Do Individuals Have
The Right To
Bear Arms?
From Brent Parker <>
He said to them, "But now if you have a purse, take it, and also a bag; and if you don't have a sword, sell your cloak and buy one.
(I'll start with a piece from the Washington Post that states ...)."[In that case, the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the Second Amendment restricts federal authority in this area, not that of state and local governments. The court stated, "We conclude that the right to keep and bear handguns is not guaranteed by the Second Amendment."] Link
Opinions of Congressmen:
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- U.S. Senator Russ Feingold today weighed in on the hotly debated constitutional question of whether or not the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution guarantees an individual's right to bear arms or if that right is reserved solely for states.
"The Second Amendment was clearly intended to counterbalance a distrust of a potentially oppressive federal government and to protect the right to defend against an oppressive government. The question arises over whether that right rests with the states alone or with the states and the people of those states," said Feingold. "I have always believed the Second Amendment clearly guarantees the people themselves the right to bear arms."
"The Second Amendment"
Senate Judiciary Sub-Committee on the Constitution
Senator John Ashcroft, Chairman
Opening Statement September 24, 1998
"Mr. Chairman, there have been varying interpretations of the word "militia" in the Second Amendment. I believe its is an individual right guaranteed by our Founding Fathers. Throughout the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, the words "people," "persons," or "citizens," denote that right is enumerated for all individuals, not for a collective group. For example, the right of free speech was not meant as a collective right, but a right guaranteed to the individual. Therefore, the use of the words "the right of the people to keep and bear arms" indicates that it is one of the individual rights set forth in the Constitution."
"I believe the original intent of the Second Amendment was to protect each individual's right to keep and bear arms, and to guarantee that individuals acting collectively could cast away the harness of any oppressive government that may arise. Unfortunately, there are individuals and advocacy groups who take the position that the Second Amendment merely protects the state's right to an organized military ("well-regulated militia") while rejecting any notion that the Second Amendment protects an individual right. I find it hypocritical and distressing when civil libertarians who support the individual rights recognized in the First, Fourth, Fifth, and Sixth Amendments and defend these rights against governmental abuse are overcome by their own fear of one another when the subject turns to the Second Amendment." Link
"I believe we need to honor and uphold an individual's right to keep and bear arms. I also believe we need to focus our efforts on crime control instead of on gun control. Regardless of how strict our laws are, criminals have always been able to illegally acquire weapons. After all, private citizens cannot possess guns in Washington, D.C., yet this city has one of the highest murder rates in the country."
(A new quote I read for the first time can be found at link below),"...the second amendment is not for killing little ducks and leaving Huey and Dewey and Louie without an aunt and uncle. It is for hunting politicians, like [in] Grozny, [and in] 1776, when they take your independence away."__ Representative Bob Dornan, US House of Representatives, January 25, 1995
(And then you have this piece, POSSIBLY THE MOST IMPORTANT PIECE YOU CAN READ ON GUN CONTROL, from the 103rd Congress.........)
The so-called assault weapon ban violates the second amendment to the Constitution. The ban is based on hysterical fear that is unjustified in both law and in fact. The result of the ban will be to infringe seriously on a constitutional right without having even the slightest impact on crime.
Our Founding Fathers knew the right to keep and bear arms was so fundamental that they made it the second amendment to our Constitution. They did not add this amendment to the Bill of Rights because they wanted to ensure that Americans would forever have an unfettered right to shoot squirrels or tin cans. Our colleagues who constantly prattle on about hunting and target shooting as if the second amendment were aimed at protecting such activities are missing the point. TheSecond Amendment is about democracy and liberty.
The amendment, in whole, reads as follows, "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 wording of this amendment has been twisted in modern times by anti-gun commentators who suffer from willful ignorance. They have suggested that our Founding Fathers used the words "State" and "well regulated militia" because they meant to protect the right to have what has evolved into our National Guard. We suggest they pick up a history book. If they do, they will find these words from our Founding Fathers:
"No free man shall ever be debarred the use of arms." (Thomas Jefferson)
"Arms in the hands of citizens may be used at individual discretion in private self-defense." (John Adams)
"The Constitution preserves the advantage of being armed which Americans possess over the people of almost every other nation where the governments are afraid to trust the people with arms." (James Madison)
"Arms discourage and keep the invader and the plunderer in awe, and preserve order in the world as well as property...horrid mischief would ensue were citizens deprived of the use of them." (Thomas Payne)
"Laws that forbid the carrying of arms disarm only those who are neither inclined nor determined to commit crimes. Such laws make things worse for the assaulted and better for the assailants; they serve rather to encourage than to prevent homicides, for an unarmed man may be attacked with greater confidence than an armed man." (Thomas Jefferson)
"A militia, when properly formed, are in fact the people themselves." (Richard Henry Lee)
"The Constitution shall never be construed to prevent the people of the United States who are peaceable citizens from keeping their own arms" (Sam Adams); "I ask, sir, what is the militia? It is the whole people. To disarm the people is the best and most effectual way to enslave them." (George Mason).
These quotes illustrate that our Founding Fathers wrote and passed the second amendment to guarantee individuals the right to protect themselves, their property, and their loved ones from others and from the government itself. They fully understood the danger of allowing power to be concentrated in a government. Power corrupts; if the government were given the power to be the sole guarantor of a person's life and property (pursuit of happiness), it would have tremendous coercive power, and would inevitably infringe upon his liberty as well. Such a democracy would not be one in which the people elected their servants, but one in which they elected their masters, by majority vote. Individuals would be at the mercy of a government for all their protection, plus they would be defenseless before their government.
Supporting such an end is tantamount to an abandonment of the great American experiment in democracy, which is based on the liberty of the individual. By liberty, we certainly do not mean license--with freedom come responsibilities. Civil order must be maintained, but it is the ultimate duty of individuals to maintain it, not the government. In a government of, by, and for the people, the people themselves must be responsible for themselves, and must be held accountable for their actions. For this reason, we have strongly, loudly, and repeatedly called for the absolutely toughest possible penalties for those individuals who use firearms to violate others basic constitutional rights instead of to defend their own.
Unfortunately, those very Senators who call most loudly for taking guns away from Americans are also the most strident in refusing to punish people for misusing them. They make excuses--society has done those criminals wrong, and we need to work on rehabilitating them instead of holding them accountable. By our colleagues reasoning, the government should reorder society to change behavior and eliminate crime instead of punishing it. They do not believe people are responsible for their actions, but instead believe that their actions are determined by social structures. They reason that if people have guns, they will kill, so therefore people should not have guns.
Of course, none of our colleagues is entirely against punishment, but we find it difficult to fathom why so many liberal politicians fail to see that the social engineering policies they have pursued for decades have failed for decades. We have spent $5 trillion on social programs since the war on poverty began, including on numerous "crime" bills like this one that were loaded with billions of dollars for programs to prevent crime and rehabilitate criminals, but all that funding has managed to do is create generations of broken families of government dependents with little hope, few skills, and no responsibilities. Crime rates have gone up, not down. Still, the vast majority of government dependents are decent, law-abiding citizens. Any suggestion that people in difficult circumstances are just victims of their circumstances when they commit crimes is a slap in the face to the majority of poor people who are responsible citizens.
Though politicians have yet to tire of their social engineering solutions to crime, the American people are fed up. In poll after poll, they favor locking up criminals and throwing away the key. They especially favor strong penalties for anyone who uses a gun in the commission of a crime. Unfortunately, politicians seem to be especially opposed to such penalties. This bill proves no exception. When it passed the Senate it contained numerous strict penalties for using guns to commit crimes, but all of those provisions have been stripped out of the conference report by Democratic conferees.
Though the penalties for criminals have been dropped, a ban on so-called assault weapons has been retained. This ban is the culmination of a relentless campaign by liberal politicians and media pundits. Any time Americans hear about a mass murderer with a rifle, they also hear that the killer used an "assault rifle." An "assault rifle," as defined by the media and some politicians, seems to be any rifle that is in the hands of a mass murderer (who is also typically labelled insane because of his actions, and thus, in their judgment, not guilty by reason of insanity--they blame the gun but never the killer).
The other tact that has been taken in this campaign against assault weapons has been to claim that they are only possessed by criminals, who use them in 10 percent or more of all gun felonies. Politicians try to back this claim by citing Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearm (BATF) trace statistics, but their use of those statistics is faulty. (A "trace" is an investigation of the sales history of a weapon that has been seized by police.) While it is true that between 8 to 10 percent of all BATF traces are of "assault" weapons, this fact does not mean that up to 10 percent of gun crimes are committed with them. The BATF is simply much more likely to trace these weapons than it is to trace other weapons. It only traces between 1 to 2 percent of all guns used in crimes, and it does not randomly select those traces.
To find an honest assessment of how often so-called assault weapons are used by criminals one needs to look at other statistics. For example, the fact that an average of less than 1 percent of all guns seized from 1980 to 1992 were assault weapons indicates either that criminals who use those weapons are exceptionally clever at evading arrest or that those weapons are not used as frequently as claimed. Every law enforcement jurisdiction in the country reports that it rarely confiscates these guns. For example, in Denver only 14 of the 1,752 guns seized by the police in 1991 were assault weapons. Those jurisdictions that tabulate how often these weapons are used in the commission of felonies have even lower numbers to report. For instance, the Chief of Police in Trenton, New Jersey, reported that, since New Jersey has been keeping records, assault weapons have been used in an underwhelming twenty-six one-hundredths of 1 percent of crimes. Statistically, police in New Jersey are more likely to be attacked by tigers that have escaped from local zoos than they are to be confronted by criminals with assault weapons.
Even though it is based on falsehoods, the result of this media and political campaign has been to convince the American public that felons with assault weapons are running amok. We concede that most Americans now favor banning these weapons. However, winning the debate for public sentiment gave pro-ban Senators a practical dilemma--there is really no such thing as an assault weapon. The one common feature these weapons have is that they are semiautomatic (fully automatic weapons were banned in 1934). This characteristic is hardly a distinguishing feature, though, because virtually every rifle sold in America today is a semiautomatic. Senators knew they could not get away with banning semiautomatics because such a ban would be equal to banning nearly every rifle in America. To solve this practical problem, they sat down and thumbed through gun catalogues and picked out some 19 weapons that looked particularly scary to them. These 19 rifles, shotguns, and pistols have cosmetic features on them that make them look more dangerous to people who are unfamiliar with firearms, but they possess no capabilities that are not possessed by other semiautomatic weapons. They then studied these 19 pictures to decide what it was about these particular weapons that made them look more dangerous, and they settled on several cosmetic features, such as folding stocks, large pistol grips, bayonet mounts, and flash suppressors. None of these features makes any weapon any more dangerous, yet they decided any weapon with two or more of these features is an assault weapon, and they have steadily insisted that only a lunatic or a felon would possess one. To illustrate the absurdity of this definition, we remind our colleagues that President Clinton recently used a semiautomatic shotgun when he went duck hunting. Add a couple of cosmetic changes to this weapon and our President would have been holding an assault weapon. If those changes had been made, would our colleagues have classified the President as a lunatic or a felon, or both?
In an effort to make this gun ban look more reasonable, our colleagues added an appendix of 670 weapons that would not be banned. Less than 13 percent of those weapons, though, are even semiautomatic firearms, and thus by definition were not affected by the Feinstein gun-ban language. Of the remaining 85, many are repeatedly counted; for example, the Remington Model 870 pump shotgun makes the list 16 times. The truth, according to the BATF, is that this gun ban will make between 100 and 160 firearms currently on the market illegal.
It will also make 3.3 million of the 200 million firearms currently owned by law-abiding Americans illegal. The crime rate will not decline, though, simply because semiautomatic firearms are almost never used by criminals. Thus, there will be no trade off between a loss of second amendment rights and an increase in safety. The only result of this ban will be to infringe on the constitutional right to keep and bear arms. When this ban fails, we suspect our colleagues will conclude that the problem was that it did not go far enough. They will then turn their attention to finding new firearms to ban. Slowly but surely, they will chip away at the second amendment until they have made it meaningless.
We have raised these objections against cloture knowing we will lose on this vote. In fact, all week we have accepted our loss on this issue. We voted for the Senate bill with this gun ban, and we were willing to vote for this conference report with the ban intact if other changes were first made. The Republican Leader's 10-amendment proposal for consideration of this conference report did not address the issue of guns. Those Senators who insist that we Senators who oppose this report are solely motivated by our opposition to this violation of the second amendment are wrong, and they are improperly questioning our motives. Their suggestions that we should not even be allowed to speak on this matter are even more offensive because they show a distinct contempt for the tradition of the Senate of respecting minority viewpoints. We hope in the future that our colleagues do not make such statements as we have heard today.
We strongly oppose this bill's violation of the second amendment, and we have demanded this cloture vote as a means of registering our opposition. We know we will not prevail, but at least we will be heard.
Republicans: (7 or 16%) Chafee Danforth Jeffords Kassebaum Roth Specter Warner
Democrats: (54 or 96%) Akaka Baucus Biden Bingaman Boren Boxer Bradley Breaux Bryan Bumpers Byrd Campbell Conrad Daschle DeConcini Dodd Dorgan Exon Feinstein Ford Glenn Graham Harkin Heflin Hollings Inouye Johnston Kennedy Kerrey Kerry Kohl Lautenberg Leahy Levin Lieberman Mathews Metzenbaum Mikulski Mitchell Moseley-Braun Moynihan Murray Nunn Pell Pryor Reid Riegle Robb Rockefeller Sarbanes Sasser Simon Wellstone Wofford
Republicans: (36 or 84%) Bennett Bond Brown Burns Coats Cochran Cohen Coverdell Craig D'Amato Dole Domenici Durenberger Faircloth Gorton Gramm Grassley Gregg Hatch Hatfield Helms Hutchison Kempthorne Lott Lugar Mack McCain McConnell Murkowski Nickles Packwood Pressler Simpson Smith Stevens Thurmond
Democrats: (2 or 4%) Feingold Shelby
Republicans: (1) Wallop-2 Democrats: (0)
ABSENCE CODE: 1-Official Business 2-Nec. absent 3-Illness 4-Other Symbols: AY-Announced Yea AN-Announced Nay PY-Paired Yea PN-Paired Nay
Compiled and written by the staff of the Republican Policy Committee
Don Nickles, Chairman


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