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I got the following article via e-mail today. If someone has already posted it, sorry for the repeat. Bill Malcolm


Do American Citizens Have a Right to Own a Gun?
By John W. Whitehead - 4/11/2007
http://www.rutherford.org/articles_db/commentary.asp?record_id=468



Do American Citizens Have a Right to Own a Gun?
By John W. Whitehead
4/11/2007


“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.”—Second Amendment


For the past 30 years, residents of the District of Columbia have been
threatened with conviction and imprisonment simply for having a gun in their homes.


In keeping with a District-wide law, all handguns were prohibited, unless they
were registered before 1976. Even pistols registered prior to the ban could not
be carried from room to room within a home without a license. Furthermore,
licensed guns had to be kept locked up or disassembled.


Critics have long decried the District’s gun ban as the most restrictive in the
nation. But Shelly Parker and five other D.C. residents went a step beyond
complaining to challenge the law in federal court, claiming that it barred the
very protection the Second Amendment guarantees—the right to self defense.


Parker v. District of Columbia calls attention to the ongoing debate over the
Second Amendment—namely, whose rights does it protect and how far does it go in
protecting those rights?


In ruling against Parker, a federal district court insisted that the Second
Amendment confers only a “collective right.” This position is affirmed by gun
control advocates like the ACLU, which insist that the Second Amendment is
“intended mainly to protect the right of the states to maintain militias to
assure their own freedom and security against the central government. Except for
lawful police and military purposes, the possession of weapons by individuals is
not constitutionally protected.”


However, the historical view espoused by those such as Thomas Jefferson, James
Madison and George Mason and most recently by the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals
says that, in fact, the Second Amendment protects the right of individuals to
bear arms. In writing for the court’s 2-1 majority, Judge Laurence Silberman
pointed out, “In determining whether the Second Amendment’s guarantee is an
individual one, or some sort of collective right, the most important word is the
one the drafters chose to describe the holders of the right—‘the people.’”
Silberman went on to recognize that the Second Amendment does not confer a right
but rather recognizes a natural right inherent in our humanity.


This affirmation of the people’s right to keep and bear arms has also been
supported by numerous constitutional experts like Harvard law school professor
Laurence Tribe. According to Tribe, the Framers clearly believed that “people
possessed a natural right to keep and bear arms.”


History is on Tribe’s side. With the despotism of a tyrannical king fresh in
their minds, the Framers knew they had to provide a means for the people to
defend themselves against a tyrannical government. They believed the right to
keep and bear arms enabled a citizen to stand up to the government. If the
government got out of hand, you could defend yourself—you could rebel. After
all, that’s what happened in 1776.


The Framers wanted to ensure that if the government had control of the military,
as it does today—including the National Guard—citizens would have a means of
protecting themselves. Thus, they specifically added the Second Amendment to the
Constitution to ensure that individuals—ordinary Americans—had a means of
protecting themselves not only against their own government but against
intruders. Furthermore, early Americans relied on ordinary weapons for many
things, often keeping them in their homes.


There is nothing more solidly embedded in the Constitution than the right to
bear arms. As Congressman Ron Paul (R-Tex.) has said, “Can anyone seriously
contend that the Founders, who had just expelled their British rulers mostly by
use of light arms, did not want the individual farmer, blacksmith, or merchant
to be armed? Those individuals would have been killed or imprisoned by the
King’s soldiers if they had relied on a federal armed force to protect them.”


“Our Founders, having just expelled the British army, knew that the right to
bear arms serves as the guardian of every other right,” continued Paul. “This is
the principle so often ignored by both sides in the gun control debate. Only
armed citizens can resist tyrannical government.”


Nevertheless, more than 200 years later, the Second Amendment has been laid
siege to and gutted by gun control advocates and the forces of political
correctness. While it must be conceded that the individual citizen could not
hope to defend him or herself against local and federal law enforcement dressed
in military gear, armed to the teeth with armored vehicles and weapons of mass
destruction, shouldn’t Americans at least be able to protect themselves, their
families and their homes against criminals?


As George Mason declared, “To disarm the people is the best and most effectual
way to enslave them.” While Congress can, of course, reasonably regulate certain
types of weapons such as assault rifles, banning law-abiding citizens from
having handguns in their own homes for self-defense or owning hunting rifles
goes far beyond anything the Framers contemplated.


To argue otherwise is ridiculous.


Publication Guidelines & Reprint Permission


John W. Whitehead’s weekly commentaries are available for publication to
newspapers and web publications at no charge. Please contact
[email protected] to be added to the distribution list for the weekly
commentary or for any questions relating to reprint permission.


The Rutherford Institute
P.O. Box 7482
Charlottesville, VA 22906-7482
 
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