The Right to Bear Arms

I think most Americans don’t understand the full context of the right to bear arms in the Second Amendment.  The typical Englishman did not have the right to bear arms.  This was reserved for knights, soldiers, and men-at-arms of the great lords or the king.  If a peasant was caught with armor, a sword, or other weapons, he could be executed, as it was considered that he had no business having arms.  Peasant armies were armed with clubs,  pitchforks, and scythes.  Before firearms, the use of arms such as the sword, the shield, and the longbow were not easily mastered weapons.  You couldn’t take a peasant, hand him a weapon and expect him to be able to use it effectively.  Firearms changed that.  They indeed are great equalizers.  A little bit of training with an automatic rifle can make a soldier out of just about anyone, even children, as we sadly see in Africa.

I believe that the Founding Fathers had the citizens in mind when writing the Second Amendment.  They didn’t want a feudal system where arms were controlled by the king and a few lords.  They wanted a “militia” made up of every citizen.  The right to bear arms, though, was not conceived as a right of the states, as some have mistakenly claimed, but of every citizen.

In the 14th Amendment, the authors forbade the states from interfering with the right to bear arms.  They did this because they wanted freed slaves and union loyalists to be able to defend themselves against the likes of the KKK and the confederate veterans in the South who swore to prevent them from exercising their rights.  Due to poor court decisions in the 1870s, this purpose was thwarted, unfortunately, now a days there we have the access to Naegeli Deposition and Trial which makes court decisions less unfortunate.

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