The Right of Self-Defense, by Zack Strong
In the caustic debates surrounding guns, too few mention the right of self-defense. Ultimately, guns have nothing to do with the debate about the Second Amendment. What is considered in the Second Amendment is an individual’s right to defend himself—whether that be by guns, sticks, rocks, or swords. Unless we acknowledge and ensure this fundamental right of self-defense, we cannot logically guarantee any other right. Without the right to protect and defend one’s life, Liberty, and property, there is no Freedom at all. Liberty implies the right to defend one’s inherent rights against any and all people, organizations, and governments who would infringe upon them. This article is devoted to sharing wisdom from both prominent figures and simple citizens in this nation’s history who have recognized the right of self-defense and who have defined and defended the Second Amendment.
Before I share the quotes I have gathered, a final word. Our rights are God-given. They do not come from government or from society. They are not granted to us by the Constitution or Bill of Rights, nor by the Congress or the president or the courts. Rights do not come because of a social compact or public consensus. As the Declaration of Independence proclaims, “[we] are endowed by [our] Creator with certain unalienable Rights.” Where did our rights come from? From our Creator. Who is our Creator? God. Therefore, no president, legislature, court, group of people, or public consensus can ever rescind or restrict our God-given rights. A right can only be restricted or forfeited through an individual’s misuse of that right, which normally includes his infringing upon the equal rights of another person. Barring that circumstance, our rights must be held sacrosanct and above the meddling of government or society. In that light, consider the following statements.
On February 20, 1788, Tench Coxe wrote in the Pennsylvania Gazette of Philadelphia: “The power of the sword, say the minority of Pennsylvania, is in the hands of Congress. My friends and countrymen, it is not so, for THE POWERS OF THE SWORD ARE IN THE HANDS OF THE YEOMANRY OF AMERICA FROM SIXTEEN TO SIXTY. The militia of these free commonwealths, entitled and accustomed to their arms, when compared to any possible army must be tremendous and irresistible. Who are these militia? [A]re they not ourselves . . . Congress have no power to disarm the militia. Their swords, and every other terrible implement of the soldier, are the birthright of an American. . . . [T]he unlimited power of the sword is not in the hands of either the federal or state governments, but, where I trust in God it will ever remain, in the hands of the people.”
Writing in the Federal Gazette in Philadelphia on June 18, 1789, Tench Coxe stated: “As civil rulers, not having their duty to the people dully before them, may attempt to tyrannize, and as the military forces which must be occasionally raised to defend our country, might pervert their power to the injury of their fellow-citizens, the people are confirmed by the next article [the Second Amendment] in their right to keep and bear their private arms.”
George Mason said simply: “To disarm the people [is] the best and most effectual way to enslave them” (cited in Les Adams, “The Second Amendment Primer: A Citizen’s Guidebook to the History, Sources, and Authorities for the Constitutional Guarantee of the Right to Keep and Bear Arms,” 101).
Thomas Jefferson wrote clearly and unmistakably: “No Freeman shall ever be debarred the use of arms” (first draft of his proposed constitution for Virginia, 1776). A later draft of the same document read: “No Freeman shall be debarred the use of use of arms within his own lands or tenements.” In either case, people have a right to weapons that can not be restricted.
In his usual fiery manner, Patrick Henry proclaimed: “The militia, sir, is our ultimate safety. We can have no security without it. . . . The great object is, that every man be armed. . . . Everyone who is able may have a gun. . . . Unless a miracle in human affairs interposed, no nation ever retained its liberty after the loss of the sword and the purse” (cited in Adams, “The Second Amendment Primer,” 98).
In the Constitution’s ratifying debates, Zachariah Johnston said: “The people are not to be disarmed of their weapons. They are left in full possession of them” (cited in Adams, “The Second Amendment Primer,” 103).
The Virginia Winchester Gazette, on February 22, 1788, stated: “There are other things so clearly out of the power of Congress that the bare recital of them is sufficient. I mean rights of conscience, or religious liberty—the rights of bearing arms for defence, or for killing game—the liberty of fowling, hunting and fishing. . .”
Thomas Jefferson not only recognized the necessity of guns for self-defense and for resistance to despotic government, but acknowledged other benefits of having guns in daily life: “A strong body makes a strong mind. As to the species of exercises, I advise the gun. While this gives moderate exercise to the body, it gives boldness, enterprise and independence to the mind. Games played with the ball and others of that nature, are too violent for the body and stamp no character on the mind. Let your gun therefore be the constant companion of your walks” (Jefferson to Peter Carr, August 19, 1785).
John Adams, in his “A Defence of the Constitutions of Government of the United States of America,” bluntly wrote: “Arms in the hands of citizens [may] be used at individual discretion . . . in private self-defence.”
John Adams’ cousin, Samuel Adams, likewise said that the Constitution shall “never be construed” to “prevent the people of the United States who are peaceable citizens from keeping their own arms” (cited in Adams, “The Second Amendment Primer,” 99).
William Rawle, in his “A View of the Constitution of the United States,” wrote: “The militia form the palladium of the country. . . . The corollary from the first position is, that the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed. No clause in the Constitution could by any rule of construction be conceived to give the Congress a power to disarm the people. Such a flagitious attempt could only be made under some general pretence by a state legislature. But if in any blind pursuit of inordinate power either should attempt it, this amendment may be appealed to as a restraint on both.”
Reverend Nicholas Collin, writing on November 7, 1788 in the Pennsylvania Gazette, stated: “While the people have property, arms in their hands, and only a spark of noble spirit, the most corrupt congress must be mad to form any project of tyranny.”
Joseph Story, a Justice of the Supreme Court, in his 1833 “Commentaries On the Constitution of the United States,” stated: “The right of the citizens to keep and bear arms has justly been considered, as the palladium of the liberties of a Republic; since it offers a strong moral check against the usurpation and arbitrary powers of rulers; and will generally, even if these are successful in the first instance, enable the people to resist and triumph over them.”
The Boston Independent Chronicle issue of October 25, 1787 stated: “It was in the law of nature for every man to defend himself, and unlawful for any man to deprive him of those weapons of self defence.”
The New Hampshire ratification convention stated on June 21, 1788: “Congress shall never disarm any citizen, unless such as are or have been in actual rebellion.”
Similarly, a group from the Pennsylvania ratifying convention on December 12, 1787 expressed their view: “That the people have a right to bear arms for the defence of themselves and their own state, or the United States, or for the purpose of killing game; and no law shall be passed for disarming the people or any of them, unless for crimes committed, or real danger of public injury from individuals.”
Writing as “The Federal Farmer” in May 1788, Richard Henry Lee argued: “To preserve liberty, it is essential that the whole body of the people always possess arms, and be taught alike, especially when young, how to use them.”
Under the pseudonym “the Republican,” an anonymous individual wrote in the January 7, 1788 edition of the Connecticut Courant in Hartford: “In countries under arbitrary government, the people oppressed and dispirited neither possess arms nor know how to use them. Tyrants never feel secure until they have disarmed the people. They can rely upon nothing but standing armies of mercenary troops for the support of their power. But the people of this country have arms in their hands; they are not destitute of military knowledge; every citizen is required by law to be a soldier; we are marshaled into companies, regiments, and brigades for the defense of our country. This is a circumstance which increases the power and consequence of the people; and enables them to defend their rights and privileges against every invader.”
The state constitution of Pennsylvania, Article 1, Section 1, stated: “All men are born equally free and independent, and have certain inherent and indefeasible rights, among which are those of enjoying and defending life and liberty, of acquiring, possessing, ad protecting property and reputation, and of pursuing their own happiness.”
In article 8 of the Pennsylvania constitution of 1776, we further read: “That the people have a right to bear arms for the defence of themselves, and the state; and as standing armies in the time of peace, are dangerous to liberty, they ought not to be kept up: and that the military should be kept under strict subordination to, and governed by the civil power.”
Thomas M. Cooley explained in his “The General Principles of Constitutional Law in the United States”: “The right is general. It may be supposed from the phraseology of this provision that the right to keep and bear arms was only guaranteed to the militia; but this would be an interpretation not warranted by the intent . . . The meaning of the provision undoubtedly is, that the people, from whom the militia must be taken, shall have the right to keep and bear arms; and they need no permission or regulation of law for the purpose.”
In 1994, law professor William Van Alstyne wrote: “Hamilton and Madison argued essentially three points: (a) the appointment of the militia officers was exclusively committed to state hands; (b) the localized civilian-citizen nature of the militia would secure its loyalty to the rights of the people; and (c) the people otherwise possessed a right to keep and bear arms—which right Congress was given no power whatever to regulate or to forbid” (cited in Adams, “The Second Amendment Primer,” 175).
St. George Tucker, writing an American version of Sir William Blackstone’s works, stated: “[The Second Amendment] may be seen as the true palladium of liberty. The right of self defence is the first law of nature; in most governments it has been the study of rulers to confine this right within the narrowest limits possible. Wherever standing armies are kept up, and the right of the people to keep and bear arms is, under any color or pretext whatsoever, prohibited, liberty, if not already annihilated, is on the brink of destruction. In England, the people have been disarmed, generally under the specious pretext of preserving the game. . . ” (cited in Adams, “The Second Amendment Primer,” 104).
Henry St. George Tucker wrote: “The right of bearing arms—which with us is not limited and restrained by an arbitrary system of game laws as in England; but, is particularly enjoyed by every citizen, and is among his most valuable privileges, since it furnishes the means of resisting as a freeman ought, the inroads of usurpation. Now the natural right of self defence is nothing more than the liberty which the law of nature allows us of defending ourselves from an attack which is made upon our persons or of taking such measures as may guard against any injuries we are likely to suffer from another. . . . [A]s the law of nature allows us to defend ourselves, and imposes no limit upon the right, the only limit we can impose is the necessity of the case. Whatever means are necessary must be lawful; for the rule is general, that where a right is absolutely given, the mean to exercise it must also follow” (cited in Adams, “The Second Amendment Primer,” 105).
Noah Webster observed: “Before a standing army can rule, the people must be disarmed; as they are in almost every kingdom in Europe. The supreme power in America cannot enforce unjust laws by the sword; because the whole body of the people are armed, and constitute a force superior to any band of regular troops that can be, on any pretence, raised in the United States” (cited in Adams, “The Second Amendment Primer,” 105-106).
Congressman Ron Paul wrote: “Knowing that any government, no matter how idealistically started, can become despotic, the Founders enabled the future freedom of Americans by enacting the Second Amendment. In our own country, we should ever be vigilant against any attempts to disarm the people, especially in an economic downturn. . . . Tyrants from Hitler to Mao to Stalin have sought to disarm their own citizens, for the simple reason that unarmed people are easier to control. Our Founders, having just expelled the British army, knew that the right to bear arms served as the guardian of every other right. This is the principle so often ignored by both sides in the gun control debate. Only armed citizens can ultimately resist tyrannical government” (Ron Paul, “Liberty Defined: 50 Essential Issues that Affect Our Freedom,” 145-146).
Though not American, I want to quote from Sir William Blackstone who summed up the matter by stating: “And these [natural rights] may be reduced to three principal or primary articles: the right of personal security; the right of personal liberty; and the right of private property; because as there is no other known method of compulsion, or of abridging man’s natural free will, but by an infringement or diminution of one or other of these important rights, the preservation of these, inviolate, may justly be said to include the preservation of our civil immunities in their largest and most extensive sense” (cited in W. Cleon Skousen, “The 5,000 Year Leap: Principles of Freedom 101,” 127-128).
Yes, free will, Liberty, and property can only be secure when the individual possesses the right, and means, of “personal security,” or of self-defense. The Second Amendment wisely guarantees this sacred right to every person. To infringe upon it, would be to assault the very idea of Liberty itself. Yet that is exactly what the tyrants who lord over us regularly attempt to do: destroy our Liberty and enslave us. The final act will be to disarm the American People. Only then can our enslavement be complete.
Here is a short list of prevalent lies regarding the Second Amendment that I hope the above quotations and explanations have shot to pieces:
Lie #1: The Second Amendment only allows militias, not private citizens, to own arms
Lie #2: The militia is a national function under control of the national government
Lie #3: People must receive permission to own and use arms
Lie #4: The Second Amendment allows the government to regulate an individual’s possession or use of arms
Lie #5: Only certain types of arms are allowed under the Second Amendment, and definitely not military arms
Lie #6: The National Guard is the militia
Lie #7: The Second Amendment only allows people to own arms for hunting
Lie #8: Arms cannot be used in private self-defense or in personal security
Lie #9: Arms cannot be used against the government when it has become tyrannical
Lie #10: People can only keep and bear arms if an active part of the militia
Lie #11: Only the state has a monopoly on force, private citizens have no right to use force
Lie #12: A standing army is America’s best defense, not privately armed citizens or the militia
Lie #13: The Second Amendment is outdated and unsuitable for modern times
Why is this article necessary? After all, more guns are being purchased now than at any time in our history. Additionally, some scoff at the idea that the Second Amendment is under attack. “No one wants to take your guns, you paranoid, right-wing conspiracy theorists,” they jeer. The say, “We are free, civilized, and egalitarian here in America—tyranny is something that happens in Europe or Asia. It can’t happen here, so why are you worried?” These are the sort of erroneous things that people believe.
In reality, tyrants at the national, state, and local level do want to steal our right to defend ourselves. There are more anti-Freedom forces at work in our society now than ever before. And one of their fetishes is disarmament. They love nothing more than to see people helpless and at the mercy of the state. Three examples will suffice.
Senator Diane Feinstein of California said, in a 1995 interview with 60 Minutes that you can look up and listen to for yourself if you’re skeptical, that she supported a bill to ban and confiscate ALL firearms in the United States. She lamented that she did not have enough votes at the time for it to pass. Here are her threatening words: “If I could have gotten 51 votes in the Senate of the United States for an outright ban, picking up every one of them—Mr. and Mrs. America, turn them all in—I would have done it. I could not have done that. The votes weren’t here.”
President Obama has likewise taken to the podium to chide Americans for their supposed violence. According to him, we are “bitter” and “cling” to our guns and hatred. His plan? Disarm the population so that we “bitter clingers” can’t do any more damage. He has repeatedly issued executive orders which, if implemented, would thoroughly smash the Second Amendment.
Lastly, presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton is another figure who has proposed a total gun ban. She recommended that we follow the Australian model. For those unaware, the Australian model is to pass a law calling for a mandatory gun buy back. In other words, you are forced to sell your guns to the government. For your voluntary slavery, they give you a small sum of money in return. How thoughtful. No Liberty-loving individual or supporter of the Constitution can support such tyranny.
Since the tyrants who masquerade as our “representatives” do not at present have the power to institute an outright national gun confiscation as they would so love, they have resorted to sneaky, gradual, clandestine tactics. This is characteristic of tyrants throughout history. Gradually, incrementally stealing Liberty in the name of some greater or public good is usually more effective than outright force and coercion. Hitler, for example, came to power and disarmed Germany through technically legal means not unlike the ones our own leaders use and suggest.
In a speech at the Virginia ratifying convention on June 6, 1788, James Madison said: “I believe there are more instances of the abridgment of the freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments of those in power, than by violent and sudden usurpations.”
This gradual usurpation applies to the assault on our right of self-defense. I don’t believe that the government is stupid enough, barring a cataclysmic national crisis or false-flag event which they could use as a pretext, to attempt an outright confiscation of firearms. However, over the years, the government has gradually restricted the Second Amendment further and further. Here are but a few of the hundreds of ways they’ve done so:
By fiat law, American citizens cannot own many military weapons, though the right of self-defense puts no limit on what type of weapons a person can possess and utilize for his protection. The round capacity of magazines has been restricted. Guns listed as “assault weapons” are under constant attack. Cosmetic features of guns, such as a pistol grip on a shotgun, have been outlawed in some places. Congress is attempting to outlaw 3D-printed weapons (the reason being that they cannot regulate and control them). Before purchasing a gun in a store, people must endure FBI background checks, be over 18 (or 21 in some areas), show ID, etc. Politicians are trying to enact a national gun registry, something that Adolf Hitler boasted his Third Reich was the first nation to accomplish. Some cities have outlawed guns outright or have made them tremendously difficult to acquire, such as Chicago, Detroit, San Francisco, or Washington, D.C. Other areas have “gun-free zones,” such as universities—a favorite target of mass murderers because of the ease of finding victims with no ability to fight back. Military veterans with PTSD are having their guns confiscated in large numbers, in the name of “public safety,” of course.
One of the next big pushes is to take guns from people on anti-depressants or who they can get a doctor to label “insane” or “mentally unstable.” For this exact purpose, California established a gun confiscation program that went into active operation January 1 of this year. In some states, such as California under the program just mentioned, it is now legal for a family member to complain to the courts about a relative and to have a “temporary” confiscation of that individual’s firearms mandated (and, after a minimum period of time, and after passing a test ensuring one’s mental stability, the guns are to be returned). Think of all the ways this can be abused by disgruntled ex-girlfriends, quarreling spouses, or slighted relatives. Can you see how tyranny has gradually restricted your natural right to self-defense? This is the natural consequence of allowing ourselves to believe that our rights are not an endowment from God, but rather come from government or because of public consensus.
Do not be deceived, the people who champion these restrictions are not well-meaning. They are despicable tyrants and despots who are assaulting Freedom and fighting against the wisdom of God. They purposely distort history, conceal truth, lie, employ double-speak, and hide their intentions behind noble sounding slogans like “public safety.” Through this method, they have successfully destroyed much of the Second Amendment. Professor Joyce Malcolm wrote of the danger the Second Amendment faces from those who distort truth:
“The American Congress is not sovereign, our Constitution is. The Constitution has a clear procedure for altering its contents—amendment. If the government and people in their wisdom come to the conclusion that no need for the right of the people to be armed exists, or that such a right does more harm than good, then amendment is the course that should be followed. While it is unconstitutional to legislate a right out of existence, this particular right is threatened with misinterpretation to the point of meaninglessness. Granted, this is a far easier method of elimination than amendment, being much quicker and not requiring the same rigid consensus or forthright discussion of its constitutional relevancy. But it is also the way of danger. For to ignore all evidence of the meaning and intent of one of those rights included in the Bill of Rights is to create the most dangerous sort of precedent, one whose consequences could flow far beyond this one issue and endanger the fabric of liberty” (cited in Adams, “The Second Amendment Primer,” 14-15).
Indeed, the fabric of Liberty is in peril and many of our precious rights have already succumbed to the tyrant’s whim. The Constitution and Bill of Rights are today a heap of shredded paper. The rule of law—with the Constitution serving as the supreme law of the land—has given way to ruler’s law, or rule by men. Freedom cannot survive such an arrangement. It is my opinion that the only thing currently stopping the tyrants, both foreign and domestic, from completely subjugating the world is the American gun owner. If the right of self-defense is wrested from our grasp, nothing will stop the devouring forces of tyranny from achieving their Satanic ends. In such a condition, life would be little more than a might-makes-right free-for-all where the state reigns supreme and the People cower in slavish fear. I will not live in such a world. I stand with Patrick Henry who declared the true American policy: “Liberty or death!”
In the March 5, 1788 edition of Philadelphia’s Freeman’s Journal, a warning was issued that is even more applicable to us than it was to the readers in their day: “The freemen of America will remember, that is is very easy to change a free government into an arbitrary, despotic, or military one: but it is very difficult, almost impossible to reverse the matter—very difficult to regain freedom once lost.”
Only blood will bring back lost Liberty. Blood is ever the cost of Freedom. The precious blood of our forebears purchased our rights, and only our blood will regain them. I leave you with George Washington’s inspired words to his brave fighting men at the start of the War for Independence:
“The time is now near at hand, which must probably determine whether Americans are to be free men or slaves; whether they are to have any property they can call their own; whether their houses and farms are to be pillaged and destroyed, and themselves consigned to a state of wretchedness from which no human efforts will deliver them. The fate of unborn millions will now depend, under God, on the courage and conduct of this army. Our cruel and unrelenting enemy leaves us only the choice of a brave resistance, or the most abject submission. We have, therefore, to resolve to conquer, or to die. Our own, our country’s honour call upon us for a vigorous and manly exertion; and if we now shamefully fail, we shall become infamous to the whole world. Let us, then rely on the goodness of our cause, and the aid of the Supreme Being, in whose hands victory is, to animate and encourage us to great and noble actions. The eyes of all our countrymen are now upon us, and we shall have their blessings and praises, if happily we are the instruments of saving them from the tyranny mediated against them.”