In June of 2010, when the Supreme Court ruled in McDonald v. Chicago that the Second Amendment is “fully applicable to states,” Justice Samuel Alito wrote a majority opinion that provides a rare and educational glimpse into the historical meaning of the right to keep and bear arms.
An important note: One of the reasons Democrats, leftists and avowed Marxists so easily steal away our rights in this country is because “we the people” have grown largely ignorant of the rights that are ours to begin with: and many of those who know our rights only know them abstractly. For example, many citizens know that we have religious freedom yet aren’t familiar with the way the First Amendment is worded. So they don’t understand that the amendment doesn’t just recognize our God-given right to religious freedom, but actually bars the government from interfering in our religious exercises. (In other words, when the First Amendment says “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,” it ties the hands of government, not the hands of the people. Yet in our ignorance we’ve allowed these things to be reversed.)
In the same say, almost every American knows they have “the right to keep and bear arms,” although a majority may not be able to quote the Second Amendment verbatim. Thus, many don’t understand that the right to keep and bear arms is not just another right Americans possess, but a right which is actually the lynchpin holding all the other natural rights in their proper place (i.e., once the right to keep and bear arms is infringed, recognition of all other rights will depend only on the benevolence of the state).
So we need to learn as much as we can about the Second Amendment now, and we need to urge our neighbors to learn along with us. And intentionally or not, Justice Alito has provided us with such a chance with his majority opinion in McDonald v. Chicago. Even a glancing look at it provides us with insights that neither academia nor the mainstream media would dare communicate to us.
For example, in his opinion Justice Alito points back to the Heller decision (2008) to highlight the fact the “the Second Amendment protects the right to keep and bear arms for the purpose of self-defense.” He also highlights how the right to keep and bear arms has long been viewed as one of the “fundamental rights necessary to our system of orderly liberty.” In just these two snippets from his decision we see that we have guns not primarily for the purpose of plinking or hunting or shooting sporting clays, but for defending our lives. Moreover, we learn that the private ownership of guns in this country is “necessary” to the system of liberty we enjoy: or to put it as the Founding Fathers did, the right to keep and bear arms is “necessary to the security of a free State.”
Justice Alito also focused on the Heller decision to add a third and crucial point for Americans living in the 21st century: “[Since] ‘the need for defense of self, family, and property is most acute’ in the home … we found that this right applies to handguns because they are ‘the most preferred firearm in the nation to “keep” and use for protection of one’s home and family.’” Yes, you read that correctly: Justice Alito reminded us that the Supreme Court not only held that we keep and bear arms for self-defense but that a handgun is the most preferred firearm for exercising that right. “Thus,” added Justice Alito, “citizens must be permitted ‘to use [handguns] for the core lawful purpose of self-defense.’” (I doubt that Democrats, “moderate” Republicans or the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence want you to know that the Supreme Court recognizes “handguns” as the weapon of choice for the “lawful purpose of self-defense.”)
Justice Alito bolsters these points by providing readers of the court’s opinion with a great quote from 19th-century U.S. Senator Samuel Pomeroy:
Every man … should have the right to bear arms for the defense of himself and family and his homestead. And if the cabin door of the freedman is broken open and the intruder enters for … purposes [that are] vile, then should a well-loaded musket be in the hand of the occupant to send the polluted wretch to another world, where his wretchedness will forever remain complete.
As you see, even this cursory glance at Justice Alito’s words reminds us that the Second Amendment hedges in our right to self defense, that it is necessary to liberty and that the Supreme Court recognizes handguns as the weapon of choice for exercising this right. And what the leftists would never want any of us to know is that Senator Pomeroy’s take on the right to keep and bear arms has been mainstream from the time of our nation’s founding till now. Only through our ignorance will the left succeed in changing this.
AWR Hawkins is a conservative columnist who has written extensively on political issues for HumanEvents.com, Pajamas Media, Townhall.com, and Andrew Breitbart’s BigPeace.com, BigHollywood.com, BigGovernment.com, and BigJournalism.com. He holds a Ph.D. in U.S. military history from Texas Tech University, and was a visiting fellow at the Russell Kirk Center for Cultural Renewal in the summer of 2010. Follow him on Twitter and on Facebook.
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