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RE: Repeal the 2nd Amendment

(Written July 7th, 2008 as a Chicago Tribune Letter-to-the-Editor)

As a University of Chicago undergraduate and concerned citizen, I find the Tribune editorial, “Repeal the 2nd Amendment”, clearly demonstrating the all too often limited and prejudicial approach to the second amendment that supercilious gun control zealots possess. Moreover, the editorial staff sadly drew ill-cogent correlation and conclusion with its presented data and misrepresented its historical referencing of the Miller case.

First, the editorial board showed a limited understanding of American founding ideology in respect to the militia and individual right to keep and bear arms. As much as the framers differed in opinion on what kind of representation should be adopted from the heated debates over land rights in the Articles of Confederation to the impassioned exchanges over the Virginia and New Jersey Plans in the Constitutional Convention, one thing was for sure: the Whig-influenced belief of rulers versus ruled connected the eclectic likes of James Madison and Patrick Henry to advocate for a government stemming from the people under the concession of a mutual contract.

A skepticism towards their British rulers soon shifted towards even the state legislatures themselves as the “people out-doors” would even organize to negate laws not in agreement with their own views. This skepticism also applied to the government having the possibility to oppress the citizenry through an organized military.

Thus, when Jefferson wrote Madison concerning the drafted constitution, he emphasized the need for individual rights to be protected under a bill of rights guaranteeing “freedom of religion, freedom of the press, protection against standing armies, etc”. The coupling of the second amendment’s militia prefatory and individual operative clauses embodied Whig ideology and ensured individual liberty for each citizen to not be abused by a full-time military and to not be prohibited from “laws that forbid the carrying of arms” as well for, as Jefferson said, “such laws make things worse for the assaulted and better for the assailants” serving “rather to encourage than to prevent homicides”.

Second, the board misinterpreted the Miller decision as evidence of a collective right. I had the pleasure the other day to sit down with Heller counsel and Cato Institute fellow Robert Levy, who addressed the implications surrounding the Miller decision and its relation to Heller. He charged that Miller has continuously been misapplied in appellate court decisions since its inception as the case’s ruling pertained to firearm type and did not address the individual right question or establish a militia-only precedent.

The case surrounded whether the “National Firearms Act” prohibited the use of a sawed-off shotgun – “the right to keep and bear such an instrument”. If anything, Justice McReynolds’ opinion agrees with Justice Scalia’s reasoning that a “militia is assumed by Article I already to be in existence. Congress is given the power to ‘provide for calling forth the militia…not to organize’” it. Thus, the government would call upon individual citizens who were “expected to appear bearing arms supplied by themselves” that had been for their personal use.

The concept that individuals in a liberal Republic would serve as citizens-at-arms who owned their own weapons for personal use does not just go back to individual rights under English common law (the post-1688 Revolution English Bill of Rights ensured an individual right to bear arms) but is evident in the writings of even Machiavelli who in Discourses on Livy and the Art of War argued that the arms defined the state.

Third, the board is correct in admitting the ineffectiveness of municipal handgun bans though for the wrong reasons. Law-respecting citizens now have to travel outside of Chicago to purchase a handgun that is illegal for them to carry in the city; at the same time, some malefactor can acquire their handgun illegally within the city and contribute to the escalating gun crime in Chicago. Moreover, the board’s throwing out of statistics towards the end of the article and assertion then to “at least have that debate” to repeal the second amendment serves as an example of miscorrelation and testament to the inefficiency of the very laws the board is attempting to defend.

On a personal note, during my first year at the university, I once had to brandish my KA-BAR knife (also illegal in Chicago) to thwart a personal theft. I thank God that the assailants were not carrying a gun; sadly, unlike in my case, innocent individuals unjustly fall victim to gun-toting miscreants and Chicago’s oppressive laws all too often.

Finally, nobody can deny the existence of limits on the second amendment; but now, we must continue the fight for liberty across the states in guaranteeing that no longer will we have not just our constitutional rights but our natural law rights completely repressed by such overweening laws as in DC.

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