To the Gazette:
In response to a “Letter to the Editor” Strange Fixation on Guns” by Phyllis Stanley. Would the constitutional framers be appalled today, as Ms. Stanley contends? Here are the historical facts; you decide.
During the ratification of the constitution an intense debate was held concerning issues surrounding what would eventually become the 1st, 2nd, 4th and 5th constitutional amendments.
Samuel Adams made strong arguments for these inherent rights in Massachusetts, and held up ratification until these rights were added. In Virginia, Madison secured ratification, but George Mason, Patrick Henry, and Richard Henry Lee were successful in having the convention adopt a Declaration of Rights. They were specifically afraid of a tyrannical government without any checks and balances. The right of the people to keep and bear arms was included as was the statement that a free militia composed of the body of the people was the natural and safe defense of a free state.
North Carolina's convention proposed that a declaration of rights be added to the Constitution which explicitly identified the right of people to keep and bear arms as a natural right. The North Carolina convention refused to ratify the Constitution until the document included this and other rights. Rhode Island followed an identical course by identifying the right of the people to keep and bear arms as a natural right, among others, and declining to ratify the Constitution until after the Bill of Rights had been drafted and submitted. After the above actions were taken; Madison yielded to pressure to set forth amendments at the end of the Constitution. Seventeen articles of amendment were originally sent to the Senate.
The Senate streamlined the package by combining some amendments and simplifying others.
On the right to bear arms, the Senate omitted the words "composed of the body of the people"
The Senate rejected language that would have added the words, "for the common defense" as part of the phrase "the right of the people to keep and bear arms (for the common defense) shall not be infringed." Ultimately twelve articles were sent to the states for ratification. The first two failed, but the other ten were ratified thus our bill of rights was born. The language of the Second Amendment, as adopted, read:
“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.”
It is clear that the original intent of the Second Amendment was to protect each individual's right to keep and bear arms, and to guarantee that individuals acting collectively could throw off the yokes of any oppressive government which might arise. Thus, the right envisioned by the founding fathers was not only the right to be armed, but to be armed at a level equal to the government. The Bill of Rights are today in danger from those on the “Left” seeking to circumvent them. If we do not stand up for the “Bill of Rights” what kind of legacy will we leave for our children and grandchildren?
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John D. Randolph