“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.” -Second Amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America
The recent tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School sparked a national discussion over the best courses of action to protect our children in their schools and prevent the mass murder of innocents at the hands of predatory killers. While the moment held promise for a reasoned debate that could have produced effective policy solutions, at the prodding of President Obama, the conversation has devolved into an attack against American citizens’ constitutionally guaranteed civil right to keep and bear arms.
This past week, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo laid out his plan to institute the “toughest assault weapon ban in the nation,” claiming that “no one hunts with an assault rifle.” His comments suggest adherence to a belief that the Second Amendment was included by the framers of our Constitution to guarantee our right to hunt deer. What Governor Cuomo and those who parrot his talking points fail to grasp is that the framers of our Constitution didn’t include the Second Amendment to protect our right to hunt (although today we hunters enjoy the protections provided by the Second Amendment). They were a people who had, less than a decade earlier, finished fighting a war for independence from a tyrannical government that believed its citizens served it, instead of the government serving its citizens.
It was in this climate of somber renewal and thoughtful reflection that cautious debate emerged over the future of our nation. How would our government be structured so as to promote life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness? Just as importantly, the framers of our Constitution sought to reinforce the bedrock principle that government derives its authority from the governed. The Bill of Rights is composed of the first ten amendments to our Constitution—amendments that provide unequivocal protections for individual citizens and states against abuses from the federal government. This first generation of Americans carried with them firsthand memories and experiences of tyranny and oppression from which they were freed, not by repeated petitions for redress of grievances, but only by armed resistance in the face of a better equipped and better trained government force.
The lessons they learned during the American Revolution and the decades which preceded it informed the writers of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. Within the Bill of Rights, our right to keep and bear arms is preceded only by the right to worship as we please, to speak freely without fear of government repression, and to peacefully assemble. The framers understood that the right to defend oneself, one’s family, and one’s nation is an innate right that must be protected if this experiment in freedom is to succeed.
Interest groups, politicians, and the Administration should not be exploiting a national tragedy to abandon liberty in pursuit of political expedience and advantage, rather, we should all comprehensively examine the policies, practices, and culture which lead to mass violence. Additionally, any attempt by the President to enact gun control by executive order would be an obscene abuse of power, ungrounded in Constitutional authority, and tantamount to a violation of his oath to support and defend the Constitution.
For nearly 240 years, the right to keep and bear arms has stood the test of time, and I will continue to stand by those courageous citizens who follow in the footsteps of generations of American patriots and who through their sacrifice dare defend and protect the written words of our Founding Fathers.