Second Amendment Debate and Poll
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The Bill of Rights, the second amendment to the Constitution 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.
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
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."
-Thomas Jefferson, quoting Cesare Beccaria.
The constitutions of most of our States assert that all power is inherent in the people; that they may exercise it by themselves in all cases to which they think themselves competent (as in electing their functionaries executive and legislative, and deciding by a jury of themselves in all judiciary cases in which any fact is involved), or they may act by representatives, freely and equally chosen; that it is their right and duty to be at all times armed; that they are entitled to freedom of person, freedom of religion, freedom of property, and freedom of the press." --Thomas Jefferson to John Cartwright, 1824
"No free man shall ever be debarred the use of arms." -- Proposed Virginia Constitution, 1776
"When the resolution of enslaving America was formed in Great Britain, the British Parliament was advised by an artful man, who was governor of Pennsylvania, to disarm the people; that it was the best and most effectual way to enslave them; but that they should not do it openly, but weaken them, and let them sink gradually.". . . I ask, who are the militia? They consist now of the whole people, except a few public officers." -- Virginia's U.S. Constitution ratification convention, 1788
George Mason, of Virginia
"That the People have a right to keep and bear Arms; that a well regulated Militia, composed of the Body of the People, trained to arms, is the proper, natural, and safe Defence of a free state." -- Within GEORGE Mason's declaration of "the essential and unalienable Rights of the People," -- later adopted by the Virginia ratification convention, 1788
The 1939 case U.S. v. Miller is the only modern case in which the Supreme Court has addressed this issue. A unanimous Court ruled that the Second Amendment must be interpreted as intending to guarantee the states' rights to maintain and train a militia. "In the absence of any evidence tending to show that possession or use of a shotgun having a barrel of less than 18 inches in length at this time has some reasonable relationship to the preservation or efficiency of a well-regulated militia, we cannot say that the Second Amendment guarantees the right to keep and bear such an instrument," the Court said. In subsequent years, the Court has refused to address the issue. It routinely denies cert. to almost all Second Amendment cases. In 1983, for example, it let stand a 7th Circuit decision upholding an ordinance in Morton Grove, Illinois, which banned possession of handguns within its borders. The case, Quilici v. Morton Grove 695 F.2d 261 (7th Cir. 1982), cert. denied 464 U.S. 863 (1983), is considered by many to be the most important modern gun control case.
If indeed the Second Amendment provides an absolute, constitutional protection for the right to bear arms in order to preserve the power of the people to resist government tyranny, then it must allow individuals to possess bazookas, torpedoes, SCUD missiles and even nuclear warheads, for they, like handguns, rifles and M-16s, are arms.
"The said Constitution [shall] be never construed to authorize Congress to infringe the just liberty of the press, or the rights of conscience; or to prevent the people of the United States, who are peaceable citizens, from keeping their own arms." -- Samuel Adams of Massachusetts, Massachusetts' U.S. Constitution ratification convention, 1788
"The Constitution preserves "the advantage of being armed which Americans possess over the people of almost every other nation. . . (where) the governments are afraid to trust the people with arms." -- James Madison of Virginia, The Federalist, No.46
"[I]f circumstances should at any time oblige the government to form an army of any magnitude, that army can never be formidable to the liberties of the people while there is a large body of citizens, little if at all inferior to them in discipline and the use of arms, who stand ready to defend their rights and those of their fellow citizens." -- Alexander Hamilton of New York, The Federalist, No.29
"Before a standing army can rule, the people must be disarmed; as they are in almost every kingdom in Europe. The supreme power in America cannot enforce unjust laws by the sword; because the whole body of the people are armed, and constitute a force superior to any band of regular troops that can be, on any pretence, raised in the United States. A military force, at the command of Congress, can execute no laws, but such as the people perceive to be just and constitutional; for they will possess the power." -- Noah Webster of Pennsylvania, An Examination of The Leading Principles of the Federal Constitution, Philadelphia, 1787
"[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." -- Thomas Paine of Pennsylvania, Thoughts On Defensive War, 1775