The Founders who “drafted and ratified the Second Amendment surely knew that the right they were enshrining carried a risk of misuse,” but risk is an integral aspect of freedom. For example, because we are free to speak our minds, we run the risk of hearing things we don’t want to hear, and of saying things others don’t want to hear. Because we have a God-given right to security in our own things, we run the risk of having people use their possessions in ways of which we don’t approve, and they likewise run the risk that we might use our possessions in a way they find repulsive. However, that’s the price of freedom, and an overreaching government that tries to squash the right in order to remove the risk is a government that has violated the people’s trust.
This is what U.S. District Judge Benson Everett Legg was getting at in his March 6 ruling against Maryland’s bald infringement of the Second Amendment. That ruling contains the following sentences:
Those who drafted and ratified the Second Amendment surely knew that the right they were enshrining carried a risk of misuse, and states have considerable latitude to channel the exercise of the right in ways that will minimize that risk. States may not, however, seek to reduce the danger by means of widespread curtailment of the right itself.
Until Legg’s ruling came down, Maryland had been awarding concealed carry permits only to citizens who could prove they needed to carry a gun for personal safety (i.e., they had to demonstrate that their lives would be in jeopardy if they didn’t have a weapon in their possession). This requirement to demonstrate justification for a concealed carry permit was contained in the state’s “good and substantial reason” clause.
However, Legg wisely recognized that such a requirement turned the Second Amendment on its head, and basically placed Marylanders in the position of having to convince their government to grant them the right to keep and bear arms, one citizen at a time. Wrote Legg: “A citizen may not be required to offer a ‘good and substantial reason’ why he should be permitted to exercise his rights. The right’s existence is all the reason he needs.”
I do not attempt hyperbole by saying that our Founding Fathers would cheer Legg’s ruling with enthusiasm, were they here to read it. For their purpose in adding the Bill of Rights to the Constitution was to call attention to a body of rights which the government could did not give and was prohibited from trying to take away. These rights were risky — and they remain so — but they were ours because our Creator endowed us with them, so the risk was par for the course.
With his ruling, Legg has called attention to the enduring nature of these of rights, and has reminded Maryland officials that the very existence of the right to keep and bears arms is sufficient justification for keeping and bearing them.
AWR Hawkins is a conservative columnist who has written extensively on political issues for HumanEvents.com, Pajamas Media, Townhall.com, and Andrew Breitbart’s BigPeace.com, BigHollywood.com, BigGovernment.com, and BigJournalism.com. He holds a Ph.D. in U.S. military history from Texas Tech University, and was a visiting fellow at the Russell Kirk Center for Cultural Renewal in the summer of 2010. Follow him on Twitter and on Facebook.