I was at a town hall meeting back in Texas recently and a local man came up to me afterwards to talk about his concerns over where our country was headed, something to do with a fiery inferno and a hand basket. As he was talking to me, I noticed his t-shirt: “I love my Bible,” with a picture of the Book; and “I love my guns,” with a picture of two Colt 45s. Naturally they were in the right order; after all he was the local preacher.
The most important right we have as Americans is the freedom of speech, and that includes the freedom of religion. It is first because without it, none of the rest would be possible. The right to bear arms is second because without it, we could not protect the first.
Yesterday’s Supreme Court ruling simply stated the obvious as it is written in the Bill of Rights: “A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.”
I am sure the halls of academia were all up in arms about our right to bear arms. The media immediately began to spread the shocking news – the Supreme Court upheld the law. Oh, the hysteria. Murder rates will surely double upon the mere announcement. Never mind the fact that more gun control does not lower murder rates, it actually increases them. Look at Washington, D.C. But, let’s don’t let the facts get in the way of a political agenda. I wonder how the media and anti-gun protesters would have felt about the First Amendment being ignored for political purposes?
Those who claim there is no individual in the Second Amendment ignore the most basic feature of American rights: rights in this nation belong to the people – not the government. The Supreme Court ruled accurately and restored the rights of all Americans based on the due process clause of the 14th Amendment, which commands that no state shall “deprive any person of life, liberty or property, without due process of law.”
To truly understand the meaning and purpose of the Second Amendment, we need to understand the men who wrote the Constitution and what they said when it was ratified. The Founding Fathers were very concerned that a strong federal government would trample on individual freedom and individual rights because that’s what happened to the colonists; and that’s what governments historically do to their people, trample on individual rights.
So after the ratification of the Constitution, the Framers knew that a declaration of rights had to be added to protect basic individual rights, rights that are inalienable, created by our creator and not created by government.
The second amendment was included in the Bill of Rights to prevent the federal government from disarming the public like the British Army did to American citizens. The right of the free people to defend freedom and protect themselves was so important that it was placed second in the Bill of Rights.
Thomas Jefferson knew the importance of an armed citizenry. He said, “No free man shall ever be debarred from the use of arms.”
Samuel Adams wrote: “The Constitution shall never be construed to prevent the people of the United States who are peaceable citizens from keeping their arms.”
And of course James Madison, who helped write the Bill of Rights, once wrote that the Americans had “the advantage of being armed,” and that other nations governments were “afraid to trust the people with such arms.”
Leave it to a Texas preacher’s t-shirt to keep it all in perspective: without the Second, you can’t protect the First. And that’s just the way it is.
Congressman Poe served as a prosecutor and judge in Houston, Texas for 30 years prior to being elected the 2nd Congressional District of Texas in 2005. Poe serves on the House Judiciary Committee and the House Committee on Foreign Affairs. He is the founder and co-chair of the Victim’s Rights Caucus.