If we are to secure our right to liberty and decent self-government, it’s imperative that people read the Second Amendment and base their views on its words and logic. Instead they reason from whatever happens to be their own preoccupation, and use the result as an excuse to stand for or against gun control laws, 2nd Amendment rights, etc. But, as worded, the amendment is not simply “against government” or “for guns”. Its logic begins from the premise that “a well-regulated militia” is “necessary to the security of a free state.” Anyone familiar with the background its authors’ took for granted will realize that the word “state” is used in the sense of “condition, or state of being”, as in the phrase “state of nature”, which was used (for diverse purposes) by English theologians and political philosophers like Robert Filmer, Thomas Hobbes, Richard Hooker and John Locke.
Used in this way, the “security of a free state” refers to the human condition, and how human beings safeguard themselves and their belongings in light of its vicissitudes. In this respect, the naturally free condition of human beings is held to be a mixed blessing, ever inclined to produce a condition of violent injustice in which human individuals are hardly “free” in any objective sense. Hobbes famously described it as a condition in which the life of man is “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short.”
Though he takes a somewhat more optimistic view of its overall character, Locke sees that “the inconveniences of the state of nature… must certainly be great, where men may be judges in their own case…” He admits that, in the absence of civil government, whereby people in society are “subjected to the fair determination of the law”, the state of nature is a condition “wherein every the least difference is apt to end” in war.
But war is the state in which people must live constantly in bondage to fear, injustice and/or righteous indignation. Or else, without reference to justice and right, they are prey to a thirst for vengeance or self-satisfaction arising from some self-adjudged perception of disrespect to their persons or other belongings. According to Locke, a state of civil government, wielding powers derived from “the consent of the government” (i.e., their own individual commitment to lend themselves to a government instituted to uphold right), is therefore the only state that frees human beings from this oppressive bondage.
Obviously, in this sense of a free state, it is right for people to keep and bear arms because their arms are the source and means of their civil government’s actual power justly to maintain peace, the power that removes them from the nature’s state of bondage, which is perpetual war. In this regard, the right to keep and bear arms is clearly the consequence of their duty to lend themselves to the defense of freedom, thus rightly understood.
Of course, when individuals in government, by abusing their authority, make themselves a threat to the right the government is instituted to secure, the arms of the people are necessary to oppose them. But in this opposition the people do not act against just government. Rather they act to defend just government against abuses that threaten the rightful peace that is the goal and key of their free condition.
The reference to “a well-regulated militia” points to the fact that, though its aim is to secure freedom, the exercise of right the 2nd Amendment aims to secure is not just about each individual’s freedom to keep and bear arms. It is also about their obligation to employ the arms thus preserved in their possession to defend the just peace (i.e., peace arising from respect for justice) that corresponds to the state in which human beings are objectively free (i.e., not bound by fear or passion to perpetrate or endure violence and/or injustice.)
Obviously, this sense of the root of obligation involved in the right to keep and bear arms illustrates the logic of every one of the other unalienable rights. The freedom involved in each and every such right is not some absolute good, worthy in and of itself simply because it expresses the power of individual human will and preference. Rather rightful freedom has to be respected, and preserved inviolate, because it accords with the ultimate standard of right, which is God’s will for the existence and perpetuation of human nature, i.e., the good of all.
This is the logic of God-endowed unalienable right succinctly summarized in the American Declaration of Independence. But the Providential genius of American liberty was never more strikingly displayed than in the 2nd Amendment’s evocation of that logic in the phrase “a well-regulated militia”. As a matter of history this refers to the fact that, in New England and elsewhere, able bodied men who possessed and were capable of bearing arms in the defense of their local community were required by law to participate in periodic exercises, conducted in order to prepare such members of the militia for organized action in case of an emergency.
Anyone who thinks this through will realize that the current debate over the Second Amendment has been speciously framed to legitimize false doubts about each individual’s God-endowed unalienable right to keep and bear arms. But, unless someone is mad enough to suggest that individuals be deprived of their arms in the literal sense, can there be any real doubt of God’s natural provision with respect to this right? After all, with the right training, the human hand is a lethal weapon, quite capable of producing the kind of mayhem characteristic of the episodes of violence anti-gun activists exploit to fuel the demand that private ownership of guns be eliminated.
However when we ponder the implications of the Constitution’s reference to a “well-regulated militia”, it becomes clear that the left’s tendentious focus on the need for gun-control laws distracts from the truly egregious absence of legislation that actually updates and applies the 2nd Amendment’s logic to the very real threats we presently face.
In a series of articles on my blog entitled The Security of a Free State I discussed at length how and why, when properly updated, the 2nd Amendment concept of a “well-regulated militia” should be the basis for achieving a locally rooted response to the threat of violent attacks against soft targets (schools, offices, churches, etc.) throughout our country, whether by individual rogues or organized terrorist cells. But instead of studying and applying the practical wisdom derived from appreciating the duty that is at the heart of our 2nd Amendment rights, people have promoted a government monopoly of arms with the lie that we must sacrifice liberty for safety.
What is the real purpose of this lie? To rouse and exploit the fear most likely to be fatal to a free people, which is the fear of themselves. Come what may, it is a lie that must be countered with the truth, at all costs
For people…convinced that they cannot be trusted with the deadly power of arms will soon be persuaded that they have no right to control the power of government, which includes, by necessity, control over arms in their most organized and destructive form. So, in the end, by inducing Americans to accept the abrogation of their right to keep and bear arms our would-be tyrants prepare the people to endure the abdication of their Constitutional sovereignty.
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