Due to recent events, the nations focus has turned to gun control and what to do to prevent mass shootings. Some people want to ban assault weapons and high capacity magazines. The biggest question being discussed is whether banning or restricting the availability of such items is in violation of the Second Amendment. The history of the Second Amendment must be investigated to find where the idea of gun rights began.
The idea of an armed populous began in the late 1400s, when the king of England did not have a standing army. According to “An Act Concerning Longbows and Shooting” from 1511, citizens as young as seven were required to train themselves to use bows and arrows, and eventually guns.
In 1642, King Charles I went to war with his parliament and was eventually beheaded after his sons fled to France. After a dictatorship by Oliver Cromwell, Charles II and his brother James II came back to England and reclaimed the throne reluctantly because they feared an uprising similar to the one that killed their father.
They used their new powers to limit the sale of firearms and eventually disarmed anyone they thought did not completely support them. In a span of 40 years, the people who had been forced to keep and maintain weapons were now forced to give up their weapons.
This upset the people so much that they demanded that Mary II and her husband William of Orange come to England and give their rights back. They did so on the condition that a Bill of Rights be drafted. This would ensure the people’s right to keep and bear arms, among others.
William Blackstone, a highly esteemed expert on English laws wrote a commentary on these laws. In his series, “Commentaries on the Laws of England” (1765-1769), he maintained that the right to keep arms was in place so people could protect themselves, possibly even from their own government.
This right to keep and bear arms came with the pilgrims to the New World. It was mandated that people carry weapons with them at all times because of threats from other nations and Native Americans.
In the mid-1700s, England decided to make the colonialists taxpaying citizens even though they had no say representation in the Parliament. They rebelled against this, so detachments of the British army were sent by King George III to control the colonialists. In the “Journal of Occurrences,” a series of articles in the New York Journal, it was reported that these soldiers did whatever they pleased, including vandalism, theft, rape and murder.
The governor of Pennsylvania decided it was best to disarm the citizens to bring them under control. He ordered the soldiers to do so, and they soon found a weapons dump in Concord, Mass. and sent some soldiers there to confiscate the weapons. The colonialists met the British in nearby Lexington, Mass. A shot was fired by accident and both sides began shooting. This was the start of the Revolutionary War. Before this news reached Williamsburg, Va., the British confiscated another weapons dump that had been put there in case of emergency.
As news of these two events traveled throughout the country, everyone thought the British were going to take away all their weapons. This gave people a reason to fight against them.
The war ended and the Constitution was drafted, but several states refused to sign on to it because it did not specifically give them the right to keep their weapons. The people were scared that their new government would take on more responsibilities than it was supposed to.
The Declaration of Independence states, “Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government.” Americans had experienced a government that ruled over the people instead of ruling for them. They wanted the right to keep and bear arms so that they could keep this from happening again.
The Second Amendment was put in place not for hunting or sport, but so that the people could keep the government in its intended place. The government is supposed to get its power from the people. Whenever it becomes oppressive and rules over the people, it must be changed or abolished. If guns are taken away from responsible citizens, the people are no longer in control of the government. This is not the America the Founding Fathers envisioned. Without the right to keep and bear arms, people are no longer free.