The Right to Keep and Bear Arms -
The True Meaning of the Second Amendment
A Liberal's Epiphany

by Terrell Prude', Jr.
December 29, 2008
Updated June 28, 2010
Image of .357 Magnum Revolver

In light of the November 4, 2008 election of former Senator Barack Obama to the office of President of the United States, I've been educating myself more on the practical application of the Second Amendment to the US Constitution.  Both Mr. Obama and former Senator Joe Biden, our new Vice President, have made it clear that they want to ban so-called "assault weapons" to reduce crime on our streets. 

Let's look more closely at that.  Don't we want to reduce crime on our streets?  Don't we want our country to be safer? 

Nobody can resist the notion of reducing crime on our streets, right?  In the State of Virginia, where I currently live, we had a terrible tragedy at one of our universities, Virginia Tech, where one lunatic named Seung-Hui Cho, a student there, shot and killed 32 people with a couple of pistols before committing suicide.  This horrible act happened on April 16, 2007.  It was, to date, the worst shooting ever committed by a single gunman in this country. 

And who can forget the images of young black American "gangsta" youth with AK-47's and Uzi's doing drive-by shootings?  One of the quickest ways to attract the police to your present location, it is said, is to tell them, "there's a black man with a gun," and the police will be there in less than two minutes, especially if a white person's involved. 

Little, if any, of this is relevant to so-called "gun control" as advertised by Mr. Obama and Mr. Biden.  Their position, plainly and simply, is just wrong

I am a social liberal.  Matter of fact, I'm a social liberal from San Francisco, California.  That means chiefly that I believe in keeping government interference out of our private lives.  One example is that I believe that a woman has a right to choose what happens to her own body (including any pregnancy-related issues); the same goes for men and their own bodies.  Another one would be that if you want to hang upside down by 40 different body piercings, sure, I'll think it's kind of odd, but hey, feel free.  You're not hurting me by doing so.  Likewise, I have no problem with gays serving in the military or being married to each other.  Until recently, guns always kinda scared me.  And I believe we still have major racial problems in this country that need solving. 

And in June 2008, I finally figured out why the Second Amendment matters so much and why we need to fight for our rights under it.  Now, I'd always believed in it on general principle, more in the sense of "we as people should never give up any right that is ours. " But the fundamental nature of its importance didn't really hit me hard until that point. 

You could say I had an epiphany. 

Whoa, hold up there!  How could I, a "San Francisco liberal," oppose any further restrictions on our Second Amendment rights?  Isn't that the "liberal" way of thinking--no rights for you? 

Well, if you listen to Rush Limbaugh, then yes.  But if you actually read the dictionary and actually educate yourself, you'll learn what the word "liberal" actually means.  Here's what Merriam-Webster has to say about it. 

"liberal (adj): of, belonging to, or befitting a free man"

The word comes from the Latin root "liberalis", meaning "of freedom, of a freeman, noble, generous."  The word also refers to the belief of "liberalism", which, again consulting Merriam-Webster, is this:

"liberalism (n): a political philosophy based on belief in progress, the essential goodness of man, and the autonomy of the individual and standing for tolerance and freedom for the individual from arbitrary authority in all spheres of life, especially by the protection of political and civil liberties and for government under law with the consent of the governed." 

Sounds to me exactly like what the Founding Fathers of this country had in mind when they wrote both the Declaration of Independence and our Constitution.  Thus, when the likes of Rush Limbaugh call me a "liberal", that is high praise indeed.  He doesn't know that, of course, but to be held in the same company as the Founding Fathers is about as good as it gets. 

With that, let's have a good, critical look at the Second Amendment, which reads as follows:

"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." 

Most opponents of our Second Amendment rights will say, "ah, see, there's the problem!  Why do you, Joe Citizen, need a high-capacity magazine or a high-powered 'assault rifle' like the police or military have?  You're not part of a militia group!" 

Well, they're right, I'm not part of a "militia group"...at least, not anymore (I'm former Air Force).

Oh, you don't think that the Air Force is "militia", eh?  WRONG.  It is.  So are the Army, Navy, and Marine Corps.  Yes, this news is a shock to some of you, so allow me to explain.

Back when the Constitution was written, folks spoke "the King's English."  That's what you did if you were a member of high society back then.  We all of course know this; we've read at least excerpts of papers from that era.  They wrote in a very elaborate, ornate, nearly "regal" tone, and their grammar was impeccable. 

What that means is that the Founding Fathers chose their words very carefully.  After all, they were laying the foundation for a new nation!  They understood very well the gravity of what they were doing.  After the fiasco that was the Articles of Confederation, they knew that they had to get it right this time.  As evidenced by the fact that despite our faults, we still exist as a free nation--a nation that it seems everyone else still wants to come to and live in--the Founders succeeded.

We say "the military" to refer to the various components of the Department of Defense--namely, the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marines.  But if you look at the word "military", it's actually not a noun.  It's an adjective.  So when we say, "the military", it's actually, strictly speaking, incorrect.  It's much like how we say "it's me" when someone asks, "who's there?"  The correct answer is, "it's I," but we tolerate that abuse of the English language because we're accustomed to it.

But the Founding Fathers didn't.  Look at their writing.

They knew very well that the word "military" was an adjective, not a noun.  But, as you might expect, there was a need to have a noun form of that word.  And indeed there is such a form.  What is it? 

Yep, you guessed it--it's "militia"! 

This is the epiphany I had back in June, and I don't know why I didn't see it sooner.  Yes, the word "militia" properly refers to what we now call "the military."  That means the Armed Forces, folks.  Look it up.  So when the Founders wrote "A well-regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State...", they weren't referring to what we now, over 230 years later, call "militia groups."  Nope.  They were referring to the Army.  So, if the Second Amendment had been written using today's style of writing, it would read like this:

"A well-regulated military being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed." 

Remember the context in which the Constitution was written.  We had just gotten through fighting an incredibly bloody war with Britain for our freedom.  The British Government was oppressing its colonial citizens in various ways, all outlined in the Declaration of Independence.  That's why several states would not ratify the new Constitution until the Bill of Rights, including the Second Amendment, was also included.  What they feared was simply replacing one oppressive government (the British monarchy) with yet another oppressive government.  How do governments oppress?  They use the Army to intimidate the populace.

That made no sense at all to several Founding Fathers, including Thomas Jefferson, Patrick Henry, and George Mason.  Somehow, the Army needed to be regulated.  But how do you do that if the Army is the only one with the guns? 

Quis custodiet ipsos custodes--Who watches the watchers? 

And therein lies the real reason for the Second Amendment.  The Army--i. e. the Militia--is kept in check by the citizenry itself.  An armed citizenry is much harder to subjugate to dictatorial rule than an unarmed one.  As a matter of fact, George Mason himself stated, "To disarm the people is the most effectual way to enslave them."  Think about it--every dictator, generalissimo, and other oppressive government throughout history first disarmed the law-abiding population.  Hitler did it.  Stalin did it.  Mussolini did it.  Pol Pot did it.  Saddam Hussein did it.  The United States itself allowed it to happen to black people both during and after slavery (no "Negro", free or otherwise, was allowed to possess any firearm in several states, e. g. Georgia, Alabama, Florida).  The People's Republic of China, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, and quite a few others do it today--right now.  Tiananmen Square showed the whole world how "free" those folks are....

You don't believe me?  OK, then renounce your US citizenship and move to Saudi Arabia.  Better yet, take your daughters with you.  Now, protest against the oppression that you and your daughters will no doubt face there and see how it goes.  Now imagine how Cindy Sheehan would've fared there with her protest against the Head of State.  After that, then consider whether the Million Man March or any of its spinoffs (Million Mom March, etc.) would've been allowed to take place at all.

Yeah, that's what I thought.  You're staying right here, aren't you?  Gee, I wonder why...?  ;-)

That is why the Second Amendment exists.  Had the police come out to try to arrest the near-million black men that actually did peacefully attend the Million Man March...well, the Black Muslims have a history of being armed.  I may be wrong, but somehow I get the feeling that, Washington DC's laws at the time notwithstanding, they were ready to defend those attendees's First Amendment rights...with their Second Amendment rights!  The Founding Fathers correctly foresaw the need for that.

OK, fine, but what about "bad guys?"  How do we deal with criminals who want guns? 

Well, I don't know of any sane person that wants crooks packing heat.  I don't want bad folks bent on committing violence totin' guns around any more than you do!  The trouble starts when I hear the current leaders of the Democratic Party spouting off at the mouth about so-called "gun control."  As Linus Torvalds said of The SCO Group in 2003, "they are smoking crack" if they think that restricting the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding citizens will result in less crime on our streets.

I know better.  My Dad taught me so.

He, a black American man, was raised learning how to hunt in his home state of Michigan.  Grandpa taught him.  By the time Dad was 12 years old, he was quite competent with the chief hunting instruments of that day, rifles and shotguns.  While handguns certainly existed back then, they weren't as popular in that day as they are now.  Knives were used more often then for close-in work, given the relative expense of handguns.  My Dad learned from Uncle Jack--who carried two pistols in his holsters at all times--how to throw a knife.  Furthermore, growing up black in the 1930's and 1940's could be pretty rough.  Therefore, my Dad was no stranger to self-defense or the need for it.

Well, that belief in self-defense saved his life more than once.  Being on the road a lot, he started carrying a revolver with him for personal protection.  Several times it saved him from white racists in the American South (his job would take him through there at times).  One time in Idaho, three racists approached him, and at least one had a knife.  It was obvious what they had in mind.  My Dad happened to be carrying a .38 Special revolver and drew it.  The racists slinked away.  Oh, by the way, this happened in the early 1980's--yes, during my lifetime, and I'm still pretty young.

Now, what do you suppose would've happened to my Dad had he not been packing that heat?  Do you believe he would've survived the encounter?  If so, in what condition do you think those racists would have left him? 

I was what, 10 or 11 years old by then and almost lost my Dad.  Where the hell were the police then?  Answer that.  Where were they? 

Folks, the police cannot be everywhere.  We cannot always depend on "the boys in blue" to get us out of a jam.  As 32 innocent people at Virginia Tech University tragically discovered in 2007, it takes only a few minutes--even seconds--for one bad person to snuff out many innocent lives.  And don't give me that bit about "gun control laws would've prevented that!"  WRONG again.  Criminals will always find a way to get weaponry.  Of course they will--they're criminals!  By definition, they don't respect the law.  But had just one law-abiding citizen in just one of those classrooms also had a firearm, maybe less innocents would've died that day.  The police couldn't get there in time.  They didn't even know it was happening until it was too late.

Just one law-abiding citizen packing something could've stopped Seung-Hui Cho before he killed anyone else.

For all of these reasons, our rights under the Second Amendment must not be allowed to be abridged.  If you value your First Amendment rights to free speech, etc., then you must understand that the Second Amendment is what makes that possible.  You must understand that the Second Amendment is our last defense against a government gone wrong--i.  e.  toward totalitarian rule.  Yes, it could happen, even here, as history has proved time and again.  Furthermore, not only do our Second Amendment rights keep an out-of-control government in check, they also keep "baddies" like criminals, thugs, etc. in check, too.  Ask just about any crook, and he will tell you that if he knows a neighborhood is armed, he'll pick another neighborhood that's "easier pickin's."

This is why Mr. Obama's and Mr. Biden's position of so-called "gun control" is way off base.  If we don't defend our Second Amendment rights, then our very rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness come under threat.  Our personal safety could come, quite literally, "under fire."  We, as Americans, cannot let that happen.


Image of .45ACP Revolver

Copyright (C) 2008, 2009 Terrell Prude', Jr.
Verbatim copying and distribution of this entire article is permitted in any medium without royalty provided this notice is preserved.


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