Not (just) for hunting

The debate about gun control invariably focuses on law-abiding citizens who wish to hunt. The notion that citizens might need to be armed in order to provide a check on a despotic government is scoffed at. Latest example? The WaPo Outlook section tells us this morning that the idea that citizens ought to keep and bear arms as a defense against the government is a “canard.”

Two points on this. Firstly, the Declaration of Independence notes that we have the right and duty to fight despotic government:

But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.

I’m not advocating armed rebellion. Just noting that our Declaration provides some necessary background to what the authors of the Second Amendment might have had in mind when they wrote it.

The second point is that our Second Amendment can also find its roots in the English Bill of Rights of 1689, which assured English Protestants that they would not be denied arms for their own defense. In simplest terms, this is an individual right to bear arms, and must have been in the minds of those English Protestants who wrote our Constitution.

Lastly, defense of our Second Amendment usually, but not always, mentions hunting. After all, who could object to going out and putting meat on the table? True enough, but I suggest that hunting, while important in our colonial times, was not the impetus for our Second Amendment.

That prime motivation was liberty and the means, through force of arms if it came to that, to keep that liberty.


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