Our Bill of Rights and the Second Amendment

by Cathy Wright

Pittsboro, NC – I write in response to Andy Foshee’s post in the May 20, 2020 Chatham Chatlist, “The Constitution & Bill of Rights.”

photo collage by cgrape

He wrote: ‘Digging deeper, I found the Bill of Rights is “the first 10 Amendments to the Constitution. It spells out Americans’ rights in relation to their government. It guarantees civil rights and liberties to the individual-like freedom of speech, press, and religion.”’

‘2 – Right to keep and bear arms in order to maintain a well regulated militia.’

I would like to add to Mr. Foshee’s comments:

The Bill of Rights does not grant rights to the people. The Bill of Rights is the list of the fundamental, inalienable rights, endowed in man by his Creator, that defines what it means to be a free and independent people. These rights exist to ensure that the government governs only with the consent of the people.

The Second Amendment states that “*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.” *The Second Amendment protects the right of the people to keep and bear arms for defense of life and liberty. One should not ignore the Second Amendment’s reference to “the right of the people,” which also appears in the Fourth, Ninth, and Tenth Amendment, and the courts have ruled repeatedly that these rights belong to individuals.

photo by Ibro Palic

For example:

In U.S. v. Cruikshank (1876), Presser v. Illinois (1886), Miller v. Texas (1894) and U.S. v. Miller (1939), the Supreme Court recognized that the amendment protects an individual right. It has never taken a different view. In District of Columbia v. Heller (2008), the Supreme Court heard its first case specifically centered on whether the amendment protects an individual right to arms. Gun control supporters advanced essentially the “Salina” argument, but the Court, consistent with its previous rulings in Second Amendment-related cases, ruled that the amendment protects an individual right to keep arms and to bear arms “in case of confrontation,” without regard to a person’s relationship to a militia. In McDonald v. Chicago (2010), the court extended the Second Amendment’s protection nationwide.

During the American Revolution the professional British soldiers were successfully harassed by the armed and determined citizens of the colonies, and our Founding Fathers were quick to attribute these victories to the right of the people to bear arms. James Madison wrote, “Americans have the right and advantage of being armed – unlike citizens of other countries whose governments are afraid to trust the people with arms.” President George Washington said, “A free people ought not only be armed, but disciplined.” And, George Mason believed that the individual armed citizen was the key to protection against government excesses and defense of freedom when he said, “I ask, sir, what is the militia? It is the whole people, except for a few public officials.” (I just love that one!!) In the Federalist Papers (#46) James Madison referred to the militia, meaning every able-bodied citizen capable of bearing arms.

In the 1982 edition of the Journal of American History, historian Robert Shalhope wrote: “When James Madison and his colleagues drafted the Bill of Rights they …. Firmly believed in two distinct principles: (1) Individuals had the right to possess arms to defend themselves and their property, and (2) states retained the right to maintain militias composed of these individually armed citizens…. Clearly, these men believed that the perpetuation of a republican spirit and character in their society depended upon the freeman’s possession of arms as well as his ability and willingness to defend both himself and his society.”

And in my words, a government that does not trust honest, law-abiding citizens with the means of self-defense for themselves and their country, is not worthy of trust. May God bless America.


Cathy Wright is a Frontlines Activist Leader
NRA-Institute for Legislative Action
Chatham County resident

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