Second Amendment

Although you are correct that there has been two views on the intent of the second amendment. Those two views have been the views of more modern government. It is unquestionable, from the writings of Thomas Jefferson that there was but one intent when this amendment was added to the constitution. Lockian principles, which Jefferson used for the foundations of the Declaration of Independence, and the right to revolution clearly indicate that the right to arms is and individual right. The reason is simple. Jefferson, and all reasonable men understand that government is at the disposal of “the people.” Usurpation and tyranny, are the tools of government that has gone beyond right, and beyond what the people have consented to bestow in their rulers. The right to arms for individuals, is the agent which guarantees the people can overthrow their government should the need arise. The first and second paragrah of the “Declaration” spell this out clearly. It is only a usurper who tries to state that well regulated militias are the aim of the amendment. Those militias were the revolutionists which founded our nation. Not an organized body of people, controlled by the government. “A usurper, and any deriving from him, hath no right to be obeyed” (John Locke)

Can we assume that you are discussing Cecil’s colum here ?

Always include a link so that people can follow along with your post.

Thank goodness Locke didn’t say “A Usurper …hath no right to be heard.” :smiley:

I’d heartily endorse a strict Jeffersonian interpretation, but you can’t take it bit by bit. You’d need to also define “arms” to mean only weapons that Jefferson might have listed if he had been asked for a definition.

Jefferson or Madison might have used a surprisingly expansive meaning of the term “arms.” John Paul Jones was, after all, a privateer; his ship, the Bonhomme Richard, and its cannons were privately owned. The American privateers may not have been strictly “militia,” but like the minutemen they were among those private citizens on whom the revolutionaries had relied to fight the encroachments of royal power using their own weapons.

By today’s political definitions Jefferson may very well be defined as a Libertarian. The Libertarian Manifesto states ALL weapons should be legal to own by private citizens.

I am very nearly Libertarian, am a NRA member and heartily endorse a loose interpretation of the Second Amendment, but I do not think the average person should be allowed Bio-Weapons, Nuclear Arms or any weapons above what is defined as Small Arms by the UN.

I think this because at the heart of Jefferson’s belief was that a group of people constituted an uprising not an individual. These weapons have the potential to hold the entire world at bay by a very small group or even an individual. I do not think that is what Jefferson intended, nor do I think that is appropriate. So, qualifying the word Arms by what Jefferson may say to the present situation needs more defining because I doubt Jefferson ever imagined the power of Sarin Gas or a good 'ole Nuke.

I think he would have defined it as “whatever the Army has.”

Of course, back in the day, things were much simpler without nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons.

So it is, indeed, somewhat ridiculous to argue about the “intent” of Jefferson, et al with regard to situations today. One of the things that makes the Constitution so successful is that it was designed to be evaluated in context.

Happy Gun Nut.

Amen, amen, amen.

The “intent” of the Framers was to create a dynamic document that could be continually adapted and reevaluated. They succeeded, except for those who continually cry that the only correct interpretations of the Constitution are those based on the “Framers’ intent.”

And all of Jefferson’s strengths and faults notwithstanding, the DoI is not a basis of US governance.

Welcome to the SDMB, usurper, and thank you for posting your comment.

Please include a link to Cecil’s column if it’s on the straight dope web site. To include a link, it can be as simple as including the web page location in your post (make sure there is a space before and after the text of the URL).

Cecil’s column can be found on-line at the link provided by samclem.

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Of course, one could also argue that individual citizens should not be allowed nukes, but neither should the Army. The Founding Fathers’ intention, as I understand it, was that the military would not be able to take over the government by force of arms, because the non-military citizens would have equivalent weapons with which to resist such an attempt. If you allow any weapon to the military but not to the people, then the balance is upset. Yes, of course I realize that it’s infeasible to expect the military to abstain from nuclear weapons, and that it’s likewise infeasible for any entity smaller than a government to build or purchase one. Perhaps there is no feasible way, in the modern age, to preserve the military/civilian balance envisioned by the Founders.

Chronos said:

In terms of absolute destructive power, no–not without having a military that is far too weak to perform its primary job of warding off foreign threats. But there’s a difference between taking the country over and destroying it–not much point to the one if you’re going to do the other. And in terms of trying to control the country, 80+ million people with small arms is a hell of a deterent, even if you assume every individual of the regular armed forces, reserves, and National Guard supported the other side.

I think it’d be great if private citizens were allowed access to nuclear arms, and clearly in line with what Jefferson intended. Why, Jefferson actually wrote to Ben Franklin on the issue, and said, “Someday man will fplit the atom, and releafe the great energy contained therein, and the benefit of fuch marvellous power fhould be available to all citizens.”

Think how much more effective Timothy McVeigh would have been. Think how much more interesting the Arab-Israeli conflict, or the Irish troubles, or the Kashmir rebels would be. And besides, I need nuclear weapons for hunting small game.

I beg to differ with you on the statement that the Declaration of Independence is not a basis of US government. The DOL “IS” the Constitution, and if you read it you will see why. To keep it short and simple when revoluitionist “pledge their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor” to a cause, it is ridiculous not to think they would incorporate the “causes that impel them to the separation” into the fabric of the new government. You do not risk everything you own, to go against the most powerful nation on earth, with the idea that when you win, you abondon the reasons for the revolution.

It was this pledge that inspired John Paul Jone’s classic reply. His ship was sinking, most of his men dead or wounded, but when the British captain asked “Have you stuck your colors,” Jones who knew he would be executed the next day, lived up to the pledge he swore to the revolutionist and uttered the immortal words “Sir I have not yet begun to fight.” With this he ordered his men to lash their sinking vessel to the British man-of-war, and it was the British commander who “blinked” and surrendered instead of being dragged to the bottom of the sea.

All of which is, of course, the explanation for including in the amendment the words, “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, …”

Simplistic interpretations of the amendment fail to understand two main issues in interpreting its meaning, even in 1789. First, as is true today with Congress, it is generally impossible to accept any specific intent on the part of Congress as a whole, because individual Congressmen have varying reasons for voting in favor of legislation. Thomas Jefferson’s opinions on the Bill of Rights are interesting, but hardly dispositive; equally interesting would be the views of such people as Adams, Hamilton, Jay, etc., not to mention someone who actually had a vote on the issue (none of the aforementioned persons had anything to do with actually enacting the Bill of Rights). Secondly, there is an interplay of concepts that has to be kept in mind, namely the importance of organized resistance to tyranny and the importance of individual freedom from governmental tyranny. I note that in hashing this out, none of the posters to this point makes any reference to the actual history of the militia of the various colonies, their organization, or the history of attempts both before and after the Declaration of Independence to limit individual ownership of weapons.

As for the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, one must keep in mind that the founding fathers had had their fill of their first attempt at incorporating the principles of free governance into a federation of states. It would be unsurprising to find out that the Constitution of 1787 was intended to modify certain proposals and viewpoints staked out in the Declaration of 1776.

In reply to DSYoundEsq.
The Constitutional Convention of 1787, was called in order to repealthe Articles of Confederation, and give more power to the federal government. The articles gave almost no powers to the feds. The Bill of Rights was insisted upon by many representatives, because if they were going to give a central government more power they wanted to assure individual freedom.

Many of the individuals who signed the DOL, were in fact consulted, and wrote opinions on the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights. Jefferson in particular, called for this type of guarantee. Once again, for the record. People do not risk everything they own, to return to the situation they started in. The Constitution is designed to limit the power of the majority, with respect to individual freedom. It is designed to make the will of the people, the law of the land, -if and only if- it does not oppose the laws of nature or the laws of god.(the two being one and the same)

For further insight please see chapters 1, 2, and 5 of John Locke’s Second Treatise on Government. (1690) His political philosophy was central to the developement of the US Constitution, and clearly supported in the writing of Jefferson. In fact the Constitution is considered the original implementation of Locke’s philosophy, and the blue rpint for modern republican government.

The Consitution is a legal document, creating the US government and forming the basis of all her laws.

The Declaration of Independence is of great historical value and significance. Many of the same issues that made the DoI necessary influenced the Constitution. But it is NOT the legal basis of our government. The two are distinct and separate, and were written for very different reasons.

After reading this, it is my considered opinion that this thread might very well turn into another long, involved debate. Though we don’t mind a short discussion relating to a Straight Dope column, debates really go into the Great Debates forum. I am sure my colleagues DavidB and Gaudere would gladly welcome another gun control thread.

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