Subscribe for 33¢ / day

With the current debate regarding firearms rights, some suggest that the “archaic” Second Amendment is obsolete and no longer necessary and that citizens no longer need a “militia” to protect them from a tyrannical government.

The Second Amendment reads: "A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed."

So let’s ask our founders exactly what they intended by the Second Amendment.

Perhaps on June 12, 1776, American patriot George Mason best defined "militia" and the intent of the Second Amendment. As the author of the Virginia Declaration of Rights (the model for much of our later U.S. Constitution), he wrote: "a well regulated militia, composed of the body of the people, trained to arms, is the proper, natural, and safe defense of a free state."

During Virginia's 1788 convention to ratify the U.S. Constitution, Mason rhetorically asked: "What is the militia? It is the whole people. ... To disarm the people is the best and most effectual way to enslave them." Mason's concern was shared by Thomas Jefferson: "For a people who are free and who mean to remain so, a well-organized and armed militia is their best security."

In 1785, American patriot Noah Webster stated: “Before a standing army can rule, the people must be disarmed; as they are in almost every kingdom in Europe.”

Times may have changed — but human nature hasn’t. The Second Amendment was not written with an expiration date.

I believe the imperfect and often-maligned National Rifle Association is endeavoring to preserve our freedom and this understanding of the Second Amendment, which many today are attempting to reinterpret. History shows the threat of tyrannical human governments has existed from time past and will continue indefinitely into the future.

It is often argued that so-called "assault rifles" are not designed for hunting pheasants and deer. However, I suggest that our forefathers were not as concerned with the pursuit of wild game as they were with the pursuit of liberty and freedom — which they intended to preserve in our Constitution and Bill of Rights. Armed, law-abiding citizens should not be a concern to any government "of the people."

As we contemplate how much of our cherished liberty and freedom we voluntarily relinquish or vote away by crippling the Second Amendment to gain a false sense of security, we must recall Benjamin Franklin's words in 1759: "They that give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety."

We will never solve the problem of gun crime by ineffective and unjust laws that only serve to persecute tens of millions of law-abiding citizens for the criminal acts of the few. We must promptly and without compromise prosecute criminal violations of existing gun laws. We must correct the tragic failures in utilizing existing background checks, citizens' warnings and the actions of cowardly school resource officers who stand around while students are dying.

A local high school senior recently said, “We pick and choose what voices we want to listen to and to target.” May I respectfully suggest that is not the way to rationally deal with these tragedies? We must be willing to reason together, realistically and not just emotionally, while considering all of the relevant facts. Humans have killed other humans with any weapon available for centuries before guns existed.

The criminally inclined normally prey upon victims perceived to be weak or helpless — an unchanging, self-defense fact Jefferson understood in 1764: "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; ... for an unarmed man may be attacked with greater confidence than an armed man."

While I do believe our finite national freedom came through the sovereign grace of God and by the blood of armed patriots, is our nation’s future as we know it guaranteed? That is a serious question.

Anyway, our Constitution is guaranteed — right? In 1789, Benjamin Franklin gave us this solemn warning to protect this precious new document: "Our Constitution is in actual operation; everything appears to promise that it will last; but in this world nothing is certain except death and taxes.”

Lyle Goodenkauf served in the Army National Guard. He lives in Lincoln.


Load comments