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GUNS: Let’s protect what founders intended

Letter by Kenneth E. Christopherson, Tacoma on Aug. 2, 2012 at 12:15 pm with 26 Comments »
August 2, 2012 12:59 pm

Did our Founding Fathers foresee assault rifles?

The Second Amendment granting the right to own guns was written about 1790. The right was to own a muzzle-loading, single-shot gun. In most cases, it would have been a rifle: Few people owned pistols. If they did, they were also single-shot and muzzle-loading.

There are those who insist on going back to “the original intent” of the Founding Fathers. I agree. If we do, then the only guns protected by the Second Amendment would be muzzle-loading, single-shot guns. The Founding Fathers sought to protect those guns, and those alone.

I learned this right from a very fine retired high school history teacher.

Leave a comment Comments → 26
  1. Theefrinker says:

    Actually, it had nothing to do with people owning or toting guns in the fashion that we regard it today at all. This was a time when they did not have the enormous and technologically-enabled military we have today, so it was necessary for people to keep arms should they need to gather up to defend the country (or community otherwise). This amendment really has no place in these times, but because it uses that word “infringe”, people have taken it completely out of context and are always up in arms about it (pardon the pun).

  2. APimpNamedSlickback says:

    Well, Kenneth, you’re high school teacher was wrong.

    The founders absolutely envisioned changing technology, as evidenced by the following power granted to Congress within Article I, Section 8: “To promote the progress of science and useful arts, by securing for limited times to authors and inventors the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries”. This is the foundation of U.S. patent and trademark law, and clearly proves that the founders expected scientific discoveries to be made in the future.

    The original intent of the founders regarding the 2nd Amendment was that the citizenry be able to keep the government in check by having the same arms capacity as the government’s forces. In the founders’ time, yes, this meant single-shot muzzle loaders. 80 years later, it meant repeating-fire rifles. And 80 years after that, it meant fully-automatic weapons.

    Of course, this doesn’t iclude weapons of mass destruction, because by their very nature, they can’t be deployed in a way that targets a single person or small group. Small arms can, though, even if they’re fully-automatic. Besides, the government is unlikely to use WMDs against its citizens anyway; but even if it were, it would be slow to do so, and the idea of the 2nd Amendment is that an armed citizenry would be able to deter a tyrannical government from escalating to that point in the first place.

    So yes, the founders may not have known in 1787 that there would be guns that fire at a rate of thousands of rounds per minute; they also didn’t know that one day there might be Star Trek-like ray guns. What they did know back then, was that no matter what the technology of the day would be, the military would have it. And if the military had it, the citizens would need it, too.

  3. APimpNamedSlickback says:


  4. Ken,
    Your history teacher was biased and taught a narrow literal interpretation of the 2nd Amendment.

    The term ‘Arms’ means all the weapons and other equipment need by an individual or unit to meaningfully participate in military actions.

    The concept of private ownership of the weapons of war can be traced back at least to ancient Athens where all Able Bodied Citizens within a certain age range were required to serve in the Athenian Army (which unlike other armies was not a standing army).

    Each citizen soldier was expected to buy and maintain his own equipment, and to appear properly equipped when required. Note: we are talking swords, spear, shield, and armor.

    Even as late as the Civil war we can find remnants of private ownership in Calvary and Artillerymen having to provide their own horses and mules.

    And when the Rough Riders when up San Juan Hill most of their Colt machine guns belonged to the Regiment and not to the government.

    I have ran across several references that say the reason we can register cars and license drivers but not firearms and owners, is the car had not been invented when the Constitution was being written.
    One thing I agree with the NRA on is people kill people. People were killing people before the dawn or recorded history. May firearm owners (even police and military) never fire a shot in anger (as the old saying goes).

  5. Just curious, if the founding father’s had a choice between the single shot muskets of the day and a semi-automatic high powered rifle, which do you think they’d choose feed and protect their families?

  6. krummn,
    Rule of thumb – they would have the newest most powerful weapons they could afford.

  7. averageJose says:

    So, Ken, how would you feel about “original intent” concerning the other amendments? Free speech sure didn’t include internet, library porn, ect., etc., etc.

    btw, is the 2nd amendment the only one that isn’t about indivual right?

  8. klthompson says:

    I might agree with this interpretation, but only if it is understood that the forces of government are not allowed to have automatic firearms and other sophisticated weapons. As long as they do have those types of weapons the citizens should have the same right. Otherwise how in blazes can we be assured that the present government will not be encouraged to suppress us into oblivion?

  9. aJo,

    Original Intent – We the people have rights beyond those listed or discussed in the Constitution.

  10. LeePHill says:

    If anyone reads the 2nd Amendment, the INTENT was directed at a militia, not individual right.

  11. LPH – sorry old boy, but as the term Milita was understood and used by our Founding Fathers the right to keep and bare arms is an individual right.

  12. mathius says:

    Well thank god the letter writer is not right. If we as a nation followed his logic then we would not have been a nation for very long. All the other nations that developed a weapon anything better then a pea shooter would have taken us over long before now. Do us all a favor and next time you have a thought….let it go please

  13. beerBoy says:

    “Original intent” is impossible to determine and an absurd rationale.

  14. mathius says:

    a body of citizens enrolled for military service, and called out periodically for drill but serving full time only in emergencies.
    a body of citizen soldiers as distinguished from professional soldiers.
    all able-bodied males considered by law eligible for military service.
    a body of citizens organized in a paramilitary group and typically regarding themselves as defenders of individual rights against the presumed interference of the federal government.

  15. penumbrage says:

    LeePhil – It seems someone forgot to tell these guys.
    “And that the said Constitution be never construed to authorize Congress to infringe the just liberty of the press, …or to prevent the people of the United States, who are peaceable citizens, from keeping their own arms…” Samuel Adams
    “The best we can hope for concerning the people at large is that they be properly armed.” Alexander Hamilton
    “Americans need never fear their government because of the advantage of being armed, which the Americans possess over the people of almost every other nation.” James Madison
    “No free man shall ever be debarred the use of arms.” Thomas Jefferson

  16. LeePHill says:

    mathius….good thing we had the 2nd Amendment to protect us on 9/11/01, huh?

    That right to own guns stopped those terrorists in their tracks, didn’t it?

    Militarists in the know are well aware that the next major conflict will be directed at computer infrastructure and economics since the 9/11 terrorists have shown the way.

    Grab your uzi and stop a hacker from taking over the US financial future.

    xring….the “individual right” was concocted via politics. If someone just reads the words in the Amendment and doesn’t try to imply that which ISN’T there, it’s rather simple that the purpose for arms is not for people to substitute semi-automatic weapon collections for their lack of….well…you know.

  17. Lee – you are the one trying to imply something that is not there. To the people who wrote 2nd Amendment, a regulated milita was based on the private ownership of firearms and other weapons.

    Any right given to The People is given to each indiviual who can only lose that right via court order.

  18. penumbrage says:

    LeePHill – “That right to own guns stopped those terrorists in their tracks, didn’t it?”
    The second amendment could have protected us from 9/11, had not the misguided powers that be decreed that responsible citizens were to be disarmed on aircraft, that armed sky marshals would protect us inflight and that hijackers shouldn’t be opposed (someone might get hurt!).

    “…the “individual right” was concocted via politics.”
    Then you should have no trouble providing numerous quotes from the founders supporting your contention that an armed citizenry was not their intention.
    The individual right was concocted via the politics of the founding fathers – inspired by the Swiss, in accordance with the right of self-defense (enshrined in common law and statutes since the Roman Empire) and in appreciation of the fact that an armed man with access to the forest need not go hungry. How were you planning on eating if the computer/economic attack resulted in a major infrastructure meltdown? No doubt you can protect your stockpile of survival rations from any armed and starving groups desperate enough to value your food over your life by simply explaining how badly their guns reflect upon their manly endowments and embarrassing them into a red-faced retreat.

  19. averageJose says:

    Kooky that box cutters were used to take over an aircraft and turn them into piloted missiles. Lets ban box cutters and airplanes.

    Even kookier is that I find myself in agreement with Xring.

    So right Penumbrage.


  20. Guns on a plane = one misplaced shot can bring the plane down.

    So six or seven men armed with box cutters can control a plane full of how many people?

    The problem with relaying on a physical weapon is that one comes to depend on the weapon and not their body, mind, and spirit, which has the potential to be the greatist weapon of all.

  21. beerBoy says:

    Any right given to The People is given to each indiviual who can only lose that right via court order.

    And yet there are many who argue that Freedom of Religion is a corporate right given to Churches, that corporations are people, and people who donate to corporate bodies can avoid election rules and remain anonymous.

  22. beerBoy,

    Ever hear of Federalist Papers? Some parts are readable.

    Freedom of religion = ‘or the practice thereof”, “no religious test to hold office”

    Corporations are not people, and their potential to control people was more feared by our Founders that government control.

  23. penumbrage says:

    xring – “Guns on a plane = one misplaced shot can bring the plane down.”
    Barring innocent bystanders (which applies everywhere) it’s merely inconvenient (having to drop down below 10,000 ft), the decompression isn’t explosive and everything critical has redundant backups.

    “So six or seven men armed with box cutters can control a plane full of how many people?”
    That all depends on whether the people are Flight 77 folks or Flight 93 citizens (I believe most of the former have since converted).

    “The problem with relaying on a physical weapon is that one comes to depend on the weapon and not their body, mind, and spirit, which has the potential to be the greatist weapon of all.”
    I agree the brain is the most powerful self defense tool, but relying on your body works best for the young, healthy and highly trained and reliance on a body that fails to perform as expected with age is just as dangerous. The right of self defense should be apply equally to the weak, the old, the infirm and the physically disabled, especially since those are the people most likely to be targeted.

  24. bobcat1a says:

    I walk around with bare arms all the time, xring.

  25. Sonic14 says:

    Using this line of “thought” 1st Amendment rights should not be applicable to television, the internet, or radio since our founders never envisioned these either. RIGHT Kenneth?

  26. Sonic14 says:

    “the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed”.

    Yep, I can read. Seems a lot of people like to omit the operative clause from the equation (or don’t know that the prepatory clause supports the operative clause). English 101

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