In episode 1 of this 3 part documentary, “The 2nd Amendment: The Gun Debate,” we explore the history and origination of of the American 2nd Amendment which guarantees the right of all American citizens to keep and bear arms.
We also discuss many of the common arguments for and against the 2nd Amendment and how after the Civil War, some tyrannical state governments tried to prevent freed slaves from being armed.
With the increasing politicization of mass shootings, there are growing calls to restrict or eliminate the constitutional right of American citizens to bear arms.
Although some 36% of American households own a gun, a majority of the population favors more gun control.
The debate divides the nation like no other, pitting rural against urban interests and the common people against the cultural elite.
In Corey Wayne’s book, “Mastering Yourself,” he explores how the right to bear arms helps guarantee life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness and was seen as foundational to the rights of a free people at the nation’s beginning.
“The possession of arms is the distinction of a free man from a slave.” ~ Andrew Fletcher, 1698
By the time of America’s founding, the right to bear arms for self defense was fundamental for all Englishmen.
In 1689, it was formally recognized when Parliament passed an English Bill of Rights to allow Protestants to defend themselves, after the deposed Catholic King James II had disarmed them during the English civil war.
“Both oligarch and tyrant mistrust the people, and therefore deprive them of arms.” ~ Aristotle
In America, the right to bear arms was enshrined in the Second Amendment to the US Constitution in 1791, providing that, ”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.”
Since then, the debate has centered on whether the Second Amendment is limited to the peoples’ right to bear arms as members of an organized state militia — or includes an individual right to bear arms for personal defense too.
The founders understood the right to bear arms was a basic human right that didn’t come from government. It came from a person’s essential right to self defense under “Natural Law,” a body of unchanging moral principles originating in Greek, Roman and biblical philosophy “and used to deduce binding rules of moral behavior from nature’s or God’s creation of reality and mankind.”
MANUEL GOMEZ, Owner of Palm Beach Tactical, Class III NFA Dealer: “It is our birthright since the dawn of man to have the ability to protect ourselves, those that we love, that which is ours as human beings. I’m not going to let anybody hurt me. You’re not going to let anyone hurt you or your family.”
“No free man shall ever be debarred the use of arms.” ~ Thomas Jefferson, Virginia Constitution, Draft 1, 1776
“The Constitution shall never be construed to prevent the people of the United States who are peaceable citizens from keeping their own arms.” ~ Samuel Adams, Massachusetts Ratifying 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, The Federalist Papers Number 46, January 29, 1788
The founders likely saw the right to armed self defense as so fundamental, obvious and normal to everyday life that it need not be spelled out in the Constitution.
Nevertheless, the states of Virginia, New Hampshire, New York, North Carolina and Rhode Island all demanded the right be enshrined in the Constitution as the Second Amendment in the Bill of Rights.
Virginia and North Carolina’s insistence was partially to preserve their state militias for slave control.
But, the right to self defense was also seen as foundational to all the other rights and liberties of a free people — including freedom of speech and assembly, freedom of conscience, and the right to pursue happiness and practice your religion.
“This may be considered as the true palladium of liberty… the right of self-defense is the first law of nature; in most governments, it has been the study of rulers to confine this right within the narrowest limits possible. Wherever standing armies are kept up, and the right of the people to keep and bear arms is, under any color or pretext whatsoever, prohibited, liberty if not already annihilated, is on the brink of destruction.” ~ St. George Tucker, American Revolutionary and Legal Scholar, 1803
“The right of the citizens to keep and bear arms has justly been considered, as the palladium of the liberties of a republic; since it offers a strong moral check against the usurpation and arbitrary power of rulers; and will generally, even if these are successful in the first instance, enable the people to resist and triumph over them.” ~ Supreme Court Justice Joseph Story, Commentaries on the Constitution of the United States, 1833
MANUEL GOMEZ: “Our country was founded on basically the Second Amendment, the right to bear arms, to be able to protect ourselves from a tyrannical government. To be able to protect ourselves from those trying to hurt us. And it is our right to keep and bear those arms.”
In America’s early years, it was widely accepted that the federal government couldn’t infringe on gun ownership. The individual right to own a gun for self defense was unquestioned.
It was only after the Civil war that the individual right took center stage when Southern States tried to prevent freed slaves from owning guns. With Union victory over the Confederacy, black soldiers in the Union army — many of whom were escaped slaves — were allowed to keep their guns when the army disbanded.
As they returned home free men, Southern states — fearful of retribution — imposed laws to prohibit black gun ownership and give free rein to KKK intimidation.
In 1868, Republicans in Congress stepped in, pushing passage of the 14th amendment to the Constitution to bar Southern states from infringing on the constitutional right of freed blacks to own guns for their own self defense.
The U.S. Supreme Court didn’t weigh in on the individual right until the 2008 case of DC vs. Heller, a challenge to a DC law requiring handguns to be kept unloaded and disassembled — or with a trigger lock — effectively rendering them useless in time of need. In striking down the law, the Court confirmed that Americans do have an individual right to possess firearms, irrespective of membership in a militia, “for traditionally lawful purposes, such as self-defense within the home.”
Justice Antonin Scalia wrote the majority opinion, explicitly recognizing that states could impose reasonable regulations on gun ownership for the sake of public health and safety.
The DC law had gone too far, but the question remained — what level of regulation was reasonable?
Defenders of the Second Amendment believe the right to bear arms is so fundamental that regulations should be kept to a bare minimum. They believe guns in the hands of law-abiding citizens enable the most vulnerable in society to protect themselves from stronger assailants and serve as a check on tyrannical government.
“The gun has been called the great equalizer, meaning that a small person with a gun is equal to a large person, but it is a great equalizer in another way, too. It insures that the people are the equal of their government whenever that government forgets that it is the servant and not the master of the governed.” ~ President Ronald Reagan
Gun control advocates argue the 2nd Amendment is outdated, and the government’s duty to provide for public safety and welfare should trump any individual right to bear arms.
Some politicians believe the solution to society’s problems is to legislate and control every aspect of peoples’ lives. This thinking was on display when Jesse Dominguez, a city councilman in Santa Barbara, California justified a ban on plastic straws by stating, “Unfortunately, common sense is just not common. We have to regulate every aspect of people’s lives.” This mindset is part of what drives the gun control movement.
“When we got organized as a country, [and] wrote a fairly radical Constitution, with a radical Bill of Rights, giving radical amounts of freedom to Americans, it was assumed that Americans who had that freedom would use it responsibly… When personal freedom is being abused, you have to move to limit it.” ~ President Bill Clinton
“I don’t believe people should to be able to own guns.” ~ Barack Obama
Gun control advocates believe passing laws that make it harder to own guns will result in less gun violence. However, statistics on guns tell a different story.
Since 1994, FBI records indicate national gun homicides decreased substantially even as gun purchases reached all time highs with some 420 million firearms in circulation in America. That’s approximately 100 times more guns than the US military has and 400 times more than US law enforcement.
It is estimated guns are used 80 times more often in self defense than to take a life — and that women use guns to defend against sexual abuse as often as 200,000 times per year.
“A woman cannot always rely on getting help by just calling for it.” ~ Annie Oakley
Numerous studies suggest gun confiscation doesn’t work.
In 2006, the British Journal of Criminology reported that a ten year Australian study concluded Australia’s 1996 firearm confiscation law had no effect on firearm homicide in Australia.
A study in the University of Miami Law School’s National Security and Armed Conflict law review found the homicide rate in England and Wales averaged 52% higher after the passage of a 1968 gun control law, and 15% higher after the passage of a 1997 handgun ban.
And, in a 2007 article in the Harvard Journal of Law and Public Policy, titled “Would Banning Firearms Reduce Murder and Suicide?” the authors concluded “there is no consistent significant positive association between gun ownership levels and violence rates.”
While there are passionate arguments on both sides of the gun debate, a deciding factor for many is the example of a young, single mother being preyed on by a deranged stalker.
Second Amendment supporters believe she should be able to buy a gun without a waiting period to protect herself from possible rape or murder. They stress the problem with gun restrictions is they don’t actually keep guns out of the hands of criminals. What they do is make it harder for law abiding citizens to defend themselves and their families from those who might harm them.
As much as we might wish the police could always be there to protect us, they usually won’t be in times of greatest danger. The reality is, if someone kicks in your door, the police are on average 15-20 minutes away. Until they get there, you’re on your own. So, what do you do to protect yourself and your family for those 15-20 minutes?
COREY WAYNE: “What’s your opinion on the fact that the police are ten or fifteen minutes away when you call them, and what are you and your family supposed to do when your door has been kicked in by criminals, and you’re waiting on the police to arrive?”
MANUEL GOMEZ: “We have to defend ourselves. I will to protect my family until police arrive. We have to do something. We cannot just let somebody hurt us and those that we love.”
COREY WAYNE: “I think it’s a powerful question though for the average person that probably doesn’t really think about that. If you know on average, on a good day, that the police are ten or fifteen minutes away, and you’re dealing with intruders, what do you do until the police arrive if you’ve decided that only the police should have guns, and therefore you’re not going to participate in it? Are you going to use harsh language? Spitballs? Try to reason with them?”
MANUEL GOMEZ: “It’s a bad day for that person.”
JON DUFRESNE, former U.S. Army Ranger & Owner of Kinetic Consulting, a firearms training and consulting firm: “I was talking to Fort Lauderdale PD. They only have 550 officers for a couple of million people. They can’t help you bro. They’re not going to get there in time.”
COREY WAYNE: “Fifteen minutes away.”
JON DUFRESNE: “They’ll clean it up, right. They’ll let your family know what happened. But they’re not going to be able to help you. They just won’t… And who hasn’t noticed how easy interior doors are to kick in? So it’s not like you can lock yourself in your bedroom.”
COREY WAYNE: “Yeah, as a builder, as a guy who knows how to build houses, it’s a nice little swift kick, and you can pretty much kick in any door and deadbolt… What do you think about the argument that some people say that only the police should have guns?”
JON DUFRESNE: “Oh, you haven’t seen police shoot. That’s, not all, but I will say the majority of them I wouldn’t want shooting near me or around me in any way. Because it’s, like I said, treated as a tool. It’s not treated as a responsibility or a priority in any way.”
“If someone has a gun and is trying to kill you, it would be reasonable to shoot back with your own gun.” ~ The Dalai Lama
According to a 1997 Justice Department study, three out of four protection orders issued every year will be violated by a jealous lover, angry ex-husband or obsessed admirer.
Most of the time, the Police will be unable to make arrests because of lack of physical evidence.
This underscores why 2nd Amendment supporters feel so strongly about the right of the weak and vulnerable to own guns.
“Gun control? It’s the best thing you can do for crooks and gangsters. I want you to have nothing. I’m a bad guy; I’m always gonna have a gun.” ~ Sammy “The Bull” Gravano, Former Underboss, Gambino Crime family
In Episode 2, we’ll look at how America’s past as a frontier land of self reliant people and bastion of radical freedom infused a gun culture into American history and popular culture — and we’ll see how gun laws have been a reaction to things happening in the culture.
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