Give Me Liberty – Unalienable right of people to keep, bear arms: Part 1
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Give Me Liberty
Unalienable right of people to keep, bear arms: Part 1
The Supreme Court recently announced that it will hear a case, brought by the New York State Rifle & Pistol Association, challenging a New York law that prohibits citizens from carrying a gun outside their home without a license that the state makes difficult to obtain.
As a historian, I was under the impression that this had already been settled. Apparently, I was mistaken. We shall therefore conduct a brief review:
The most basic of ALL human rights is the inherent right of self-defense. The right to protect one’s life, the right to protect one’s liberty, the right to protect the pursuit of the American dream: for all of these, one must have free access to bear arms in order to protect their most basic human rights.
Justice James Wilson, one of the six original justices appointed by George Washington to the Supreme Court of the United States, stated that with regard to interpreting our Constitution, “The first and governing maxim in the interpretation of a statute is to discover the meaning of those who made it.”
Based on the right to keep and bear arms in both English Common Law and the English Bill of Rights, and ratified in 1791 as part of the Bill of Rights, the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution states, “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.”
Richard Henry Lee wrote in May of 1788, in “Additional Letters from the Federal Farmer” number 169 regarding the definition of a militia, “A militia, when properly formed, are in fact the people themselves.”
In June of 1788, George Mason addressed the Virginia Ratifying Convention regarding a militia, “I ask, sir, what is the militia? It is the whole people.”
Patrick Henry, also in a speech to the Virginia Ratifying Convention in June of 1778, stated that, “The great object is that every man be armed. Everyone who is able might have a gun.”
Samuel Adams, in the Massachusetts Ratifying Convention of 1788, wrote that “the Constitution shall never be construed to prevent the people of the United States who are peaceable citizens from keeping their own arms.”
Thomas Jefferson, the principal author of the Declaration of Independence and the third president of the United States, wrote in an 1824 letter to John Cartwright that “the Constitution of most of our states (and of the United States) assert that all power is inherent in the people; that they may exercise it by themselves; that it is their right and duty to be at all times armed.”
The Georgia Supreme Court ruled in “Nunn v. State, 1 Ga. (1 Kel.) 243 (1846)” that, “’The right of the people to bear arms shall not be infringed.’ The right of the whole people, old and young, men, women and boys, and not militia only, to keep and bear arms of every description, not such merely as are used by the militia, shall not be infringed, curtailed, or broken in upon, in the smallest degree; and all this for the important end to be attained: the rearing up and qualifying a well-regulated militia, so vitally necessary to the security of a free State. Our opinion is, that any law, State or Federal, is repugnant to the Constitution, and void, which contravenes this right, originally belonging to our forefathers.”
Political philosopher Lysander Spooner stated in 1852 that the object of all bills of rights is to assert the rights of individuals against the government and that the Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms was in support of the right to resist government oppression, as the only security against the tyranny of government lies in forcible resistance to injustice, for injustice will certainly be executed unless forcibly resisted.
In 1867, Judge Timothy Farrar published his “Manual of the Constitution of the United States of America,” the right of every person to “life, liberty and property;” to “keep and bear arms;” to the “writ of habeas corpus” to “trial by jury;” and divers others; are recognized by, and held under, the Constitution of the United States, and cannot be infringed by individuals or even by the government itself.
We shall continue our review of legal precedents in next week’s edition of “The Coosa County News.”