The Constitutional Treatise on the Second Amendment

May 16, 2023

by Eric Alderman


The platform of the Republican Party supports an individual’s right to keep and bear arms.  The right to own guns is a key component in maintaining the liberties and freedoms we share.

The First Congress enshrined the right to keep and bear arms as an individual’s right in the Second Amendment to the US Constitution. Part of the Bill of Rights, the Second Amendment was ratified in 1791 and permanently placed in the words of America’s  founding legal document, the Constitution.

The first and second amendments are connected – the First Amendment lists those freedoms that are most important for individual liberty – speech, press, religion, assembly, the right to petition the government. The Second Amendment – the right to keep and bear arms – preserves the only way to demand, attain, and preserve those rights listed in the First Amendment.

It was partly their direct experience with centralized government tyranny prior to the outbreak of the Revolution in 1775, that caused the Founders to protect the right to keep and bear arms. The American patriots had direct experience with an oppressive government attempting to take guns and ammunition from them. 

For ten years prior to 1775, the people of the American colonies demanded Parliament in far-off London simply acknowledge, honor, and secure their God-given rights as citizens of Great Britain. Among other acts, the British government taxed the colonists without giving them proper Parliamentary representation, overregulated their commercial activity with confusing, oppressive, and arbitrarily administered laws, and stationed soldiers in American cities.

The colonists through their colonial representatives and through protests in the streets, made continual pleas to the British government to acknowledge and protect their rights as citizens. These requests fell on deaf and disinterested ears within the British royal government.

Instead, concerned that the colonists in America were demanding too many rights and were too agitated, the British government decided to pacify the colonists by seizing their weapons and their ammunition.

To keep a body of citizens oppressed, the first thing a government will do is make sure that it is illegal for the people to own guns. For example, throughout the history of the American colonies, the colonies that had large slave populations enacted slave codes, laws designed to regulate the ownership of slaves in the individual colony.  A key element of the slave codes was always this: it was illegal for slaves to own and possess guns.  The reason for this is simple.  If a slave owned a gun, it was impossible to keep him in chains and enslaved against his will, for there would be an immediate uprising demanding liberty from oppression.

Great Britain used the same logic in early 1775.   In February 1775, the British military commanders in Boston, under orders from the Royal Government in London, attempted to seize the ammunition and weapons owned by the colonists in towns near Boston. Known as the “powder alarm” British soldiers unsuccessfully attempted to seize gun powder and weapons to prevent the colonists from using them. 

The soldiers were stopped by the citizens, but another attempt to seize weapons and ammunition came on the morning of April 19, 1775, as British soldiers marched from Boston to Concord to grab the supply of weapons stored by the colonists in Concord.  This time the British were met with armed resistance by the colonists, and the resulting battles of Lexington and Concord started the American Revolution.

The need for a guaranteed right to own guns as a fundamental preserver of liberty was articulated well by British legal scholar William Blackstone  in the 18th century. He wrote, “when actually violated or attacked, the subjects of England are entitled first to the regular administration and free course of justice in the courts of law – next to the right of petitioning the king and parliament for redress of grievances – and lastly, to the right of having and using arms for the self-preservation and defense.”

The US Supreme Court has guaranteed the right to keep and bear arms as a fundamental constitutional right in such decisions as District of Columbia v. Heller (2008).  In addition, the Supreme Court in New York State Rifle and Pistol Association, Inc. v. Bruen (2022) ruled that the Second Amendment guarantees that an individual has a fundamental right to carry a pistol in public for personal protection.

Today, there is one party dedicated to preserving the right to keep and bear arms as a vital individual right, and an opposite party dedicated to stripping away those rights in favor of government oppression. The freedom to own property is directly coupled with the individual freedom to defend it, which is best accomplished by owning guns to defend it.

But these rights are always one vote, one unanswered objection, one sly bureaucratic move, from being taken from each of us. The wolves will always vote to eat the sheep.  Maintaining the right to keep and bear arms makes certain that the wolves of government are kept at bay and will think twice before moving to take our property, our livelihoods, and our liberties.