don’t mix, and that both topics should be avoided in discussions if at all possible.

67HThere are those that would say that there is no easier way to clear out a room then by talking about one or both of these supposed controversial topics.  Lord Hailsham said it this way, “The introduction of religious passion into politics is the end of honest politics, and the introduction of politics into religion is the prostitution of true religion.”

The Brutal Truth

Here’s a brutal truth about life… uncontrolled emotion leads to disagreements, arguments, and fights.  It doesn’t matter what the topic of discussion is.  Husbands and wives argue about money and intimacy more than they do anything else.  Sometimes couples fight about things as silly as why the towel was left on the floor.  Friends feud over sports, jobs, cars, and even other friends.  People can argue about almost anything.

What made this nation great was that a dedicated group of individuals believed that politics and religion do mix.  In fact, politics and religion were two of the most important discussions at the time of our nation’s founding.  What about the First Amendment?  Doesn’t it note the importance of the separation of church and state?  Isn’t it true that the church should be separate from the state?

What is Separation of Church and State?

The phrase “separation of church and state” is not even mentioned in the First Amendment.  “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”  The First Amendment was written for five clearly defined reasons…

  1. To ensure that the state would not force one particular religion on its people
  2. To protect our religious liberty, not infringe upon it
  3. To protect freedom of speech for the press
  4. To protect our right to gather peacefully
  5. To petition the government in order to resolve an unconstitutional act

The Actual Intent

Thomas Jefferson coined the phrase “separation of church and state” in his letter to the Danbury Baptists on January 1st, 1802.  The paragraph that contains the popular phrase reads, “Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between Man & his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legitimate powers of government reach actions only, & not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should “make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,” thus building a wall of separation between Church & State.”  It is clear that Jefferson actually endorsed the relationship between humans and God.

It is also clear that the First Amendment was never intended to restrict churches or religious freedom.  Instead it was supposed to restrict the state and federal government from intruding on the church.  However, there is still a societal illusion that dictates the removal of religion from state entities.  Perhaps this illusion is connected to the societal belief that politics and religion should not be discussed.

We have created a mental wall that has kept us from speaking the truth about two extremely important life topics.  We will not experience more freedom by avoiding discussion over religion and politics, which are the two things that allowed for so much freedom in the first place.  It can be argued that the less we talk about them, the closer we are to oppression.  We shouldn’t be afraid to talk about these things.  We should control our emotions.  It’s time to tear down that mental wall that has led to fear of speaking the truth.

What’s holding us back now?  What’s holding you back?