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.
These are the words of the 2nd Amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America, written by James Madison and proposed to Congress on June 8, 1789. Despite these words being over 225 years old, they are just as relevant now as when they were written.
The 2nd Amendment rights of Americans are under siege. Unfortunately, some conservatives seem ready to give that right away to appease the incoherent demands of radical leftists. This is misguided. Conservatives must stand like a rock on this issue and defend the rights of Americans to keep and bear arms. If we do not, and radical leftists succeed in disarming Americans, it will not be long before the United States as we know it vanishes.
What I will address now, though, is not the modern gun debate. Rather, I am going to address both the moral and legal right for Americans to keep and bear arms. Then, I will state the reasons I believe this right is vital to our republic, and why conservatives must not cede any ground on this issue.
First, let’s address the moral right to own firearms.
In 2010, a 15-year-old Texan defended himself and his sister from two home invaders. The invaders attempted to break into the house while they were home alone, and the 15-year-old responded by retrieving his father’s AR-15 rifle and shooting one of the intruders multiple times. This quick, decisive response likely saved both their lives. It would not have been possible without access to a firearm, and the proper training to use it.
This is not an isolated incident. In fact, every year in the United States firearms are used 2.5 million times in self-defense. For this reason, and many others, there is absolutely a moral right to own and carry a firearm.
Having a firearm to protect oneself can, in many cases, save the lives of that individual, their family and those in their community. As I previously mentioned, firearms are used in self-defense approximately 2.5 million times per year in the United States. In the majority of these instances, firearms are merely brandished and not discharged. In fact, citizens will kill or wound their attacker less than 8% of the time.
One thing an objector to this being a statistic in favor of gun ownership may bring up is the possibility that a citizen could misidentify an innocent person as a criminal. This fear, however, is unfounded. According to Newsweek, “only 2 percent of civilian shootings involved an innocent person mistakenly identified as a criminal. The ‘error rate’ for the police, however, was 11 percent, more than five times as high.” In addition, armed citizens kill as many as two times more criminals than the police do every year.
One could reasonably take from these statistics that armed citizens are more effective at stopping criminals than the police are in many cases. Therefore, one could certainly use them to make the case that it would be immoral to keep law-abiding citizens from owning and carrying firearms, and that the moral thing to do is to allow law-abiding citizens to keep and bear arms as they see fit.
In addition to general self-defense, there is reliable data suggesting that laws allowing concealed carry of firearms help reduce crime. According to a 1996 study, violent crime fell after states legalized concealed carry of firearms. The study showed that states which passed concealed carry laws saw their murder rate drop by 8.5%, rape by 5%, aggravated assault by 7%, and robbery by 3%.
One state that has benefitted tremendously from concealed carry is Vermont. In Vermont, citizens are permitted to carry a firearm without obtaining any special permissions. At least in part because of this, Vermont is currently ranked the safest state in the United States.
People who are opposed to firearms would like you to believe that owning and carrying firearms make an area more dangerous. If this were true, how is Vermont the undisputed safest state in the union? The answer is that it simply is not true. Firearms, specifically concealed carry of firearms, makes an area safer.
If one is not convinced by Vermont’s example, they may be convinced by that of Florida. In Florida, concealed carry laws helped to lower the state’s murder rate. In the fifteen years since concealed carry laws were passed in 1987, over 800,000 concealed carry permits have been issued to Floridians. Over that same time period, Florida’s murder rate has fallen 52% – bringing Florida below the national average from their previous spot well above it.
In fact, Florida concealed carriers are so responsible that one is more likely to be attacked by an alligator than by a private citizen legally carrying a firearm. Since concealed carry has been permitted in Florida, alligator attacks have outpaced the number of crimes committed by concealed carriers by a 229 to 155 margin.
One of the most common objections to the concealed carry of firearms is that it makes an area and the general population more dangerous. This statistic proves this to be a ridiculous and unfounded fear, as no one is currently speaking about an epidemic of alligator attacks in Florida.
One explanation for the effectiveness of concealed carry laws in deterring crime is the fact that criminals avoid legal gun owners and those carrying firearms. A good demonstration of this can be found in the city of Kennesaw, Georgia. In 1982, the city passed a law requiring all households to have at least one firearm. Immediately afterwards, the residential burglary rate dropped by 89%. In comparison, the state of Georgia as a whole saw only a 10% drop in the residential burglary rate over the same time period.
On a national scale, the Carter Administration found that of 32,000 attempted rapes, 32% were actually successful. However, when a woman was armed with a gun or knife, only 3% of attempted rapes were successful.
Furthermore, a study conducted by the Justice Department showed that 60% of felons agreed that “a criminal is not going to mess around with a victim armed with a gun.” 74% of felons agreed that “one reason burglars avoid houses when people are at home is that they fear being shot during the crime.” And 57% of felons polled agreed that “criminals are more worried about meeting an armed victim than they are about running into the police.”
Convicted felons are telling us in no uncertain terms that the best way to protect oneself from crime is to own and carry a firearm.
Faced with these facts and statistics, it is easy to see why there is a moral right to own a firearm. Firearm ownership, and concealed carry specifically, helps deter crime across the board. Even convicted felons admit this; the overwhelming majority of convicted felons agree that burglars avoid houses they know are armed and that they are more worried about armed citizens than they are about the police.
Consequently, this causes the argument that private citizens do not need access to guns because they can rely on the police to protect them to fall flat on its face. If citizens are more effective in discerning guilty from innocent than the police, as aforementioned, and are statistically safer when they carry a firearm, on what moral grounds can one possibly object to their owning and carrying one?
In situations ranging from deterring sexual assault to protecting one’s property, firearm ownership is the most effective method of protection and deterrence. Gun owners and those who concealed carry firearms are extremely responsible and effective, even more so than the police. Statistics show that gun ownership makes an individual and a community far safer – even convicted felons acknowledge this fact. Faced with these undeniable truths, I believe that it is safe to say there is a moral right for an individual to own and carry firearms.
Now that it has been established there is a moral right to keep and bear arms, the legal right of Americans to keep and bear arms should be discussed.
As all Americans know, the right to keep and bear arms comes from the 2nd Amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America. The exact words of the 2nd Amendment are as follows:
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.
From this, one can reasonably take away two things:
- A well regulated militia is necessary to the security of the United States.
- The American people have the right to keep and bear arms, and this right shall not be infringed.
The second part is fairly simple. The Constitution clearly states that Americans have the right to keep and bear arms. That cannot be disputed.
Where things get dicey is when the first part is considered. For centuries, the true meaning of what a “well regulated militia” is has been debated. In order to understand the legal, constitutional right of Americans to keep and bear arms, one must understand what James Madison intended to say, and why he chose the words he did.
Madison, in the I Annals of Congress 433, states what is essentially an extended version of the 2nd Amendment:
“The right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed. A well regulated militia, composed of the body of the people, trained to arms, is the best and most natural defense of a free country.”
When these words are considered, it becomes clearer what Madison intended by “well regulated militia.” As stated, the militia is to be trained and composed of the body of the people. The last part of his quote, about said militia being the best and most natural defense of a free country, can be understood when Madison’s political beliefs are likewise understood.
James Madison was a Democratic-Republican, and a strict adherent to the political philosophy known as Jeffersonian democracy. In those days, a core tenet of Jeffersonian democracy was the opposition to the United States’ maintaining of a standing army. Thomas Jefferson, the father and namesake of Jeffersonian democracy, believed that standing armies were dangerous to liberty. He had the following to say about them:
“There are instruments so dangerous to the rights of the nation, and which place them so totally at the mercy of their governors, that those governors, whether legislative or executive, should be restrained from keeping such instruments on foot, but in well-defined cases. Such an instrument is a standing army.”
When considering James Madison’s aversion to standing armies, it becomes evident why the 2nd Amendment was included in the Constitution, and why it is worded the way that it is. Madison believed that there should be no standing army, as it was a threat to liberty, and instead the people should be armed and trained in military tactics. Then, if an army needed to be raised, one could be formed from the body of the people.
Considering this, a literal interpretation of the Constitution would demand that Americans be afforded not only the right to bear arms, but arms on par with those used in militaries around the world so that the American people could defend their country with said arms.
Obviously, things are different now than they were in 1789. The United States does have a standing army, the most powerful army in the world, in fact. It is unlikely that this could be changed. This, however, does not negate the meaning of the 2nd Amendment.
It is my contention that James Madison feared the United States (if Alexander Hamilton had his way) would maintain a standing army. As a result of this fear, the 2nd Amendment was included in the Bill of Rights so that Americans had the ability to not only resist the government, but to defend themselves when the government failed to do so.
This view is supported by none other than Alexander Hamilton, himself. In Federalist No. 28, Hamilton writes:
“If circumstances should at any time oblige the government to form an army of any magnitude that army can never be formidable to the liberties of the people while there is a large body of citizens, little, if at all, inferior to them in discipline and the use of arms, who stand ready to defend their own rights and those of their fellow-citizens. This appears to me the only substitute that can be devised for a standing army, and the best possible security against it, if it should exist.”
In this writing, Hamilton states that if a large army were formed, that army could not stand against an armed citizenry prepared to defend their rights and those of their fellow citizens. He notes that this could be an adequate substitute for a standing army, but is certainly the best defense against one. James Madison, who co-authored The Federalist Papers with Hamilton, would almost certainly agree.
I believe this adequately addresses the military portion of the 2nd Amendment. Clearly, the American people have a right to keep and bear arms in the event that they must defend their country against foreign invaders or against their own government. But what about the far more common use of arms, self-defense?
For this, we go straight back to Alexander Hamilton. He writes in Federalist No. 28:
“If the representatives of the people betray their constituents, there is then no resource left but in the exertion of that original right of self-defense which is paramount to all positive forms of government, and which against the usurpations of the national rulers, may be exerted with infinitely better prospect of success than against those of the rulers of an individual state. In a single state, if the persons intrusted with supreme power become usurpers, the different parcels, subdivisions, or districts of which it consists, having no distinct government in each, can take no regular measures for defense. The citizens must rush tumultuously to arms, without concert, without system, without resource; except in their courage and despair.”
Not only does this unequivocally state that Americans have a right to self-defense, but that they have a right to defend themselves against a tyrannical government.
I believe I have plainly demonstrated that James Madison, in his writing of the 2nd Amendment, intended to affirm Americans right to keep and bear arms for the purpose of the defense of their country and, if need be, rise up against a government turned to tyranny.
The 2nd Amendment was not written to protect the right of Americans to shoot targets and kill varmints, as many on the Left would have you believe. The 2nd Amendment was written to ensure Americans had the right to defend themselves and their country when the government failed to do so, and to ensure they had the ability to rise up against a tyrannical government if the need arose.
The idea that some contemporary conservatives are willing to cede ground on this issue is unacceptable. We as conservatives cannot allow our 2nd Amendment rights, the way they were intended by James Madison and the other Framers, to be taken away from us by radical leftists.
Ronald Reagan once said that freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. If this generation of conservatives allows our 2nd Amendment rights to be stripped from us, our freedom will soon be likewise stripped. We must not allow this to happen. We must fight to our last breath to ensure the liberties bequeathed to us by God, and enshrined in the Constitution by our Founders, survive to the next generation, lest our republic suffer the same fate as that of Rome.
The 10 Safest States in America by Darian Somers
Armed Resistance to Crime: The Prevalence and Nature of Self-Defense with a Gun by Gary Kleck & Marc Gertz
Are We a Nation of Cowards? by George F. Will
Crime, Deterrence, and Right-to-Carry Concealed Handguns by David B. Mustard & John Lott
U.S. Department of Justice, Law Enforcement Assistance Administration, Rape Victimization in 26 American Cities, p. 31
U.S., Department of Justice, National Institute of Justice, “The Armed Criminal in
America: A Survey of Incarcerated Felons,” Research Report, p. 27