In The Federalist, David Harsanyi succinctly explains why, when the right to keep and bear arms is infringed, liberty “is on the brink of destruction.” The right of self defense, whether from home invaders or a tyrannical government, is the first law of nature. Harsanyi writes:
The debate over the Second Amendment centered on who controlled the militias: the federal or state governments. Everyone understood that a militia consisted of free individuals who would almost always grab their own firearms—the ones they used in their everyday existence—to engage in a concerted effort to protect themselves, their community, or their country — sometimes from their own government.
Many colonies enshrined an individual’s right to bear arms in their constitutions before the Bill of Rights was even written, most of them in more explicit individualistic terms. Not a single Framer objected.
“The right of self defense is the first law of nature,” wrote George Tucker in the 1803 Blackstone’s Commentaries regarding the American Second Amendment.
During the 1800s, firearm innovation permitted the common man to buy more powerful guns more cheaply. These were the guns Americans used to explore, tame, and ultimately populate the West. This project, with all its moral implications, both admirable and sometimes ugly, made the United States the most powerful economic power on earth. Never once did anyone contest the right of individual men (and plenty of women) to own guns.
“In most governments it has been the study of rulers to confine this right within the narrowest possible limits . . . and [when] the right of the people to keep and bear arms is, under any color or pretext whatsoever, prohibited, liberty, if not already annihilated, is on the brink of destruction.”
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