In a March 30 Letter to the Editor, William R. Thibeault stated that the Second Amendment was created “for one express purpose: To have the means, if necessary, to overthrow the government if it becomes too onerous.” Not only is this not one of the three reasons for the right to bear arms, it is nearly the opposite of one of those reasons.
The Second Amendment in its entirety is: “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.”
Because the Founders were not sure how an American national army would be shaped, they knew that there would be a need for state militia. They also knew the new federal government did not have the resources to arm these militia, so they depended upon individual citizens to supply their own firearms.
Far from wanting citizens to be able to “overthrow the government,” they wanted citizen militia to protect the new nation from both foreign and domestic enemies. They wanted militia that could prevent citizens from overthrowing the government, and in their debates, the Founders cited the New York Militia’s victory over Shays Rebellion. This is not expressly mentioned in the Constitution, but it is shown in the records of the debates and discussions in the various Constitutional Conventions.
The primary reason for the Second Amendment was food. A great many Americans were farmers, and most farmers hunted in the evening to supplement the food for their families. Allowing citizens hunting weapons meant American farmers were better nourished and more prosperous than many of their Continental European counterparts. This is not expressly mentioned in the Constitution, but it is shown in the records of the debates and discussions in the various Constitutional Conventions, and was given as one of the reasons that New Hampshire would only ratify the Constitution if the right to bear arms was explicitly stated.
The second reason for the Second Amendment was personal protection, particularly for citizens who lived in remote areas. There were no police forces. Instead, rewards were posted for wanted criminals and armed citizens were expected to capture them. Armed citizens were also expected to protect their homes and help protect the homes of neighbors. Again, this is not expressly mentioned in the Constitution, but it is shown in the records of the debates and discussions in the various Constitutional Conventions.
With the advent of professional law enforcement, a professional military and well-stocked markets, the original reasons for the Second Amendment no longer exists except in some remote areas of Alaska, the Rockies, the Southwest and Appalachia.
Dr. Jeffrey Fiske
James City County