The Second Amendment and “Certain Unalienable Rights”

A more elegant weapon, from a more civilized age.

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@jander, do you have an ethical issue with armed citizens lawfully protecting their livelihoods when abandoned by the state, or is it the particulars of the case that trouble you?

Or do you disagree in general with my summary?

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I had originally hoped to avoid this particular rabbit hole, but here we are.

Kenosha, Rittenhouse’s father’s place of residence, and where Rittenhouse himself had spent a considerable amount of time and had a “stake” in, was being plundered by domestic terrorists. The Kenosha police either lacked the numbers and resources to counter them or chose to stand down, because the rioters were evidently quite successful in their efforts to destroy the city. On a base level, there is “wisdom” in choosing to love our neighbors by aiding them in protecting their property when the authorities in place were not doing so. The fact that Rittenhouse did travel across state lines in the wake of the riots and not simply look out his window to see his neighborhood burning does add complexity to the situation though, so it’s not quite that simple one way or the other.

I assume the answer you’re looking for is “tranquil and quiet” (1 Timothy 2:2), and, of course, I agree with Scripture. But surely exercising lawful means of protecting property (and potentially lives - see Seattle’s Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone for what happened when the police left Antifa et. al. to their own devices) isn’t grounds for calling someone a sinful rabble-rouser.

All the above are worthy and needed discussions, and perhaps conservative Christians placed too much comparative emphasis on the former two. But the Rittenhouse situation did and does raise important questions about how we should behave practically if we walk outside one day and find our neighborhoods on fire and the police outnumbered. Do we just stay inside and pray, or do we also take protective action? I lean strongly toward the latter.

It became clear during Summer 2020 that the spirit undergirding many of the looters and rioters was more than just one of petty thievery. Calls and threats to kill police officers, brutally assaulting “opponents,” and even murders were far from unheard of. I’m not saying we should knee-jerk react to a potential theft of property by waving a gun around, but much more took place across America that summer than organized movements to steal bread or donkeys. As such, choosing to arm yourself when you’ve elected to help protect your neighbors’ property in that context doesn’t seem crazy to me.

I’m far from a Proud Boy. I understand the gravity and severity of Christians attempting to bear the sword apart from having the proper authority, and I don’t think we should crave opportunities to be arbiters of vigilante justice. I know Kyle made comments about “wishing he had his AR” upon observing thieves and that he took pictures of himself wearing a “Free as F***” shirt in public. I have wondered if people on “my side”’s attitudes would be different if Kyle had been killed rather than the terrorists he defended himself against.

At the same time, I think it’s easy for us as internet commentators to categorize him as “a stupid kid who should have never been there” without recognizing the nobility present in his motives and actions in the face of real conflict. Saying he behaved perfectly at every turn and branding him as lawfully innocent but a meddlesome idiot are both insufficient.

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First, what constitutes “abandonment by the state?” Is it when the magistrate doesn’t act in a manner or with the vigor that you’d like him to? Just because the police aren’t meeting your personal standsrds doesn’t mean that vigilantism suddenly becomes permissible.

Second, what do we believe the Scriptures teach about the individual’s right to protect their livelihood? Does the Bible promote the use of lethal force to protect property? Was it permitted for Israel under the Old Covenant? And what does the New Testament say about it?

Under the Mosaic law, we see the requirement of restitution for theft. What we don’t see is the thief being put to death. If you unlawfully rob someone of their property – either by theft or by destruction of that property – you were required to pay it back. You had to make good on the loss. If you stole or killed a man’s cow, you paid him back five cows. If you stole or killed his sheep, you paid him back four sheep (Exodus 22:1), and so forth.

To be clear, it was unlawful for an Israelite to take the life of a man caught stealing from him. The exception, again, was the night intruder.

To be fair, we do see the Jews make war against their would-be plundering enemies in the book of Esther, but this of course must be taken as narrative and not normative.

What do we see in the New Testament? Well, we see things like this:

“… you joyfully accepted the plundering of your property, since you knew that you yourselves had a better possession and an abiding one.” Hebrews 10:24

" Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good." Romans 12:19-21

“You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well." Matthew 5:38-40

Is it not true, brothers, that we have a tendency to think first as Americans, appealing to our civil liberties, and only second as Christians, appealing to the word of Christ?

Do we war against flesh and blood? Are thieves and rioters the ones we are called to do battle against? Or is it the prince of the power of the air, who holds the thieves and rioters captive in his domain of darkness? Jesus is the true thief, who came to steal from the devil (Mark 3:27). Ought we not be about his business, instead of seeking to avenge ourselves over our property?

As to the particulars of the Rittenhouse case, you can argue all day about the nobility of wanting to protect property, and the lawfulness of his actions. I get it. I don’t think this is ultimately very instructive for the Christian though.

And just for the sake of clarity, you put rioters and looters in the category of the daytime thief rather than the nighttime thief?

Correct. What makes the daytime thief the daytime thief is that his intended actions are clear. Not so with the intruder who comes under cover of darkness.

If you pull into the driveway of your house with your family after church, and find a couple men walking out the front door of your house with your television – this is the daytime thief. You have no right to pull your pistol and shoot them. To take a man’s life as restitution for his taking your television is not permitted by the law of God.

But if your family is tucked in at night, and you hear your front door being carefully pried open, this man is the night intruder. His intentions are not known, and the assumption may be properly made that he comes to do harm. Resisting this man is justified, and if your resistance results in the intruder’s death, you do not incur bloodguilt in the eyes of the Lord.

I believe the case of looters and rioters belongs to the former, not the latter. If you know that a group of thugs are planning to march down Main Street with a whole bunch of anger, vile chanting, some signs, and you anticipate that there could be a molotov cocktail or two hurled at local business buildings, this does not give license to the Christian to employ lethal force to prevent theft or property destruction. Such a man would incur bloodguilt.

Are these rioters acting wickedly? Yes. Will we want to stop them? Yes. Is it unlawful to attempt to stop them with other means? No. But bloodguilt is incurred.

Note that Exodus 22:3 implies a command for the civil magistrate, though, concerning the daytime thief.

“He shall surely pay. If he has nothing, then he shall be sold for his theft.”

Justice demands that the daytime thief pay. He must surely pay.

I think one of the reasons why it’s hard for us to swallow the notion that defense of property is not grounds for the use of lethal force is that we don’t trust our justice system to actually make the thief pay. I sympathize with this. I suppose that’s where the discussion of “abandonment of the state” comes in, isn’t it? If the state won’t seek justice, we will be tempted to take the matter into our own hands. But it’s precisely at that junction where we will gives witness to where our hope lies, isn’t it?

The Christians referred to in Hebrews 10 were clearly abandoned by the state. In fact, the state was supporting the injustice against the believers, and had a hand in the plundering of their property. Yet the church received commendation not for their resistance to being plundered, but for their acceptance of it, as it gave occasion to testify to an unbelieving world that the inheritance of eternal life with Christ is better than life.

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I know I do have to be careful about this, so exhortations toward caution in this regard are always appreciated, but I still can’t equate having a posture of joy in suffering to being a bystander while my neighbors’ property and livelihoods are being destroyed based on the whole of Scripture. The early Christians lived in a society where they had virtually zero rights and had no rational choice but to accept their situation. Any attempts to defend themselves would likely have been met with a brutal execution and would have hindered the infant church’s establishment and well-being. We ought to guard against reading New Testament circumstances as overly instructive for our context just as we should guard against doing so with Old Testament narratives.

I also distinguish sharply between adopting a posture of martyrdom in terms of suffering on account of one’s identification with Christ and electing to not defend and protect your neighbors who are being attacked indiscriminately.

Wholesale abandonment (or being ridiculously outnumbered such that the terrorists run the town) does not meet any objective standard of adequate police intervention. If the police don’t exist to protect cities from being plundered, then why do they exist?

Are you implying the reason Rittenhouse took the streets armed was because the thought crossed his mind of using lethal force against thieves? Or do you believe he took lives legally based on American law but unjustly based on biblical law? Or are you just speaking broadly now and leaving the particulars of Rittenhouse behind? I want to clarify where you’re coming from before I attempt to respond to this.

How can this logic and hermeneutic not be used to oppose protection of property on principle? Do Jesus’ teachings and the New Testament texts you cite overrule any Old Testament precedent for (non-lethally) defending or reclaiming personal goods?

One of the main points I wanted to get across in my previous reply was that the Kenosha and similar riots that plagued our country in 2020 were much more than organized theft - they were violent and potentially murderous. That’s why I don’t have inherent disdain for the concept of someone seeking to intervene in such a situation bearing a weapon.

While many of the looters did simply that - looted - their association with a violent mob gave reason to suspect their actions could have escalated to much more severe crimes (and in more than a few cases, they did).

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This is an interesting conversation. Glad we’re having it.

Jason, I hear what you’re saying. If I were Kyle Rittenhouse’s father, I would have advised him to stay home. Don’t go looking for trouble.

At the same, once he did what he did, I do think there’s a touch of heroism in what he did. The kind of can-do masculinity that Peggy Noonan praised after 9/11, and which she memorably contrasted with the “masculinity” of Woody Allen. There’s also a sense that what he did was foolish and ill advised. He will live with the consequences of what he did for the rest of his life. His breakdown in court as he had to recount the events where he had to shoot the men who were coming after him–i think his tears were genuine, and heartbreaking.

Edit: I have to say that I did not follow the case or the details closely, but defer to the jury for the verdict. What I know I know from memes and headlines. This means that I’m disposed to support Rittenhouse and consider him a based and redpilled giant.

Jason, I am familiar with this interpretation and I don’t think it holds with the context. In verse 35, Jesus references their money belts, bags and sandals, how when He sent them out for itinerant ministry that they were not to carry those items. He’s now changing the instructions for itinerant ministry: as of verse 36, they have new instructions: take a money belt if you have one, likewise a bag, and if you don’t have a sword, buy one!

The reason for this is because Jesus is about to be numbered among the transgressors and won’t be with them in His bodily form. Itinerant ministry is about to change.

I’ll leave application to the reader, but the implications of vv. 35-36 go far beyond the events of that evening.

Jason, you live in Davenport Iowa. You have probably “stopped by the store” across state lines. You certainly know people who work, recreate or have family within easy driving distances across state lines. Rittenhouse lives approximately 20 minutes from Kenosha. His father and aunts live there. He was employed there, or had been at one time. I have more thoughts on the Rittenhouse case, but I’ll leave it at that one for now.

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I really don’t want to remain in the weeds on the Rittenhouse case. In truth, I don’t know all the facts. I only listened to some of the testimony in the trial, and I certainly wasn’t involved in any investigations. I can’t speak to how far across state lines, or all the family dynamics, etc. I am not a fan of playing armchair internet opinion man on court cases, where I pretend to be in a position to know, and speak to, and judge all the facts of matters that I have no closeness to.

But I do believe I know enough to conclude what I said earlier, which is that I don’t find the case to be instructive for the Christian. At some point, we’re going to need to come back to separating what is right in the sense that it’s civilly and legally justifiable, versus what is the instruction of Christ unto his people.

I know a number of business owners. There are several in my own church. One of my deacons owns a lawn care and snow removal business that employs many of the men of my church. The deacon’s son runs a construction business. One of the elders runs a commodities trading and crop insurance business. Another man of the church is part owner in a property management company. All of these men operate their businesses – at least in part – out of the same shared property, part office space, part shop.

If I learned that looters and rioters were threatening to burn their property to the ground, I would be itching to go and stand guard with a rifle. But I am not persuaded that this is the command of Christ unto the people of Christ. I refer again to the texts I cited above.

Again, I believe the Scripture does give us a difference between the protecting of life and the protection of property. I think it’s important that we don’t use the concept of “protection of livelihood” to conflate life and property into a singular category. The things which we use to cultivate our livelihoods are, in simple fact, property – cows and sheep; tractors and tools; computers and widgets. I don’t think God’s word teaches us to take life over these things.

I hear you, and recognize that you’re certainly not alone in this interpretation. I simply have a hard time buying it. It strikes me as completely out of place and discordant with the rest of the New Testament to conclude that Jesus is giving a new instruction to his disciples to all of a sudden start prioritizing their earthly security, and responding to their enemies with violence. Do we see any example in the New Testament of the followers of Jesus responding to persecution with violence, aside from what we see from Peter in the garden?

Where was Paul’s sword? Where was Stephen’s?

Are you suggesting that the instructions for the church in the New Testament, in texts like the ones I’ve cited, are instruction for the early church only, and that the modern church – having now become more “established” – is supposed to operate differently? I am prepared to grant that 2000 years of church history, with the gospel’s onward march into the world, has certainly brought with it some development; and that the salt and light of the people of God in the world has certainly influenced the civil sphere. Amen, and praise God!

But if you’re suggesting that Jesus told early Christians to turn the other cheek simply because the church hadn’t received enough status in the world yet, and that instruction no longer applies, then I think that’s a bad hermeneutic.

I agree with this to an extent. But the things we believe concerning man, and sin, and righteousness, and judgment, and eternal damnation, and the gospel of Christ don’t change from situation to situation. When contemplating the taking of life, I should care about the soul of the man in front of me, whether he is a random, unruly teenage rioter with a molotov cocktail, or the man targeting me because of my faith. In other words, I don’t think I’m justified in shooting the rioter just because his evil against me isn’t of a religious persecuting nature. We don’t switch between our “citizen” hat and our “Christian” hat, if that makes sense.

I am saying I believe you are reaching too far by applying the principle of “turning the other cheek” to a modern context of defending property by citing passages such as Hebrews 10:34 to support your position.

The author of Hebrews is writing descriptively, commending the saints for their righteous posture in suffering given their extremely adverse circumstances. They were able to “joyfully” endure their plundering because they had God’s Spirit and the hope and comfort He brings. The writer highlights the fact that they were heirs of “a better possession and a lasting one,” which is absolutely true, and serves as encouragement for Christians throughout the ages and around the globe who find themselves in a similar boat.

But to say the Hebrews text and similar passages prohibit the New Testament church from taking non-lethal, but “non-passive” measures to defend property when we, as citizens, have both the lawful authority and practical means to do so is, in my view, quite a stretch.

Maybe I’m not understanding your position thoroughly, but it seems following this thought line consistently would lead you to accuse a man who aggressively shouts at and runs off someone who tries to steal his son’s bicycle as being in sin for not “turning the other cheek,” which I find untenable given particularly the Old Testament’s high view of personal property and the various Scriptural exhortations to love and protect those we care about - which includes protecting their hard-earned possessions.

There’s a time for “turning the other cheek” that transcends all ages and circumstances, namely, suffering on account of being associated with Christ (which is the context of Jesus’ words to His disciples in Matthew 5). But, again, extrapolating more out of this passage than what Jesus is actually saying and thus making this principle universally binding for the New Testament Christian’s every conflict would lead one into pacifism, which is indefensible given the whole of Scripture.

I’m not accusing you of being a pacifist; I just think that’s where the logic and hermeneutic you’re using here leads. The debate Christians continue to have will be where the “line” and “middle ground” are, but it seems you’re too far to one side (and you probably think the same of me).

I agree with this statement at face value, but the application of these concepts certainly vary across situations and circumstances. What is righteous in one instance may be sinful in another, for example, hence the need and many biblical exhortations to seek God’s wisdom through prayer and study.

I’m confused by these two sentences. Perhaps we’re talking past each other, or I didn’t articulate my views clearly.

I have not argued for “shooting rioters.” I have not even argued for punishing theft with life. I respect your wishes to not delve into the Rittenhouse debate further, but I’ll simply say that he was found by due process to be using lethal force to defend his own life, which is biblically justified. He cannot be accurately said to have merely been “shooting rioters.”

What I have argued is: 1) the specifics of Rittenhouse’s situation and environment were such that taking the Kenosha streets armed was not inherently immoral or even necessarily unwise, and, more broadly, 2) the concept of defending one’s property, through non-lethal but active means is warranted by the totality of Scripture for New Testament Christians. It is also not at odds with Jesus’ instructions to His disciples or biblical accounts and encouragements of the Early Church - who was suffering in large part by the mere virtue of claiming Christ as King.

This has turned into quite the thread enveloping a much broader range of topics than even my original post touched on, but I’ve enjoyed it greatly and learned very much.

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I’ve appreciated the discussion as well, and I do think we’re probably talking past each other at some points. I apologize for this. I think this dynamic is pretty much unavoidable in lengthy forum exchanges, as it gets difficult to speak thoroughly to every point raised when replying.

I’ll try to give some closure here, and hopefully make clear my position.

I agree with you that “turning the other cheek” is not a blanket call to pacifism. Many folks of the more modern anabaptistic ilk do take these texts to that conclusion. I don’t believe pacifism holds up under any thorough biblical scrutiny. I believe a man has a moral obligation to defend the lives entrusted to his charge – principally, his wife and children, and then his neighbor. I believe there is biblical support for the use of force to these ends. I agree, as you put it, that for the Christian to make turning the other cheek a universally binding principle for every conflict would lead to a pacifism that is indefensible given the whole of Scripture.

But where I don’t know that we agree is on this point:

I believe we agree that we are not obliged as Christians to simply stand by and watch our property being plundered, with no room to make an attempt to stop the act, or to seek restitution, or to appeal to the civil authorities for justice (Acts 16:37, 25:11). I don’t disagree with the use of what you’ve referred to as “non-lethal but active means.” But what I’ve been aiming to convey is that I don’t believe we have the right, under Christ, to take life over the plundering of property.

Even if we have the lawful authority (i.e. American civil right) to use lethal force to protect property, and we have the practical means (i.e. firearms) to do it, this doesn’t mean we are right before God in doing so. It’s possible to be armed, and yet still allow yourself to be wronged because your conscience is well informed by the word of God to understand the difference between just restitution versus unjust retribution.

I think it’s right for civil governments to uphold the right of self-defense. People who are forced into the predicament of defending themselves or their families against wicked attackers should not be regarded as villains. As an undergirding, governing principle, this is just. Amen.

But that isn’t the same as saying that the Christian is always justified in defending himself. The counsel of the New Testament runs in the direction if denying the self; of laying down the self for others; of allowing one’s self to be wronged; of being poured out as an offering for the sake of the elect. Our Lord had every right to defend himself, more than we ever will, and yet he chose to be wronged. His example is the one we are called to emulate. We aren’t to be satisfied with merely operating within our civil rights.

You note that Rittenhouse was found by due process to be using lethal force to defend his own life, which is biblically justified. Is it, though? What texts are you drawing on to come to the conclusion that it was biblically justified? I don’t dispute the finding that his act of self-defense was found to be civilly justified, but are you prepared to clear him biblically as having performed that night as the mind of Christ would require?

This is what I am trying to convey when I say the Rittenhouse case isn’t instructive for us. “Jury says he isn’t guilty of murder.” Great, amen. Now tell me how this instructs the Christian to act in a manner worthy of the gospel?

If there’s one point I can leave this conversation with, I would merely exhort us all to be checking ourselves to ensure we do not conflate our American civil liberties – just though they may be, in their own capacities – with the word of Christ for the Christian. “My kingdom is not of this world,” says Christ. Even if you’re a postmillennial guy, you ought not allow your hermeneutics to bring you to a place where you dispute that statement. The right to keep and bear arms indeed has its rightful place in civil society; and we might note that the recognition of the right to protect life is, itself, a natural fruit of the gospel’s influence in the world. But guns are not going to advance the kingdom of God. We battle not against flesh and blood, and we can’t forget it.

Hi Jason,

I’ll try to be concise since you’ve indicated you want to wrap up your involvement in the discussion.

I agree with you here. Full stop.

Where I disagree with you is here:

Westminster Larger Catechism

Q 135: What are the duties required in the sixth commandment?

A: The duties required in the sixth commandment are, all careful studies, and lawful endeavors, to preserve the life of ourselves and others by resisting all thoughts and purposes, subduing all passions, and avoiding all occasions, temptations, and practices, which tend to the unjust taking away the life of any; by just defense thereof against violence, patient bearing of the hand of God, quietness of mind, cheerfulness of spirit; a sober use of meat, drink, physic, sleep, labor, and recreations; by charitable thoughts, love, compassion, meekness, gentleness, kindness; peaceable, mild and courteous speeches and behavior; forbearance, readiness to be reconciled, patient bearing and forgiving of injuries, and requiting good for evil; comforting and succoring the distressed, and protecting and defending the innocent.

Q 136: What are the sins forbidden in the sixth commandment?

A: The sins forbidden in the sixth commandment are, all taking away the life of ourselves, or of others, except in case of public justice, lawful war, or necessary defense; the neglecting or withdrawing the lawful and necessary means of preservation of life; sinful anger, hatred, envy, desire of revenge;all excessive passions, distracting cares; immoderate use of meat, drink, labor, and recreations; provoking words, oppression, quarreling, striking, wounding, and: Whatsoever else tends to the destruction of the life of any.

Life is sacred, and someone who has proven themselves to be seeking seizure of it unlawfully is a menace to society in addition to an immediate threat to the lives in his vicinity. To act lethally in defense against such a person when you they attack your life head-on is normatively noble for a Christian, given how highly God has revealed He views life throughout the Bible. What the trial revealed is that this was precisely what Rittenhouse did.

I don’t see based on the logic in your quote above how your view is distinguished from John Piper’s, who has said he would not act against a potential murderer of his family for similar reasons as you gave. Yielding yourself or those around you to a bloodthirsty man when you could reasonably stop him is the opposite of “neighbor love.” The idea that God would not be glorified by a father defending his family from being robbed their protector and provider by ending the life of a villain who has tried to end his is unconscionable to me.

I do grant that if we’re faced with the threat of death on account of our professed faith in Christ, we aren’t to defend ourselves or retaliate. Such seems to be the binding biblical pattern, given how closely that mimics His sacrifice for us and the apostles’ posture. But we don’t seem to be talking about that here, and I think the distinction does matter.

I also agree with @tesseract and @FaithAlone regarding their interpretation of Luke 22:36. I see no plausible reading of that text other than that the swords were to be used for self-defense unless you bring in presuppositions that sway you oppositely.

Christ’s kingdom is primarily spiritual, absolutely, but “earthly” things, human life being among the chief, certainly do matter to God. My parallel encouragement would be for us to not allow our hermeneutic and cultural influences to pit Heaven against Earth in a way Scripture does not.

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I am content to yield the last word. :slight_smile:

Thanks for the discussion, brother.

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Another point to discuss: in Numbers 1, instead of a standing army we see that God instituted an armed populace.

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Back at you, sir.

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Jason’s discussion and explanation about the need to unentangle the Declaration’s use of the language of inalienable rights or endowed rights was very good. Also, we should remember that the Constitution (and, by extension, the bill of rights) is a consensus document. The language is often vague in order to get everyone on board and appeal to various constituencies. Appealing to a particular founder, or group of founders, for determining the meaning or reason behind some particular language can be very misleading. Just like today there was much difference on these issues.

It can be helpful to get some more historical context. Saul Cornell (who you may consider a hostile source, depending on your politics) has a couple of papers that can help shed light on the background to the amendment and on the history of bearing arms in English Common Law and in pre- and post-revolutionary America. I have found these and other historical resources really helpful:

A Well Regulated Right: The Early American Origins of Gun Control (fordham.edu)
The Right to Keep and Carry Arms in Anglo-American Law: Preserving Liberty and Keeping the Peace (duke.edu)

Some take aways:

  1. As with many of the enumerated rights, grievances over English restrictions were in the background. In many parts of England it was unlawful to be armed - a London statue reads (in part): “no one, of whatever condition he be, go armed in the said city or in the suburbs, or carry arms by day or night." Exceptions were made only for certain types and classes of people while travelling.
  2. At the time of the drafting of the constitution many states (I believe all but Quaker dominated Pennsylvania) had mandatory militia registration. The laws varied, but they generally required all white men between 16 and 50 to register with their local magistrate and maintain suitable arms. If they failed to muster, or mustered with inadequate or poorly maintained equipment. For instance: "In New York, every militia member had to “furnish and provide himself at his own expence with a good musket or fire-lock fit for service[,] a sufficient bayonet with a good belt, a pouch or cartouch box containing not less than sixteen cartridges…, of powder and ball…, and two spare flints[,] a blanket and a knapsack.”’
  3. Prior to incorporation many states had laws restricting arms. These became more common over the course of the 19th century. For instances, an Ohio law from 1859 reads: "[W]hoever shall carry a weapon or weapons, concealed on or about his person, such as a pistol, bowie knife, dirk, or any other dangerous weapon, shall be deemed guilty.’’
  4. State constitutions and case law can often shed additional light on peoples conceptions of the right to bear arms. The State Constitution of Kentucky (1799), for instance, included “the right of the citizens to bear arms in defense of themselves and the state, shall not be questioned.” In 1822 a man was convicted of carrying a concealed sword in a cane. The state court struck down his conviction on grounds that it violated the (state) constitution. As part of a major constitutional overhaul in 1850 Kentucky explicitly gave the state the right to regulate concealed weapons: “25. That the rights of the citizens to bear arms in defense of themselves and the State shall not be questioned; but the General Assembly may pass laws to prevent persons from carrying concealed arms.”
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Thanks for sharing, Clay. That is some interesting reading.

That Kentucky constitutional revision you mentioned is fascinating. I’ve thought at times about what types of revisions I’d be willing to see to the 2nd Amendment. It may seem like sacrilege to some, but in the theoretical world that exists between my ears, I think I’d be willing to entertain a revision that verbosely prohibited some types of arms if it was coupled with the verbose protections of others. As long as I got to write the language, of course. :wink:

But when I consider that most politicians can’t tell you the difference between a clip and a magazine, semi-automatic vs. fully-automatic, or define the term caliber – and the fact that we already have such arbitrary, ignorant firearms laws on the books already… I think the 2nd Amendment is just fine the way it is. Any attempts to change it in today’s political landscape would almost certainly do it harm.

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I’ll throw into this discussion that I think the whole conversation around the 2nd Amendment isn’t really about guns. It’s about the democratic limitations placed on government authority.

To say it simply: the issue of guns in America is a proxy fight for who makes the rules. Are we governed by men or by the rule of law? @jander, your theoretical revision is perfectly acceptable in US constitutional law. There’s even a process by which that revision could take place (though actually revising the Bill of Rights is a different issue to revising later provisions in the Constitution).

I think part of the emotional nature of this discussion in many quarters deals with the fear that if this amendment isn’t upheld, what reason do we have to think that any of the other amendments in the Bill of Rights, to say nothing of the whole Constitution, will be upheld?

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