In 1791, our Founding Fathers penned the Bill of Rights, guaranteeing the American people certain inalienable freedoms and an unprecedented entitlement to liberty. With the Second Amendment, they firmly established that “the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.”
In the centuries since, gun ownership has become a central fixture of American culture. According to Gallup polling, 44 percent of the nation’s households have at least one gun owner among them and, yet, Second Amendment protections are being increasingly threatened and eroded.
As our nation reckons with the tension between liberty and potential tragedy, it is necessary to reflect back on the words of our Founding Fathers who enshrined these very liberties.
Thomas Jefferson warned gun confiscation would only serve to endanger law-abiding citizens
As major party leaders like Beto O’Rourke advocate mandatory buyback policies that would effectively confiscate firearms from lawful citizens, we should turn to the wisdom of Thomas Jefferson, who included this excerpt from Cesare Beccaria in his Legal Commonplace Book:
“The laws that forbid the carrying of arms… disarm only those who are neither inclined nor determined to commit crimes… They serve rather to encourage than to prevent homicides, for an unarmed man may be attacked with greater confidence than an armed man.”
Jefferson’s foresight was profound and indeed prophetic. In the years since, the Second Amendment has been eroded and the confiscation of arms has become a central part of many Democratic platforms. Despite the growing popularity of such policies, research on the efficacy of excessive gun control confirms Jefferson’s suspicions.
For one, the Centers for Disease Control has deemed gun buyback programs to be “ineffective” as a prevention method. Similarly, data from the Crime Prevention Research Center revealed that 94 percent of mass public shootings since 1950 have occurred in gun-free zones. The bottom line is that Jefferson’s warnings were correct: limitations on arms ultimately emboldens bad actors and leaves law abiding citizens defenseless against them.
Gun owners may also be glad to know that shooting is a Jefferson-approved alternative to going to the gym. In a 1785 letter to Peter Carr, he wrote “A strong body makes the mind strong. As to the species of exercise, I advise the gun. While this gives a moderate exercise to the body, it gives boldness, enterprise, and independence to the mind.”
James Monroe championed the right of the American people to self-defense by firearms
In his second annual message to Congress in 1818, James Monroe underscored the role of the Second Amendment in the maintenance of personal safety: “The right of self-defense never ceases,” he said, “It is among the most sacred, and alike necessary to nations and to individuals.”
More than two hundred years later, the use of arms to protect oneself is just as sacred. Today, guns are used defensively far more frequently than they are criminally. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control estimates that Americans use their firearms for self-defense between 500,000 to 3 million times annually.
Arms do not just protect against crime in action. They also act as a preventative measure. According to the Department of Justice, three-fifths of felons say they would not engage with a potential victim if they believed them to be armed. This was evident when the town of Kennesaw, Georgia, mandated every household have at least one firearm in the 1980s. As a result, the town saw an 89 percent drop in burglary.
In fact, 90 percent of police agree that mass shootings would be “reduced” or “avoided altogether” by the presence of more legally armed citizens. This is all to say that the sanctity of self-defense highlighted by James Monroe is just as true today as it was two hundred years ago. The right to bear arms is not just a right to go to the shooting range — for millions of Americans annually, it is a right to self-preservation.
Simeon Howard reminded us that times of peace may allow us to forget the importance of self-protection
Though not a Founding Father himself, Minister Simeon Howard was among their contemporaries, and his words of wisdom are particularly relevant in 2021. In a 1773 sermon, Howard preached: “A people who would stand fast in their liberty, should furnish themselves with weapons proper for their defense, and learn the use of them.”
He continued, “It is indeed a hard case, that those who are happy in the blessings of providence, and disposed to live peaceably with all men, should be obliged to keep up the idea of blood and slaughter, and spend their time and treasure to acquire the arts and instruments of death. But this is a necessity which the depravity of human nature has laid upon every state.”
It is true that eras of relative peace and safety serve to erode in the minds of citizens the importance of the right to bear arms without the experience of acute danger. While violent crime has plummeted over the past several decades, so too has the perceived need to protect and defend oneself.
As lockdown policies gave rise to economic tragedy and widespread rioting, Americans found a renewed sense of urgency to reclaim protection of themselves and their families. 2 million guns were sold this January alone, representing a staggering 80 percent jump. Last year, a record 40 percent of gun sales were to first-time buyers and purchases by women were also up by 40 percent, compared to 2019.
Firearms instructor Kelly Pidgeon succinctly explains this sudden desire to reclaim the right to self-defense: “They have been watching what is going on in terms of rioting, looting, defunding the police, police not being available to them, and they’re afraid. They understand they need to become their own first protector because dialing 911 does not mean anyone shows up at your doorstep.”
Alexander Hamilton warned that the leaders who appear least threatening represent the greatest threat to our rights
Modern political rhetoric surrounding the Second Amendment has become increasingly divisive, leaving many gun owners wondering what a Biden presidency means for them. Though he campaigned as a unifying moderate, he describes the Second Amendment as “limited” on his own website.
Gun control bills are actively being passed in Congress and pressure from Democrats is mounting on the President to take more aggressive action, with Biden also having the power to achieve policy change through certain executive orders.
Increasingly, radical buyback policies and calls for widespread gun bans are gaining steam on the Left. While such extreme gun control measures are being pushed by politicians and activists who claim to be interested only in our safety, they most certainly would result in the denial of freedom explicitly guaranteed by our Founding Fathers.
In response, we should turn to Alexander Hamilton, who warned in Federalist No. 25 that the least suspicious actors — moral grandstanders seeking a perfectly safe utopia — may indeed be most dangerous to our liberties:
“For it is a truth, which the experience of ages has attested, that the people are always most in danger when the means of injuring their rights are in the possession of those whom they entertain the least suspicion.”
Patrick Henry encouraged the American people to safeguard their liberties at all costs
In a 1778 speech, Patrick Henry encouraged every citizen to exercise their Second Amendment right: “The great object is, that every man be armed… Every one who is able may have a gun.”
Let us not forget the Founding Fathers’ insistence regarding our Second Amendment rights, and let us preserve them with equal insistence. Henry urged the American people to never give way to any attempts to curtail their freedoms: “Guard with jealous attention the public liberty. Suspect everyone who approaches that jewel… Wherever you give up that force, you are ruined.”
Indeed, the wisdom of our Founding Fathers urges us to hold in suspicion those who are eager to irreversibly usurp our rights and freedoms under the guise of safety. This is more true now during the pandemic than ever before. We cannot allow leaders, who insist on defunding the police and perpetuating chaos, to also deprive us of our sacred right to self-preservation. We should also be empowered in knowing the Founding Fathers are on our side.
The views expressed in this piece are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent those of The Daily Wire.
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