The second amendment to the US 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.” This right was considered so fundamental that it was included in the Bill of Rights. Many states were not willing to ratify the Constitution unless the Bill of Rights was included. Clearly the founders felt that the first ten amendments were essential in ensuring the defense of personal liberties. Why was it so important to our founders that people have the right to bear arms?
To defend republican values
The experience that the founders had was with a king. Clearly under the king the colonists were unable to control their own destiny. In order to protect the people from undemocratic government the people needed a way to defend themselves from would-be tyranny. The United States was a new republic that was fragile. America’s forefathers were creating a government for the people by the people. That concept was unheard of at the time, and they realized that such a fragile republic needed people that were able to defend their rights and keep the republic from collapsing. Many early leaders were wary of a government too powerful and clearly wanted people to be able to defend their right to self- government.
In the early days the United States did not rely on large-standing armies for its defense. Instead people would rally to the cause and take up their own arms to defend the nation. In order to successfully defend the nation in times of peril people needed to be able to have arms. In times of crisis it was often people and not the government that provided the first line of the nation’s defense. That idea is foreign to many today as we rely on the military to provide defense. However at the time the Constitution was ratified it was the people that bore the burden of protecting themselves.
The world of the early Americans was a lot harsher than the one we face today. The borders were still hostile and the land itself had not been tamed. People dealt with personnel threats from each other and beasts daily. In order to defend oneself and family people needed arms to do it. There was not an organized police force that could be called on to quickly respond to take care of situations. The people had to rely on themselves and their neighbors to defend each other.
Does the second amendment still hold the same value today than it did when ratified? The answer is yes. The threat of tyranny did not go away just because American’s now have a military and a police force. All over the world human nature has shown that when power is in the wrong hands the consequences can be grave. The United States has held on to Democratic values in a large part due to the ability of the people to hold tyranny in check. It is much harder to submit an armed population than one that has no way of self-defense. Sure there are nuts out there with firearms. The consequences have played out on television sets all across the country. Every senseless murder, school, or workplace shooting ignites the gun debate. While these events are tragic they cannot be used as a catalyst to attack a fundamental right that is vital to the American way of life.