Are we armed because we’re free or are we free because we’re armed?
Every time I read the Bill of Rights, I am struck by the wisdom our Founding Fathers demonstrated in pronouncing and protecting our natural rights. From religious liberty to protections on private property and the security we have in our own persons, our rights are essential to our humanity because our Creator saw fit to endow us with them. Moreover, because they flow from God to man rather than from government to man, our Founders designated them as off-limits to government encroachment.
But while the whole of the Bill of Rights is magnificent, it is in the Second Amendment especially that one gets a real taste of both the simplicity and profundity of the Founders:
A well-regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and Arms, shall not be infringed.
In these words, we not only see the right to keep and bear arms clearly and simply set forth, but also the profound truth that an armed population is “necessary to the security of a free state.” No other right is explicitly described by the Founders as necessary to the security of a free state.
No wonder George Washington said a “free people ought … to be armed.”
In Federalist No. 46, James Madison, the father of the Constitution, boasted of the “advantage” Americans had over the people of almost every other country: that advantage was the fact that they were armed. More recently, Wayne LaPierre, the executive director of the National Rifle Association, has described the right to keep and bear arms as “the fundamental freedom that separates [America] from every other nation on earth.”
Just think of it, Madison wrote of the advantage of an armed populace in the late eighteenth century, and LaPierre in the twenty-first. It is a theme which, over centuries, has both remained true and proven to be a quintessential characteristic of the American way of life. Quoting LaPierre again: “The Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution is the essence of what being an American is all about — living truly free as individual citizens.”
Yet, this freedom, which our Founders saw as necessary to the security of a free state, has come to a perilous point in history. Although our government was forbidden from infringing upon it, it has done so anyway, and now we approach a presidential election where perhaps the most anti-gun president in history is running for re-election. If he gets re-elected, he’s certain to expend lots of energy trying to destroy the Second Amendment, either in part or in whole.
As a state senator in Illinois, he supported a one-gun-a-month limit on gun purchases, supported laws making it illegal to use a gun for self-defense, and opposed laws that allow law-abiding citizens to get permits to carry guns on their persons. As a U.S. senator, he supported bans on high-capacity magazines and he supported the assault weapons ban. And at the same time, with a straight face, he claimed to support the Second Amendment.
Here’s the bottom line: The first president of the United States believed a free people should be armed. Like Madison and others, he recognized the right to keep and bear arms was an expression of our humanity. The 44th president of the United States does not see things this way. He equally abhors the thought of an armed people and a free people: much less a free people which is armed.
But Obama is wrong, because the right to keep and bear arms is still necessary for the security of a free state. It always has been, and it always will be. (Rights given by God do not change over time, rather, they endure for all time.)
Not only are we armed because we are free, we are free because we are armed.
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.