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The Right of the People

The situation unfolding right now in Ukraine is a good example of why our Founding Fathers were so intent on including the Second Amendment in the United States 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.”

They believed that all citizens had the right to self-defense and they wanted the citizenry to have the ability to protect itself against a tyrannical government, whether it be their own or a foreign invader.

There are videos that show the Ukrainian government passing out guns to their citizens so they can fight against the Russian army. Most of these people have never held a firearm, let alone used one.

In America, our Constitutionally protected right to bear arms and our long tradition of gun ownership and usage makes us a stronger and freer nation than most.

There is a story from WWII which claims that a Japanese admiral said, “You cannot invade the mainland United States. There would be a rifle behind every blade of grass.” Whether this statement was actually made is up for debate, but the truth of it is not. Our Founders knew the benefits of an armed citizenry.

The Continental Army had just finished defeating the largest military force in the world. They knew they couldn’t have done it if their people were not armed. And while they had high hopes for the newly formed United States, they did not know what the future would hold. They wanted to ensure that future Americans would have the same ability to fight that they did, should they need it.

A Constitutional scholar explained: “The Bill of Rights is the list of the fundamental, inalienable rights, endowed in man by his Creator, that define what it means to be a free and independent people, the rights which must exist to ensure that government governs only with the consent of the people.”

In other words, the Bill of Rights is not a list of rights given to us by the government. It is a list of the rights that the government cannot take away from us. The Second Amendment does not grant permission for the citizens to keep and bear arms; it forbids the government from interfering with the right of the citizens to keep and bear arms.

The Founders were well-educated statesmen, intimately familiar with classical philosophy, European history, and English common law. They knew how to say things in plain 18th century English and they meant what they said.

They said that the American people had a collective right to protect themselves against a standing army by forming a general militia composed of the people: a well-regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state

And they said that American citizens have an individual right to arm themselves to protect their lives and their property: the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed

We must understand the terms they used as they were meant to be understood at the time that they were written, rather than trying to squeeze out some modern interpretation.

In colonial times, “well-regulated” meant “well-functioning.” The oxford English dictionary defines “regulated” as “properly disciplined.” And it defines “discipline” as a “trained condition.”

A “militia” was meant to be made of a group of the “people at large” who were equipped to defend themselves and their country at all times, not just when called to formal military duty. So, the necessity of a well-functioning militia presupposes that the individual citizen be allowed to keep, carry, and train with firearms and that a group of citizens should form to defend freedom if tyranny threatens the free state.

To own a firearm is to affirm that freedom is not a gift from the state. The possession of firearms is vital for resisting tyranny and keeping the government in check. To be disarmed by the state is tantamount to being enslaved by it. The possession of firearms by the people is the ultimate guarantee that the government governs only with the consent of the governed.

A government that does not trust its legal, law-abiding, tax-paying citizens with the means of self-defense is not itself worthy of trust. Laws disarming honest citizens proclaim that the government is the master, not the servant of the people. It reveals a totalitarian nature.

There have been many threats to our freedom over the course of American history. But our adversaries– foreign and domestic– know that “We The People” are the sovereign in this country. We acknowledge and honor our Constitutionally protected rights, the rights that define a nation founded on liberty, the rights that we will defend just as our Founders did.

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