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.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

The Individual Right to Bear Arms Asserted and Proved

By Tim McCown

In 1765, the frontier in Pennsylvania is the living breathing embodiment of philosopher John Locke's State of Nature an area where there are no rules or laws. The non stop Indian wars, The Penn's lax and often incompetent government and a British Military Authority that is suddenly overwhelmed by the enormity of their task now that they must administer all of the new lands ceded to them as a result of the Treaty of Paris ending the French and Indian war, creates a governmental and administrative power vacuum. The government is failing in its obligations to provide safety and security and to provide for the common good, which will be exploited by those hoping to make a huge profit from the uncertainty that exists. To those settlers who live on the frontier, they are completely on their own.
The start of Pontiac's War right on the heels of the French and Indian War exposes anew the Achilles Heel of the Government of John Penn. Because Pennsylvania is the only state without a standing militia they have a difficult time responding in an effective way to this crisis. It doesn't help that one of the issues is whether the proprietors property should be taxed to help pay for the colonies defense.

The Cumberland Valley has suffered severe hardship as a consequence of being the fault line of a brutal and ongoing war for survival between the waves of settlers coming with hopes of finding affordable land so that they can provide for their family and for their children's future, and the Indians who see the end to their whole way of life. The Maryland Gazette published a letter from Ft. Loudoun dated April 5, 1764 that sums this battle up: The distress of the back inhabitants are greater than can well be conceived. Two hundred miles of an extended frontier are so exposed to the incursions of Indians, that no man can go to sleep with in 10 or 15 miles of the borders without being in danger of having his house burnt, and himself and family scalped or led into captivity, before the next morning. Because of these issues we believe the right to bear arms is an individual right, deriving from the right of self defense.

Those who favor a more restrictive view of the second Amendment emphasize that it is a collective right not an individual one. They point to the part of the Second Amendment that states, A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, and claim that this law only applies to the states and the formation of state militias for self defense. Those who deny that the right to bear arms is an individual right will claim that it was put into the Constitution to prohibit Congress from limiting or abridging a states right to create a militia for its own defense.

David B. Koppel and Clayton Cramer, two legal scholars and staunch defenders of the collective right to bear arms will state: The importance of the Pennsylvania Constitution of 1776 to the modern gun debate would be difficult to overstate. The admission seriously undermines the belief that we only collectively have a right to bear arms because it is the first Constitution to have a specific right to bear arms, which is probably in a large part because of the failings of the Quaker Government to provide for self defense. In addition the problem for those who argue that it was for the creation of a militia units is that Pennsylvania had no standing militia at this time so there couldn't have been a military connotation.

The 1776 Constitution of Pennsylvania states: The people have a right to bear arms for the defense of themselves and the state. Kopel and Cramer will point out that when the Constitution was rewritten in 1790 the wording was changes to read: The right of the citizens to bear arms, in defense of themselves and the state shall not be infringed upon.

But one of the issues that those who argue that the Founders of our nation intended the right to bear arms to be a collective right do not take into account is new research that indicates that the Revolutionaries of 1776 become the Reactionaries after the Revolution as they would take away all the avenues of protest they so willingly used on England. It could very well be asked is the whole idea of trying to make the right to bear arms seem like a collective right part of a conscious effort to constrict rights that enabled the American Revolution to succeed?

The founders of our nation had to be aware how much the individual right to bear arms aided and abetted their planned Revolution. They also had to have some idea that this right could be used against them if and when someone else interpreted John Locke to mean that the nation was locked in tyrannical government and the government was failing in its objective to protect Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. In Locke's theories this would necessitate replacing government peacefully or by Revolution. Oranized armed resistence would be much harder to moblilize if the right to bear arms were a collective right.

I think the Pennsylvania frontier, the states lack of an organized state militia and the 1776 Pennsylvania Constitution all make pretty clear that our assertion of self defense is as the cornerstone of the individual right to bear arms . That right to bear arms was always an individual right until those who had used it to take power had become the rulers of our nation themselves. Trying to block future revolutions is the only reason the right to bear arms went from an individual to a collective framework.

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