To breathe the Second Amendment, you have to understand that the United States Constitution is a living document. Individual rights, including the right to bear arms, were believed by the Founding Fathers to be unalienable rights granted by God himself. So important were these rights that they felt it necessary to prevent the government from stripping them away. To accomplish this, they created the Bill of Rights, which includes the Second Amendment. As responsible gun owners, we women need to know, understand, and be proud to exercise our Second Amendment rights.
The Second Amendment always seems to be in the news. Unfortunately, facts seem to have little to no use in the emotional arguments presented by the anti gun crowd. Nonetheless, it is important to have a good understanding of exactly what the Second Amendment protects. To help you be successful in explaining it calmly and rationally to anti gunners, you need a brief history lesson.
Pre Constitution and Bill of Rights
The Founding Fathers knew how important the right to bear arms was to maintain a free society, and wrote about it often. Why is this important? It provides us with concrete evidence in regards to their intent. Just like the Holy Bible, the language and wording of that era is much different than it is today. One of the key phrases that the anti gun crowd likes to argue involves the word “militia.” They love claiming that the Second Amendment only applies to militias and not to ordinary citizens. Here is the Second Amendment, as written by James Madison, in full text:
And here are just a few of the hundreds of quotes from the Founding Fathers in regards to the right to bear arms being an individual, and not collective, liberty:
- “No free man shall ever be debarred the use of arms.” Thomas Jefferson, Virginia Constitutional Draft, 1776
- “I ask now who are the militia? They consist now of the whole people, except a few public officers.” George Mason, Virginia Ratifying Convention, 1788
- “The Constitution shall never be construed to prevent the people of the United States, who are peaceable citizens, from keeping their own arms.” Sam Adams, Massachusetts Ratifying Convention, 1788
The Bill of Rights
The first ten amendments to the Constitution make up The Bill of Rights. These amendments were intentionally grouped together in a “document that describes certain individual rights retained by the people which the government has no right to interfere.” All were written as a separate amendments, narrowed down to ten, and then collectively ratified together in 1791. To claim that “the right of the people to bear arms” is not an individual right is crazy. The Bill of Rights is the very definition of individual rights.
The Civil Rights Act of 1866
From the ratification of the Bill of Rights until the end of the Civil War, Second Amendment rights were only guaranteed to whites. When the slaves were freed in the South, those with guns had them stripped away by white vigilantes. Blacks were terrorized and often murdered with no way to protect themselves. One of the key reasons for the Civil Rights Act of 1866 was the plea from blacks to end the infringement of their Second Amendment rights. Both Freedman’s Bureau Act of 1866 and the Civil Rights Act of 1866 addressed this plea. The Freedman’s Act specifically stated that “all citizens, black and white, would have the the constitutional right to bear arms.” The Civil Rights Act of 1866 went a bit further. It guaranteed that blacks and whites would be equally protected under all laws.
However, this did not fully solve the issue. Both the South and the sitting president, Andrew Johnson, resisted. In order to enforce the statutes laid out in the Civil Rights Act, Congress felt the need to amend the Constitution.
The Fourteenth Amendment
Congress passed the Fourteenth Amendment in 1868 to guarantee all citizens, regardless of color, equal protection under all laws. Representative Thaddeus Stevens was very clear about how the Fourteenth Amendment secured Second Amendment rights for all citizens. He is quoted as saying, ” “Disarm a community and you rob them of the means of defending life. Take away their weapons of defense and you take away the inalienable right of defending liberty. The Fourteenth Amendment, now so happily adopted, settles the whole question.”
Recent Supreme Court Decisions Regarding the Second Amendment
The Second Amendment continues to be a very hot topic today. It seems that every time a person commits a crime with a gun, it is somehow the gun’s fault. Why is it never the person’s fault? This faulty logic has led to cries for stricter gun laws, and even talk of repealing the Second Amendment altogether. Fortunately, the Supreme Court has addressed the individual right to bear arms twice in the last few years.
District of Columbia versus Heller (2008)
The Heller decision was a big win for not only pro Second Amendment advocates, but for all Americans. Whether they know it or not. The District of Columbia passed a law prohibiting handgun ownership without registration, and then denied registrations. For the first time in American history, the Supreme Court recognized that the right to bear arms was an individual right without regard to membership in a militia. Although the decision is long, take the time to read it! It is actually quite fascinating. And also very satisfying.
McDonald versus Chicago (2010)
The McDonald decision further solidified the fact that the Second Amendment was an individual right and not a collective right. This case was similar to Heller, in that the city of Chicago banned handgun ownership within its city limits. After the Heller decision, petitioners filed to have Chicago’s unconstitutional ban overturned citing Heller as precedent. To me, this decision is even more fascinating than Heller. Justice Samuel Alito dove deep into history citing not only the Founding Fathers writings, but also the writings of the Fourteenth Amendment.
Alito wrote: “Evidence from the period immediately following the ratification [in 1868] of the Fourteenth Amendment only confirms that the right to keep and bear arms was considered fundamental. … In sum, it is clear that the Framers and ratifiers of the Fourteenth Amendment counted the right to keep and bear arms among those fundamental rights necessary to our system of ordered liberty.” 2010 McDonald vs Chicago.
Again, take the time to read the decision. Have the ammo needed to take down the uninformed.
I am always astounded at the number of people willing to give up their Second Amendment rights. Without the Second, there would be no First, Third, Fourth, etc. Why can’t people understand this? I breathe the Second Amendment just like I breathe air. Self defense is a natural instinct. For everyone. But even though the Constitution, and by extension, the Second Amendment, is considered a living document, this does not mean that it should be changed due to political beliefs or emotional arguments. In fact, the Founding Fathers made sure that any changes to it were not going to be easy. It takes 2/3 of both houses of Congress, and then 3/4 (or 38) states to ratify an amendment. That is nearly impossible.
Our job as pro Second Amendment women is to spread the truth! Anytime you hear someone spreading false information about 2A, speak up! Breathe it and live it!