Former Democrat Senator and presidential candidate Gary Hart offers what he thinks is a scholarly basis for keeping guns out of the hands of the common people while still pretending that the Second Amendment is being respected. He -- like many anti-gunnites -- argues that this provision of the Bill of Rights protects no right belonging to the American people at all, but rather one that belngs to states and their National Guard units.
The National Guard, created in the late nineteenth century, is the historically well-established heir of the Constitutional militia. It is professionally trained and equipped, and it is composed of citizen-soldiers as the Founders intended. A number of its members maintain the early American tradition of personal gun ownership. Few if any National Guardsmen and women use those privately-owned weapons against their fellow citizens. Their military weapons are maintained in protected arsenals. We last saw them in public as the National Guard patrolled our airports and public facilities following 9/11. That is exactly their mission and purpose under the U.S. Constitution, not as follow-on forces for the standing military in foreign adventures.
Those who promote wholesale distribution of weapons -- whose only purpose is assault on human targets -- as necessary to protect American citizens against their own democratically-elected government are guilty of the worst kind of fear-mongering. It requires propagation of the pernicious and sinister myth that the president, the Congress, the officers and troops of our military services, all of whom have taken an oath to support and defend the Constitution, the National Guard and Reserves, the state patrols and city police forces, all will suddenly decide to form a dictatorship and crush our Republic. It is preposterous beyond the fringes of fantasy.
Wishes for a world without guns are noble, and doomed. At least America's Founders would have thought so. But instead of politicians defending a fictional "right" to bear military weapons, whether out of conviction or fear, it would be more American and humane to spend our time considering and protecting the rights of our children to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. To promote the continued unregulated sale of military weapons to nervous, often frightened, and sometimes deranged individuals while advocating armed guards in every schoolhouse door is a cruel, and unconstitutional, delusion.
When grown-ups once again return to government in our nation we will limit military weapons to the military, including the 21st century militia, the National Guard, and make our first priority the long life, safety, and security of America's children.
Of course, Hart has the whole thing precisely wrong. I'll get into the views of the Founders later on in this piece, but for the moment let me just show you how his argument that the Second Amendment applies only to the National Guard is wrong. All one has to do is look at the rest of the Bill of Rights to see where Hart has gone wrong on this one. After all, there are five times that rights are stated to belong to "the people".
If the right guaranteed to "the people" in the Second Amendment is fulfilled by allowing National Guard members to have weapons, then presumably every other instance where "the people" is used in the Bill of Rights is also fulfilled by limiting that right to the members of the National Guard.
And if one instead replaces members of the National Guard with "state government", then the same problem remains, and in the case of the Ninth and Tenth Amendments, the resulting construction makes no sense at all.
So as you can see, in every other case where a right is mentioned as belonging to "the people", it is granted to the public as a whole rather than some select subset. To argue that a term that consistently meant one thing four other times in the Bill of Rights means something different the fifth time it was used is illogical.
Of course, there is also the argument that the Founders would never have countenanced the idea that "the people" as a whole should have military grade weapons. Setting aside the fact that in the Revolutionary era the people did own such weapons -- most members of the Continental Army fought with their own weapons, not government owned guns -- there are the words of the Founders themselves.
[The] governor [is] constitutionally the commander of the militia of the State, that is to say, of every man in it able to bear arms.
Got that -- the militia is every man in the state able to bear arms. Updated to our day to reflect the equal status of women, EVERY PERSON IN THE STATE ABLE TO BEAR ARMS is a part of the militia, which means that the Second Amendment does confer an individual right.
Similarly, Jefferson clearly supported the right of the people to rise up and throw off a tyrannical government -- as if we did not know that would be the position of the man who wrote the Declaration of Independence, Indeed, he made it clear that he expected it to happen on some regular basis.
"God forbid we should ever be twenty years without such a rebellion. The people cannot be all, and always, well informed. The part which is wrong will be discontented, in proportion to the importance of the facts they misconceive. If they remain quiet under such misconceptions, it is lethargy, the forerunner of death to the public liberty. ... And what country can preserve its liberties, if its rulers are not warned from time to time, that this people preserve the spirit of resistance? Let them take arms. The remedy is to set them right as to the facts, pardon and pacify them. What signify a few lives lost in a century or two? The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time, with the blood of patriots and tyrants. It is its natural manure."
Apparently Gary Hart does not consider Thomas Jefferson and those who believe as he clearly did to be "grown-ups" fit to lead our nation. There were Gary harts in Jefferson's day -- they were called "Tories" and they supported the British Crown and opposed American independence. They were expelled from this country at the end of the Revolution -- would that we could do the same today.
And lest there be any question, Jefferson was similarly opposed to what would today be called "gun control" and the disarming of the citizenry.
Laws that forbid the carrying of arms . . . disarm only those who are neither inclined nor determined to commit crimes . . . Such laws make things worse for the assaulted and better for the assailants; they serve rather to encourage than to prevent homicides, for an unarmed man may be attacked with greater confidence than an armed man."
One can imagine what he would say about "gun-free zones" like schools like the one at Sandy Hook Elementary School, where his point was more than adequately proved.
Or perhaps we could consider Thomas Paine.
"[A]rms discourage and keep the invader and plunderer in awe, and preserve order in the world as well as property. . . Horrid mischief would ensue were the law-abiding deprived of the use of them."
And yet Gary Hart would ensure that such horrid mischief as what was seen at Sandy Hook occurs time and again -- and that the people have no way of stopping horrid mischief by the government and its leaders.
How about Samuel Adams?
And that the said Constitution be never construed to authorize Congress . . . to prevent the people of the United States, who are peacable citizens, from keeping their own arms. . . .
Richard Henry Lee, who introduced the resolution for independence in 1776, had the following to say on the matter of an armed citizenry -- and of limiting the bearing of arms (by which he meant military grade weapons) to only a standing militia rather than the citizenry as a whole.
To preserve liberty it is essential that the whole body of people always possess arms... The mind that aims at a select militia, must be influenced by a truly anti-republican principle.
The whole body of the people must possess arms, not some select group under control of politicians -- and any argument to the contrary is one premised upon undoing the republic established under the Constitution. What would Lee make of Hart's argument? I think that is clear.
It should be clear by now that Hart's argument as to the intent of the Founders is without merit. But let me bring forward one more quote against Hart's position -- that of George Washington, whose position on the matter of an armed citizenry is so clear as to settle the matter.
A free people ought not only to be armed but disciplined.
Game, set, and match to the Founders and the right of individual citizens to keep and bear arms. You, Senator Hart, and your fellow anti-gunnites, are dismissed as arguing contrary to the Constitution of the United States.