The individual right to bear arms

Editorial from Washington Times
Posted 5/10/02

     This week, Solicitor General Theordore B. Olson went before the U.S. Supreme Court and began making the federal government's case that the Second Amendment does, in fact, protect an individual right to keep and bear arms. "The current position of the United States," Mr. Olson wrote in briefs filed with the court, "is that the Second Amendment more broadly protects the rights of individuals, including persons who are not members of any state militia or engaged in active military service or training, to possess and bear their own firearms." (Italics added.)
     Many people likely do not realize that the linchpin of gun-control efforts for decades has been the exact opposite of Mr. Olson's position that the Second Amendment guarantees only the corporate right of "the militia," not private individuals unconnected to the armed forces, to keep and bear arms. Indeed, the government itself has taken that very position for years as well.
     It is a patently ridiculous argument, however, that the Second Amendment does not protect an individual right to keep and bear arms. To accept it, one must take the position that the Founding Fathers, who led a war against an oppressive government, endorsed disarming every citizen who wasn't somehow connected to "the militia," or another branch of the armed services obvious historical evidence to the contrary notwithstanding. Most colonial Americans, as any school child knows, possessed firearms openly, even though most had little or nothing to do with any formal branch of the armed services or "militia." And why bother writing a Second Amendment guarantee to protect a government right?
     In point of fact, the Bill of Rights was written explicity to protect individual rights against government encroachment. It is a near-certainty that the Constitution which spells out the authority of the federal government in relation to the states and to individuals would never have been ratified absent the Bill of Rights. And had the Founding Fathers attempted to disarm the average citizen, it is equally certain there would have been another revolution in short order.
     Those familiar with the colonial era know, furthermore, that "the militia" was synonymous with what we might today call a "citizen's army" that is, a potential force comprised of every able-bodied man who might be called upon to defend the fledgling nation in the event of an outside threat. It did not mean a formal "army" as we understand the concept today. Finally and most telling of all as regards the "intent" of the Founders, there is abundant, highly specific written evidence that they sought to guarantee the average person's right to keep and bear arms as a means of keeping the government itself in check. The security of a "free state" depended upon an armed citizenry, they said. So it does.
     Mr. Olson's the federal government's refreshing return to an honest reading of the Second Amendment is to be cheered.


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