I read an article by Richard W. Stevens which outlined the history behind the second amendment which I found most interesting.
The Second Amendment protects an individual right that existed before the creation of any government. The Declaration of Independence made clear that all human beings are endowed with certain unalienable rights, and that governments are created to protect those rights.
A. The unalienable right to freedom from violent harm, and the right to self-defense, both exist before and outside of secular government.
- 1. Torah: Exodus 22:2.
- 2. Talmud: Jewish law set forth in the Talmud states, “If someone comes to kill you, arise quickly and kill him.” (Talmud, Tractate Sanhedrin. 1994,2, 72a; The Babylonian Talmud: Tractate Berakoth. 1990, 58a, 62b).
- 3. Roman Catholic Doctrine: Christian doctrine has long asserted the right and duty of self defense. “Someone who defends his life is not guilty of murder even if he is forced to deal his aggressor a lethal blow.”
- 4. Protestant Doctrine: Individual has personal and unalienable right to self-defense, even against government. Samuel Rutherford, Lex, Rex
B. John Locke’s Second Treatise of Government (1690) aimed at limiting the power of government, and profoundly influenced the Founders and all Western Civilization. Locke explained that civil government properly exists to more effectively protect the rights that all individuals have the rights to life, liberty, and property. They give civil government the power over themselves only to the extent that it better protects those rights.
C. Christian religious thinkers, such as Samuel Rutherford argued that man’s rights come from God. To be legitimate authorities, all governments must uphold man’s rights and do justice.
D. Cicero, Rome’s leading orator, had early argued that the right to self-defense was natural and inborn, and not a creation of the government.
E. The right to keep and bear arms simply implements the unalienable right to individual self-defense against aggression of any kind. The Second Amendment refers to “the right of the people” (not the state) as a pre-existing right that government must respect.
F. The United States Supreme Court, in United States v. Verdugo-Urquidez, indicated that the word “people” in the Second Amendment referred to individuals, not to states.
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