Armed Citizenry

Samuel Adams, Why an armed citizenry isessential to liberty



A standing Army, however necessary it may be at some times, isalways dangerous to the Liberties of the People. Soldiers are apt to considerthemselves as a Body distinct from the rest of the Citizens.

They have their Arms always in their hands. Their Rules and theirDiscipline is severe. They soon become attached to their officers and disposedto yield implicit Obedience to their Commands.

Such a Power should be watched with a jealous Eye. I have a goodOpinion of the principal officers of our Army. I esteem them as Patriots aswell as Soldiers. But if this War continues, as it may for years yet to come,we know not who may succeed them.

Men who have been long subject to military Laws and inured tomilitary Customs and Habits, may lose the Spirit and Feeling of Citizens. Andeven Citizens, having been used to admire the Heroism which the Commanders oftheir own Army have displayed, and to look up to them as their Saviors may beprevailed upon to surrender to them those Rights for the protection of whichagainst Invaders they had employed and paid them. We have seen too much of thisDisposition among some of our Countrymen.

The Militia is composed of free Citizens. There is therefore noDanger of their making use of their Power to the destruction of their ownRights, or suffering others to invade them. I earnestly wish that youngGentlemen of a military Genius (& many such I am satisfied there are in ourColony) might be instructed in the Art of War, and at the same time taught thePrinciples of a free Government, and deeply impressed with a Sense of theindispensable Obligation which every member is under to the whole Society.

These might be in time fit for officers in the Militia, and beingthoroughly acquainted with the Duties of Citizens as well as soldiers, mightCommand of our Army at such times as Necessity might require so dangerous aBody to exist.

SamuelAdams, to Eldbridge Gerry, Oct. 29, 1775

The Constitution and the Second Amendment

The Second Amendment (Amendment II) to the United States Constitution protects the right of individual Americans to keep and bear arms, regardless of service in a militia. The right is not unlimited and does not prohibit all forms of gun regulation.[1] State and local governments are limited to the same extent as the federal government from infringing this right. The Second Amendment was adopted on December 15, 1791, as part of the first ten amendments comprising the Bill of Rights.

The Second Amendment was based partially on the right to keep and bear arms in English common-law and was influenced by the English Bill of Rights of 1689. Sir William Blackstone described this right as an auxiliary right, supporting the natural rights of self-defense, resistance to oppression, and the civic duty to act in concert in defense of the state.[2]

In United States v. Cruikshank (1876), the Supreme Court of the United States ruled that, "The right to bear arms is not granted by the Constitution; neither is it in any manner dependent upon that instrument for its existence" and limited the applicability of the Second Amendment to the federal government.[3] In United States v. Miller (1939), the Supreme Court ruled that the federal government and the states could limit any weapon types not having a “reasonable relationship to the preservation or efficiency of a well regulated militia”.[4][5]

In the twenty-first century, the amendment has been subjected to renewed academic inquiry and judicial interest.[5] In District of Columbia v. Heller (2008), the Supreme Court handed down a landmark decision, expressly holding that the amendment protects an individual right to possess and carry firearms.[6][7] In McDonald v. Chicago (2010), the Court clarified its earlier decisions limiting the amendment's impact to a restriction on the federal government, expressly holding that the Fourteenth Amendment applies the Second Amendment to state and local governments to the same extent that the Second Amendment applies to the federal government.[8] Despite these decisions, the debate between the gun control and gun rights movements and related organizations continues.[9]

  1. ^ Epstein, Lee; Walk, Thomas G. (Sep 18, 2012). Constitutional Law for a Changing America: Rights, Liberties and Justice (8 ed.). CQ Press. pp. 395–396. ISBN 978-1-4522-2674-3.
  2. Jump up ^ "Blackstone's Commentaries on the Laws of England". Retrieved 2013-08-01.
  3. Jump up ^ "United States v. Cruikshank - 92 U.S. 542 (1875)". Retrieved September 5, 2013.
  4. Jump up ^ "United States v. Miller, 307 U.S. 174 (1939)". Cornell University Law School. Retrieved September 5, 2013.
  5. ^ Jump up to: a b c d e f CRS Report for Congress District of Columbia v. Heller: The Supreme Court and the Second Amendment April 11, 2008 Congressional Research Service T.J. Halsted,Legislative Attorney,American Law Division. Order Code RL34446
  6. Jump up ^ Pollock, Earl (2008). The Supreme Court and American Democracy: Case Studies on Judicial Review and Public Policy. Greenwood. p. 423. ISBN 978-0-313-36525-6.
  7. Jump up ^ editor, Gregg Lee Carter,. Guns in American society : an encyclopedia of history, politics, culture, and the law (2nd ed. ed.). Santa Barbara, Calif.: ABC-CLIO. ISBN 978-0-313-38670-1.
  8. ^ Jump up to: a b Liptak, Adam (June 28, 2010). "Justices Extend Firearm Rights in 5-to-4 Ruling". The New York Times. Retrieved December 17, 2012.
  9. Jump up ^ editor, Gregg Lee Carter,. Guns in American society : an encyclopedia of history, politics, culture, and the law (2nd ed. ed.). Santa Barbara, Calif.: ABC-CLIO. p. Introduction. ISBN 978-0-313-38670-1.

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