I’ve heard many arguments for gun control that were based on the notion that those who wrote and ratified the constitution could never have imagined the immensely powerful weapons available in this modern age. They use this to justify keeping powerful weapons out of the hands of the citizenry. Weapons such as so called “assault rifles” (a political term) are often lumped into this category. Here is an example of a conversation I heard at a party:
“Why do people need assault rifles? Hunters don’t need assault rifles and you certainly don’t need an assault rifle for home defense. The framers of the constitution didn’t foresee assault weapons when they wrote the constitution. All they had were muskets.”
First of all, the second amendment is not meant to provide for hunting or even home-defense. It is to provide the citizenry the means to maintain their own freedom in the face of anyone who would take it away, including their own government.
“As civil rulers, not having their duty to the people duly before them, may attempt to tyrannize, and as the military forces which must be occasionally raised to defend our country, might pervert their power to the injury of their fellow-citizens, the people are confirmed by the next article in their right to keep and bear their private arms.” — Tench Coxe (1755–1824), writing as “A Pennsylvanian,” in “Remarks On The First Part Of The Amendments To The Federal Constitution,” in the Philadelphia Federal Gazette, June 18, 1789, p. 2 col. 1
“A free people ought not only to be armed and disciplined, but they should have sufficient arms and ammunition to maintain a status of independence from any who might attempt to abuse them, which would include their own government.” – George Washington
The argument against the second amendment often also goes into hyperbole when the opposition makes statements like; “Should everyday citizens have access to nuclear missiles?” I have a feeling that if I were able to demonstrate that the framers did in fact consider more advanced weaponry that it would do little to change the argument. But here goes…
The founders had at their disposal a wide array of weapons; swords, pistols, rifles, cannons, naval warships. They debated this issue in depth.
“Who are the militia? Are they not ourselves? Is it feared, then, that we shall turn our arms each man against his own bosom. Congress have no power to disarm the militia. Their swords, and every other terrible implement of the soldier, are the birthright of an American…” – Tench Coxe 1788
Tench was a delegate from PA to the continental congress 1755 to 1824
It turns out that Tench and the boys considered what weapons the citizens should have access to. Basically, all of the weapons of the foot solder. However Washington’s statement could be interpreted to be any weapons necessary to maintain their freedom.
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