Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution - Bill of Rights

"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."

Preservation and Proposition

Our mission is to document the pivotal Second Amendment events that occurred in Frontier Mercersburg, and its environs, and to heighten awareness of the importance of these events in the founding of our Nation.

We are dedicated to the preservation of the place where the Second Amendment was "born" and to the proposition that the Second Amendment (the "right to bear arms") is the keystone of our Liberty and the Republic.

Monday, July 12, 2010

The History of Guns and God

By Tim McCown

During the 2008 Election campaign Obama made a statement about Pennsylvanians and others clinging to their guns and God. Would that he and most of America only knew how far this history goes back. The original right to bear arms that our ancestors, if you are Scotch Irish, English, Scotch or Irish, brought over to this nation began as part of the 1688 Declaration of Rights that William III signed and would go on to become article 7 of the English Bill of Rights. This document was the model for our own Bill of Rights.

This article read, That the subjects which are Protestants may have arms for their defense suitable to their conditions, and as allowed by law. This law reflects the fear of standing armies that Catholic monarchs Charles II and James II were fond of. It reflected the beginnings of ideas of political independence that began in the stirrings of spiritual independence and the individual desire to follow ones own conscience and not have God interpreted to you by priests and the Pope. The ideas that would go on to be manifested in our national War of Independence began as a belief that we can know and interpret God for ourselves and we should be part of the governance of our church.

If you want to go back still further you can trace origins of the right to bear arms to Henry II who promulgated the Assize of Arms in 1181. This law required all males between 15 and 40 to keep arms. The type of weapon varied with the persons economic station in life. Twice a year the citizens were inspected by representatives of the king to make sure each possessed the requisite weapon.

Over the course of time rights to bear arms in the common law sought to force everyone to possess the most deadly military weapon of the time. The only focus of law was criminal misuse.

In the 16th century the first attempts at weapons control began to be promulgated because firearms technology had created a transportable weapon. It is under Elizabeth I that the term militia is first used in this context. This was a conception of a universally armed people. Much of the impetus for Article 7 in the English Bill of Rights comes from attempts at confiscation of Protestant firearms under The Militia Act of 1662.

Algernon Sydney and Robert Molesworth two of the Age of Enlightenment's first philosophical thinkers, argued against gun control saying, I hope no wise man will put a hare or a partridge in the balance with the safety and liberties of Englishmen. Books by Sydney and John Locke, the father of our Declaration of Independence and our Constitution, were in the possession of more than half of all colonists on the eve of revolution. The rest derived their ideas of natural law and the right of self defense from their local minister who gave the people the Gospel of the Great Awakening.

Life on the frontier in 1765 Pennsylvania created a people with a pragmatic faith that empowered them to rely on their own conscience, trust their own judgments, and a rejection of any and all authority as unnecessary. These beliefs provided the impetus for political rebellion that was provided so effectively by William Smith and the Black Boys, so called because of painting their faces black to conceal their identity. The Smith House was the meeting place of this rebellion. It is as a result of these events that the Smith's Rebellion can be seen as the birth place of ideas that would become the Second Amendment.

Here in Pennsylvania, because we had no standing militia, the right of self defense that began as church natural law evolved into the right of revolution as posited by the English philosopher John Locke if government failed to protect a person's rights to Life, Liberty, and Property. When Croghan's illegal trade goods headed West, Penn's inability to respond placed the Smith's in the position of defending themselves and their community. This is at the heart of the self defense beliefs contained in our Second Amendment asserted first in America here. James Smith cousin of William Smith and a leader of the Black Boys, goes on to become a delegate to Pennsylvania's constitutional convention in 1776. This convention codified the right to bear arms for the individuals protection.

In Virginia the tradition of the militia grew up and the wording of the Right to Bear Arms as stated in our Bill of Rights was an amalgam between Virginia's law and Pennsylvania's law in 1776. In Pennsylvania it was an individual right as it was an expectation that every man would defend his community if needed. So that is the history of the right to bear arms, and if it hadn't been for those who believed in both God and guns there would have been no American Revolution.

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