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Origins of the 2nd Amendment

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  1. Anicius Julianus
    I have a wonderful job. I get to work with my hands repairing furniture. I also get to work with people in my job as a property manager. I enjoy getting to visit my tenants, talking with them and making sure that they are maintaining their homes according to our contractual agreement.

    On my trips to the tenant’s homes, I also inspect it for any maintenance problems, cleanliness, and mechanical issues – HVAC, water tank, etc.

    One area which I don’t really pay much attention to is the foundation. Why? Who checks their foundation? After all, it's not going anywhere doesn’t really change, and if there are issues with it, they will be manifest in other parts of the home – cracks above the doors and windows, flooring issues, etc. which I will notice during my home inspections. I really don’t think about the foundation unless I am alerted to some need to do so.

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    So, how often have you checked your foundation? No, not the one your home rests upon but the one granted by the Bill of Rights for us to keep and bear arms? There is a fascinating history building up to the inclusion of our right to bear arms in the Bill of Rights which I would like to explore in this brief article. The question is, “What is the origin of the Second Amendment?”


    History of the Second Amendment

    Let’s take a look at the earliest written legal documents regarding self-defense. This is from Zephaniah Swift’s “A System of Laws of the State of Connecticut”. Book Fourth, pg. 2. This was the first law book written in the United States and from this, we see that self-defense was of grave concern.

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    “Self-defense, or self-preservation, is properly deemed the primary law of nature. Mankind does not, therefore, relinquish it upon entering the state of society, but reserve to themselves the power of exercising it upon all necessary occasions.

    This right extends not only to one’s self but is mutual between all persons that stand in the relation of husband and wife, parent and child, master and servant. If any man is attacked in his person or property, or with any of his relations in the above description be thus attacked, he has a right to resist, repel and defend against such forcible injury, by force and the aggressor must be responsible for all the consequences.”

    There are several fundamental issues stated here:

    1) Self-defense is the primary law of nature

    2) Man has a right to defend himself

    3) The aggressor must be responsible for all of the consequences, even unto death

    This is the first legal writing where the idea of an inalienable right, self-preservation, and the legal world come together.

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    Our Founding Father’s Views

    To further our understanding of where we get the Second Amendment we have no further to look than the writings of John Adams who clearly understands the association between our God given rights and the government’s position to enact them.

    He wrote, “Rights (are) antecedent to all earthly government; Rights … cannot be repealed or restrained by human laws; Rights (are) derived from the great legislator of the universe.”

    There are numerous other examples of writings by our Founders regarding the idea that, “specific protections found in our government documents did not create new rights but rather secured old rights”[ii] given by “our all-wise and all beneficent Creator.” [iii]

    Thomas Jefferson stated, “No [citizen] shall be debarred the use of arms within his own lands" [iv]

    “[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.” [v]

    “No man should scruple or hesitate a moment to use arms in defense” [vi]

    What we see in those quotes is an understanding by Jefferson, Lee, and Washington that we have been given an inalienable right to protect ourselves and that right is written both in the hearts and minds of men and in our Bill of Rights. There are many other writings of the Founding Fathers, and those who served and sacrificed for our country in the early years of its founding, showing the connection between our God-given rights and how those rights were made manifest. The link between the two is inseparable – God provided the idea of self-preservation and our Founders made it manifest it for the nation. May we not forget our Foundation.

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    The Works of John Adams, Vol III, pg. 449

    [ii] The Second Amendment, David Barton 2017, pg. 13

    [iii] James Wilson, 1790

    [iv] Thomas Jefferson, U.S. President

    Vi Richard Henry Lee, signer of the Declaration of Independence

    Vii George Washington, U.S. President

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