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Article published February 9, 2013
No tyrannical master
Thomas J. Newell Summit Township
It’s necessary to respond to Rick Devore’s rambling discourse of Jan. 28 about what he calls “gun propaganda.” Devore believes the Framers’ intent regarding the Second Amendment can be found in the Militia Act of 1792. The first Militia Act was nothing more than Congress fulfilling its Article I, Section 8, obligation to provide for calling forth the militia. I’m not sure why Devore chose this legislation to support his argument, unless it was to intimate that the Second Amendment established the right to form militias. But then, he later grudgingly concedes that District of Columbia v. Heller did grant a “general right to own guns.” Neither the Second Amendment nor Heller “grant” anything. The Second Amendment prohibits the government from infringing what was — and is — considered an unalienable right that predates the Constitution. Heller merely affirms that. There was nothing general about the Supreme Court’s ruling. Heller affirmed a specific individual right to bear arms, irrespective of the militia. The court held that “the Second Amendment protects an individual right to possess a firearm unconnected with service in a militia, and to use that arm for traditionally lawful purposes, such as self-defense within the home.” The Bill of Rights’ sole purpose was to define the separation of powers between the people, the states and the federal government. While the main text of the Constitution delineated the duties of the government, the Bill of Rights delineated specific prohibitions. It was viewed as a safeguard against tyranny. The Framers were very wary of all-powerful government. They had just fought a bloody revolution against the tyranny of the British Crown. They had a much different view of tyranny than we do today. In Federalist 47, James Madison stated that “the very definition of tyranny” was “the accumulation of all powers, legislative, executive, and judiciary, in the same hands.” In Federalist 29, Hamilton observed that “when the able-bodied men of a nation are trained in arms and organized, they are better able to resist tyranny.” From whom? There is no inference necessary. The Framers’ guiding philosophy was that governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed. And when those governments become destructive to our unalienable rights, it is the right and duty of the people to abolish or throw off such governments. They did not expect this to be accomplished with pitchforks and fireplace pokers, should peaceful means fail. It is difficult for me to believe that even a cursory reading of the history of the time could produce an opinion that the Second Amendment was designed to protect our right to hunt or join a militia.