Criticisms of the second amendment are widespread and easily found. I’m sure you’ve heard plenty.
“When they say “arms”, the founding fathers were talking about single shot muskets!”
“The founding fathers couldn’t imagine what military weaponry could exist today!”
“The second amendment only applies to militias, and we already have one, the National Guard!”
It’s time to debunk these poorly-formed arguments supporting gun control.
Sure, for someone who knows little about guns and hasn’t actually read the constitution, these above arguments can be quite convincing. At face value, to the inexperienced, they look logical.
The only problem is, when you read the written arguments in detail, they consist of emotional premises like “You don’t want your child to get shot, do you?” or: “The Second Amendment is why we can’t go to school, or work, or a house of worship, or a nightclub, or a movie theater, or a music festival, or pretty much any public gathering without fear of getting shot to death.” Do you think that person might be a bit too paranoid?
It’s disappointing that it’s hard to find a left-wing argument that’s based on statistics or research. Sometimes I’d actually like to learn something from them. That’s why for this article, I’ve found writings and definitions from the late 1700’s, the time when the constitution was actually written, to put these irrational arguments to rest.
“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.”
Most importantly, I’m here to prove that by “arms”, the founding fathers did not mean “single-shot muskets”, they meant “anything necessary to fight a war”, and by “militia” the founding fathers did not mean “the National Guard”, they meant “each and every civilian in the United States of America”.
First, let’s look at a few modern definitions of arms:
- “A means (such as a weapon) of offense or defense; especially : FIREARM” -Merriam-Webster Dictionary
- “Weapons, especially firearms.” -dictionary.com
- “Weapons and explosives used in fighting wars” -Cambridge Dictionary
Now, let’s look at the 1755 definition of arms: (the closest before 1776)
- “Weapons of offence, or armour of defence” - Dr. Johnson’s Dictionary of the English Language, 1755
Not even in modern times is there any confusion of the words “arms” with “weaponry of the late 1700’s”. When looking back historically, it is clear that “arms” had a meaning that was nowhere near “weaponry of the current date as long as no technological advancements are made”.
The founding fathers meant anything that was needed in order to fight. Especially in the modern day, more effective weaponry and other “arms” would be needed to compete against an advanced government, god forbid a tyrannical one.
Keeping with the theme from above, here is a modern definition of “militia” from Encyclopaedia Britannica:
- “Militia, military organization of citizens with limited military training, which is available for emergency service, usually for local defense. In many countries the militia is of ancient origin; Macedonia under Philip II (d. 336 BC), for example, had a militia of clansmen in border regions who could be called to arms to repel invaders.”
And here is the most relevant writing I could find on the subject, from the time of the constitution, and actually referring to what the constitution means:
- “The power of the sword, say the minority of Pennsylvania, is in the hands of Congress. My friends and countrymen, it is not so, for THE POWERS OF THE SWORD ARE IN THE HANDS OF THE YEOMANRY OF AMERICA FROM SIXTEEN TO SIXTY.” -Tench Coxe, “A Pennsylvanian”, 1788
Another relevant quote:
- “No man has a greater regard for the military gentlemen than I have. I admire their intrepidity, perseverance, and valor. But when once a standing army is established in any country, the people lose their liberty. When, against a regular and disciplined army, yeomanry are the only defence,–yeomanry, unskilful and unarmed,–what chance is there for preserving freedom?” -George Mason, Virginia Ratifying Convention, 1788
It is obvious that the “militia” is meant to be separate from Federal control. It is also clear that the “militia” was not necessarily meant to be a standing organization. “Militia” refers more to the ability for civilians to form military capacity if required. In order for civilians to form a militia, they must already have arms. The National Guard certainly does not fill the need that the founding fathers saw and the intention they had when writing and ratifying the Second Amendment.
Well, that was easy. The irrational arguments have been put to rest, and now you have more “ammunition” for your next gun control debate.
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- Tench Coxe, “A Pennsylvanian”, 1788
- “Dr. Johnson’s Dictionary of the English Language”, 1755
- “Debate in Virginia Ratifying Convention”, 1788