*NOTE - this document is not intended to be exhaustive. It is intended to present a concise and simplified treatment of the Second Amendment for those who may not be familiar with some of the basic concepts. Please feel free to use it as a conversation starter.
Why was the second amendment written?
Like most of the Bill of Rights, the Second Amendment to the Constitution of the United States was written to emphasize and further protect what our founders understood to be the preexisting rights of all humans.
Whether or not you believe those preexisting rights come from a supernatural creator or are natural to our species is a subject for another discussion.
In either case, our founders believed that humans are born with the right to preserve their lives and those of their loved ones.
Our nation was founded on the idea that the natural state of a human being is to be free to go about her business, speak her mind, raise her family, worship or refrain from worship as she sees fit, according to her own conscience.
In order to maintain that freedom, humans must make a choice to respect the freedom of others.
The human mind gives man the ability to overcome blind instinct, and the opportunity to employ logic and reason in his dealings with other humans.
When men choose to initiate the use of force against their fellow humans, they are acting in a manner that is logically inconsistent with their own desire to be free.
Those who are subjected to the initiation of such force must then either accept the loss of their freedom (and perhaps their lives), or resist it in some manner.
Who may use force?
There are those who insist that government and/or the police should have a monopoly on the use of force, and therefore should be the only ones allowed to resist the initiation of force on behalf of all of society. Let’s examine that for a moment.
Our founders were intimately familiar with what could happen when the government attempts to impose a monopoly on the use of force. Under King George, the British government became increasingly more oppressive and unresponsive to the needs of the colonists.
If the British had been able to maintain a monopoly over the use of force, the colonists would have lost their freedom.
Fortunately for the reader, I am not going to turn this into a history lesson. However, the situation faced by the colonists can be used to illustrate why our founders decided to include the Second Amendment.
Although it does protect an “individual” right to keep and bear arms for personal defense, defense of family, neighborhood, community, state and nation, the Second Amendment was primarily intended as a defense against tyranny.
Even if tyranny is not an immediate concern, there is no guarantee that it will never occur. If the individuals within a society give up their ability to offer resistance to force, it is an open invitation to some future tyrant to take advantage of a weakened nation.
Why is there an individual right to self defense?
The answer to this question depends on your response to the question “Who owns your life”? If you believe that it is the government or the police, and you are willing to surrender the ability and responsibility to resist force to them, please ask yourself this question “Can I rely upon the police to be there at all times to adequately protect me and my family from harm”?
I will not conjecture upon the ability of your particular police department to respond to an emergency such as a home invasion, a mugging or a car-jacking, but I do feel safe in saying it is unlikely they will just happen to be there when you need them.
This is not a slur upon the police. They do their job. However their job is not to prevent crime. That would be an impossible task.
Their real function is to investigate crime after it occurs and attempt to bring the perpetrators to justice.
Even if they wanted to, there are not enough police to handle a 24/7 surveillance of every person in America.
In fact, the Supreme Court has ruled that you may not hold the police responsible for not responding to a crime in time to prevent it, and I agree with their decision.
I thought the 2A was about guns!
You may have noticed that so far I haven’t said anything about guns. There is a good reason for this. The Second Amendment is not really about guns. It isn’t even really strictly about “arms”. It is about the RIGHT to defend your person, family, neighborhood, community, state and nation from the initiation of the use of force with any tool appropriate to the task.
The Second Amendment exists as a warning to the government not to infringe upon that right. The tools or “arms” you use to effectively mount a defense should be dictated by the situation at hand.
A gun or a knife is not a magic wand. In and of themselves, they are merely potentially useful. Used to commit a crime against a fellow human, it is an instrument of evil. Employed to resist that same crime it is a defensive tool.
The virtue or vice is a characteristic of the user not the tool.
So why “gun control”?
That is a VERY good question. Gun control, as it is usually approached by our government, is a myth. The issue isn’t actually about controlling guns, it is really about controlling freedom.
Our government is not trying to control guns; they are trying to control people. Unfortunately, they are trying to control the wrong people. It is not the individual who goes through the arduous and intrusive process required to purchase a firearm legally in NJ who is the problem. It is the behavior of the criminal who will never obey gun laws that must be controlled. Infringing upon the freedom of individuals to carry a defensive firearm will never prevent crime; in fact it encourages crime by turning people into prey.
The only way that you can control a gun is through human use. You can attempt to disable or ban guns, but even if you were somehow successful, you would merely force the user to switch to another tool.
Criminals will not voluntarily cease using weapons to intimidate people and commit their crimes, and law-abiding individuals will not easily give up their freedom to those who wish to take it from them. Make no mistake, if a criminal waves a weapon in front of your face and steals your property, harms your family or takes your life, he has significantly interfered with your freedom.
Then what is the real problem?
In order to fully answer that question, we would have to examine all of the possible reasons why someone would resort to the initiation of the use of force. For the purposes of this discussion, we will concentrate on “intentional violence”.
The initiation of the use of force can be referred to more simply as intentional violence committed by humans. The reason I stipulate human intervention is because natural events such as hurricanes, tornadoes, floods and the like are also violent, but there is no intent behind them.
Not all violence involving humans is intentional. Accidental violence such as a car accident is an example. The actions of the violently insane by definition lack normal human intention.
There is very little we can do to prevent natural and unintentional violence. It is worth keeping this in mind.
As I am sure you are all aware, the recent act of a disturbed individual in Newtown Connecticut took the lives of many innocent people. Can that be said to be an intentional act? Compare those murders to the murders happening every day on the streets of our cities and towns. Is one type of murder worse than another? Perhaps the most pertinent question is what can we do about either of these situations?
Criminal violence is intentional violence. It is the intention to use violence without regard to or in spite of any harm done to the recipient of the violence. Intimidation intended to deprive an individual of their property, freedom, or life is intentional violence. There are many other ways to define violence, but I believe that this definition will suffice for the purpose of this discussion.
If we agree that the initiation of violence is criminal then how do we define the defense against the initiation of violence? If we value our lives, then attempting to defend against the initiation of violence or, in other words the preservation of life must be a virtue. This is true even when the use of lethal force becomes necessary to preserve innocent life. Does the tool used to defend against criminal force change the validity of that defense?
I suppose that is a question each of us must answer for ourselves. However, does one group have the right to impose their answer for everyone else? According to the Bill of Rights, the government does NOT!
What are the underlying causes.
No one wants to be a victim of violence and those who resort to the initiation of violence are wrong. However, that doesn’t mean that there isn’t something we can do to reduce the amount of violence in our cities and towns. In order to do so we have to address the underlying causes of the violence.
Lack of opportunity
Poor educational experience
Cycle of crime
I am sure there are more. These are topics for part II. Here are some questions to consider.
Is it the chicken or the egg (and does it really matter)?
How can we BREAK THE CYCLE?