Whenever a mass shooting is perpetrated against innocent people a discussion on the efficacy and constitutionality of the 2nd amendment to the constitution inevitably occurs. After nearly every such tragedy, an argument ensues that takes a predictable course. From the Left calls for controlling the amount and type of guns in American society ring loudly throughout media channels. From the right, most arguments espouse a right of every human to protect themselves and their property.
Hardly anyone from any side of the argument expresses the most important contribution the 2nd Amendment makes to securing liberty: Armed citizens create a bulwark against the possibility of the government becoming an absolute tyranny that plunders our individual and collective liberty.
Consider the actual text of the 2nd Amendment as ratified in 1791 and authenticated by then Secretary of State, Thomas Jefferson:
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.
All aspects of the US Constitution, as written and understood, implies that the individual rights of every human being come from God or natural law and are not provided to the people by any government. As the framers of the Constitution well knew, any right given by governments can just as easily be taken away. The text of the 2nd Amendment, when viewed through the prism of natural rights, makes clear that government cannot infringe on the individual’s right to keep and bear arms. In fact, the possibility of government infringement upon this right is the reason the 2nd Amendment exists. As the Founders experienced firsthand, governments inevitably consolidate and centralize power, a phenomenon that often leads to oppression of the people and dictatorship. In their day, the well-regulated militia consisted of a collection of farmers and merchants that owned firearms, without which the United States of America would never have materialized.
There are those who claim the framers of the Constitution would never have written into law open and free access to the instruments of rebellion. Such statements are wrong and entirely miss the point. The framers had just recently completed a successful rebellion against Great Britain, the most powerful nation on earth at that time. There is scant possibility that American patriots could have loosed themselves from that oppressive government if the populace didn’t possess its own weapons. Pitchforks would not have gotten the job done and the great American experiment in liberty would never have gained a foothold. What the framers codified through the Bill of Rights (the first ten amendments to the Constitution) was exactly the idea that government is not the controlling legal authority, the individual person is sovereign and absolute authority is vested in the people. Under the US Constitution, rebellion does not occur when the people take up arms against the government, rather, it is when the government seeks to infringe on the rights of the people.
The government – military, police and intelligence agencies – possess weapons only at the behest of the people because we allow such entities to have them for our protection and security, and the security of the country. The government has no rights that are not accorded by the people as the American government is one of, by and for the people. Given this truth, the primary objective of the 2nd Amendment is to secure the liberty of the people from any person or entity that would deem to steal it away.