Most Americans do not know of or have ever been taught what the majority of the original 13 States said and did when they actually ratified our current Constitution. Let me introduce you to these seldom discussed or known documents. Collectively they are called the "Ratification Documents". Statements, clarifications, understandings and/or instructions included with their acceptance of our Constitution.
RKBA is a DKos group of second amendment supporters who also have progressive and liberal values. We don't think that being a liberal means one has to be anti-gun. Some of us are extreme in our second amendment views (no licensing, no restrictions on small arms) and some of us are more moderate (licensing, restrictions on small arms.) Moderate or extreme, we hold one common belief: more gun control equals lost elections. We don't want a repeat of 1994. We are an inclusive group: if you see the Second Amendment as safeguarding our right to keep and bear arms individually, then come join us in our conversation. If you are against the right to keep and bear arms, come join our conversation. We look forward to seeing you, as long as you engage in a civil discussion. RKBA stands for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms.
The most progressive documents ever created by Man are The Declaration of Independence and our Constitution: when a group of people declared in one voice that man was the arbiter of his own destiny. We either voluntarily or unknowingly gave away our natural or unalienable rights to be ruled by kings, dictators or pious leaders. Sovereignty was no longer the privy of a select few but the inherent right of every human being ever born.
These ideas were more dangerous than all the standing armies man has ever mustered. For man to believe that he was above any king or potentate and that he gave them their power was, in a term, blasphemy! For our Founding Fathers to think so was a testament to their understanding of the oppression that has plagued the masses throughout history.
Simply put, sovereignty flowed from natural law (or a Creator, if you must) to man and from man to the government he creates.
It was with these ideas that 7 out of the 13 original States submitted addenda to their Ratification Documents that I mentioned above. Six States simply agreed to the new Constitution, and said so in short statements. The others did so by separating them into two parts, a "Declaration of Rights" and "Amendments". New York most eloquently states:
and that those clauses in the said Constitution, which declare that Congress shall not have or exercise certain powers, do not imply that Congress is entitled to any powers not given by the said Constitution; but such clauses are to be construed either as exceptions to certain specified powers, or as inserted merely for greater caution.
Meaning the Constitution granted specific limited powers to the federal government, and if it was not clearly stated therein, the federal government did not have that power and conversely, just because a specific unalienable right was not mentioned did not negate those left unmentioned. They only included those unalienable rights that the federal government could never transgress and were added for greater clarification.
How do these documents relate to someone's RKBA one may ask? Well let me clarify, to the best of my understanding and abilities. To get to the main points of this diary, we must review those Declaration Of Rights and what they actually said in the "First Debates In Congress."
We can assume nothing by the silence of the minority other than being part of a Union was better than "going it alone" and there is "strength in numbers". As Virginia points out here:
that, whatsoever imperfections may exist in the Constitution, ought rather to be examined in the mode prescribed therein, than to bring the Union into danger by a delay, with a hope of obtaining amendments previous to the ratification
One cannot argue from the position of Federalist versus Anti-federalist because those arguments preceded these enumerations and clarifications. We must look at the end results of those debates. Our current Constitution was ultimately ratified. Most are continually misdirected to read this Federalist paper or that Anti-Federalist paper; many parse out statements from Hamilton or Jefferson and say "see", this is what they meant, ignoring the final verdict. This line of debate is a red herring.
We have in our hands, their actual words, fears and directions to the newly created Federal government. What they believed they were doing by their assent to the aforementioned Constitution and how they expected the new federal government to act and interpret it.
They went a step further and expected that any amendments adhere to the spirit of these statements.
How many times have we all heard or claimed "it's the spirit of the law not how it's written?"
As Rhode Island points out two separate times:
Under these impressions, and declaring that the rights aforesaid cannot be abridged or violated, and that the explanations aforesaid are consistent with the said Constitution,
to obtain a ratification of the following amendments to the said Constitution, in the manner prescribed therein; and in all laws to be passed by the Congress in the mean time, to conform to the spirit of the said amendments, as far as the Constitution will admit.
The 7 States ofVirginia,New York, Rhode Island, North Carolina, South Carolina, New Hampshire, and Massachusettsall admit in their opening remarks in some shape or form that they were speaking for and at the request of the people of their particular State, Commonwealth or Constituency. Virginia takes this idea a step further and claims:
DO in the name and in behalf of the people of Virginia, declare and make known that the powers granted under the Constitution, being derived from the people of the United States may be resumed by them whensoever the same shall be perverted to their injury or oppression,
There is much debate and confusion rested upon the term "people", did "people" mean collectively, as in "The People of the State of New York" or as "people", the plural form of person, the individual citizen? Today, we use the term "persons" to identify more than one individual, or plurality. Our Founders were learned men and used the proper term "people" to signify plurality. The term "people" was not meant as a "collectivist" term or "collectively." If that was the case, South Carolina would not have stated:
in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquillity, provide for the common defence, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to the people of the said United States, and their posterity, — Do, in the name and behalf of the people of this state, hereby assent to and ratify the said Constitution.
It seems that New York made similar points:
That the powers of government may be reassumed by the people whensoever it shall become necessary to their happiness; that every power, jurisdiction, and right, which is not by the said Constitution clearly delegated to the Congress of the United States, or the departments of the government thereof, remains to the people of the several states, or to their respective state governments, to whom they may have granted the same;
Please note that they are distinguishing the people from their constructed state governments or their appointed magistrates, trustees and/or agents. It's also clear with the use of the term "and their posterity", it's obviously referencing human beings and their descendants. For States cannot have descendants, correct? We are not property of the State governments we created.
The basic difference between the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence. One establishes a government, the other doesn't. One rests on man-made law, the other on natural law; one posits only conferred rights, the other posits inalienable rights.
Not only does this kind of misinformation get taught to future Public Safety Officers and Students, it ignores the actual facts. The Constitution grants nothing, it's sole intent was to create a government that would protect unalienable rights we already possess; that precede the Constitution or any government of man!
This brings us to the crux of these Ratification Documents. They all state in some form or another as Rhode Island does here:
That there are certain natural rights of which men, when they form a social compact, cannot deprive or divest their posterity,—among which are the enjoyment of life and liberty, with the means of acquiring, possessing, and protecting property, and pursuing and obtaining happiness and safety.
XVII. That the people have a right to keep and bear arms; that a well- regulated militia, including the body of the people capable of bearing arms, is the proper, natural, and safe defence of a free state; that the militia shall not be subject to martial law, except in time of war, rebellion, or insurrection; that standing armies, in time of peace, are dangerous to liberty, and ought not to be kept up,
Under these impressions, and declaring that the rights aforesaid cannot be abridged or violated and that the explanations aforesaid are consistent with the said Constitution.
There are numerous discussions that falsely claim that they are attaching the right to keep and bear arms with service in the militia. Note the use of the semi-colon. This is a separate thought and idea. New Hampshire clarifies this separate unalienable right here:
XII. Congress shall never disarm any citizen, unless such as are or have been in actual rebellion.
Virginia, North Carolina and Rhode Island go even further to grant those of religious scruples the power, if called to "bear arms", to hire someone in their steed. A very progressive ideal of a religious exemption!
19th. That any person religiously scrupulous of bearing arms ought to be exempted upon payment of an equivalent to employ another to bear arms in his stead.
If it wasn't an individual right, then why make an exemption for the "person religiously scrupulous of bearing arms"? It's evident they were making two separate points. This is simple logic. If we all showed up at the scene of an invasion, we all couldn't all be generals, could we? If one person from Rhode Island yells, "Shoot first ask, questions later" and someone from New York yells, "No, wait 'till you can see the whites of their eyes", which direction does one follow? There is a clear need for some type of command and control structure.
Furthermore, no one can defend themselves against tyrannical transgressions or edicts of their government without having the force. Our founding fathers exercised that natural right "to keep and bear arms" in freeing themselves from their oppression. See Rhode Island's point here:
II. That all power is naturally vested in, and consequently derived from, the people; that magistrates, therefore, are their trustees and agents, and at all times amenable to them.
What does one do if those magistrates, trustees, or agents ignore you? Some claim we have the right to vote them out of office. We cannot vote out the appointed Commissioner for the Board of Elections. We cannot vote out of office the appointed FDA, EPA, USDA, or IRS administrators. Remember the Poll Taxes, Literacy Tests or the current "Caging Lists"? They were designed to disenfranchise people or a specific group of people.
If they meant that we could not "bear arms" against a tyrannical government and if they believed such an act was rebellion or insurrection, they wouldn't have said, as is pointed out by North Carolina:
- That government ought to be instituted for the common benefit, protection, and security, of the people; and that the doctrine of non-resistance against arbitrary power and oppression is absurd, slavish, and destructive to the good and happiness of mankind.
New York, Virginia and Rhode Island wants the militia to be exempt from martial law, except in war, rebellion or insurrection and they put time limits on the use of the militia outside of their respective states too.
That the militia should not be subject to martial law, except in time of war, rebellion, or insurrection.
That the militia of any state shall not be compelled to serve without the limits of the state, for a longer term than six weeks, without the consent of the legislature thereof.
This leads into a another thought: did our Founding Fathers believe themselves to be "terrorists" or "insurrectionists"? Not in the slightest, they had pleaded and begged for redress and the only answer they got was silence and further oppression.
They gave us a foundation with which to build the greatest nation humanity has ever known. They also understood that there may come a time when the need may arise to "bear arms" again, and that right was inviolate! Whether that need arose from a foreign power trying to invade or from the very government they created.
Our Congress made all of my the points stated above during their First Debates in Congress when they were addressing these Ratification Documents and amending the Constitution to comply.
"First there be prefixed to the constitution a declaration, that all power is originally vested in, and consequently derived from, the people.
That Government is instituted and ought to be exercised for the benefit of the people; which consists in the enjoyment of life and liberty, with the right of acquiring and using property, and generally of pursuing and obtaining happiness and safety.
That the people have an indubitable, unalienable, and indefeasible right to reform or change their Government, whenever it be found adverse or inadequate to the purpose of its institution.
"But whatever may be the form which the several States have adopted in making declarations in favor of particular rights, the great object in view is to limit and qualify the powers of Government, by excepting out of the graut of power those cases in which the Government ought not to act, or to act in a particular mode."
"I would gentlemen to consider the authorities upon which the two constitutions are to stand. The original was established by the people at large, by conventions chosen by the for the express purpose. The preamble to the constitution declares the act: but will it be a truth in ratifying the next constitution, which is to be done perhaps by the State Legislatures, and not conventions chosen for the purpose?
Will gentlemen say it is "We the people" in this case? Certainly they cannot; for, by the present constitution, we, nor all the legislatures in the Union together, do not possess the power of repealing it. All that is granted us, by the 5th article is, that whenever we shall think it necessary, we may propose amendments to the constitution: not that we may propose to repeal the old and substitute a new one.
The amendments reported are a declaration of rights; the people are secure in them, whether we declare them or not;"
Special note: To clarify above quote, they were not discussing the Articles of Confederation versus the newly ratified Constitution, they were discussing what it was they were actually doing by amending the new Constitution. They debated whether or not they were creating a completely new document or were they just changing the original.
"A well regulated militia, composed of the body of the people, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed; but no person religiously scrupulous shall be compelled to bear arms".
This declaration of rights, I take it, is intended to secure the people against the mal-administration of the Government; if we could suppose that, in all cases, the rights of the people would be attended to, the occasion for guards of this kind would be removed. Now, I am apprehensive, sir, that this clause would give an opportunity to the people in power to destroy the constitution itself. They can declare who are those religiously scrupulous, and prevent them from bearing arms.
"What, sir, is the use of a militia? It is to prevent the establishment of a standing army, the bane of liberty. Now, it must be evident, that, under this provision, together with their other powers, Congress could take such measures with respect to a militia, as to make a standing army necessary.
Whenever Governments mean to invade the rights and liberties of the people, they always attempt to destroy the militia, in order to raise an army upon their ruins."
"We do not live under an arbitrary Government, and the States, respectively will have the government of the militia, unless when called into actual service."
Could their intentions not be more clear? "Keeping and bearing arms" was every human beings inherent right, and if necessary to use those "arms" to secure the people (plural) against the mal-administration of the government! And that every person in the United States was a militia member and only when called into duty could their "right to keep and bear arms" be controlled, directed or limited but not until that point or afterwards.
If the Founders meant for the "right to keep and bear arms" as only being attached to militia service, or as a "collective right", as many falsely claim, then whey didn't they say it?
For example, "the right to keep and bear arms may only be exercised while in service as a militia member for the protection of the State or Nation".
New York, Virginia, Rhode Island and even Massachusetts said similar things when ratifying our Constitution. It's clear they believed that the protection and/or restoration of Constitutional Law was not to be construed as rebellion or insurrection. These actions were not only the inherent right of free people, it was their duty!
I'd go to this final step, for those "anti-gun advocates" that try to paint "gun owners as odd, absurd or crazy." I'd ask: is the exercise of my unalienable right to free speech crazy? Or my unalienable right to "remain silent" crazy? Or my unalienable right to practice my religion crazy? Wait, scratch that last one. I truly wonder if religion isn't (as I laugh). Be that as it may, exercising your rights does not make you bad, crazy or anything. It does make you a free human being.
If you don't believe me, will you believe our modern day Senate and their findings?
Report of the Subcommittee on the Constitution of the Committee on the Judiciary, United States Senate, 97th Congress, Second Session (February 1982) that found:
The conclusion is thus inescapable that the history, concept, and wording of the second amendment to the Constitution of the United States, as well as its interpretation by every major commentator and court in the first half century after its ratification, indicates that what is protected is an individual right of a private citizen to own and carry firearms in a peaceful manner.
Special Note: while I point to this quote, see the "spin" that our Congress puts on it today "...in a peaceful manner". This was never said in any of the Ratification Documents, "The First Debates in Congress" or any Supreme Court Decisions.
I will end with this: don't take my word for anything. Take the time, sit down and read these Ratification Documents in full, then read the "First Debates in Congress", in full. Understand that I'm not putting any "spin" on these historical facts, just presenting them to you.
Take responsibility to learn about those things that are intentionally misinterpreted, obfuscated and vilified. Don't be mislead into believing those who exercise their inherent rights are your enemy or worse "just crazy". Ask yourself this: why would we be intentionally misinformed or misdirected from these facts? Why has this subject become so divisive and destructive? My only answer: lack of proper education based on divide and conquer ideologies.
Suggested further readings:
"Rummel observes that while library stacks have been written on the possible nature and consequences of nuclear war and how it might be avoided, the reality is that up to 360 million civilians have been slaughtered by their own governments just in the 20th Century! Yet, very few books have dealt with the overall human cost of "death by government" (The Black Book of Communism being one exception).
Just as criminals prefer unarmed victims, tyrants prefer disarmed citizens. A government that does not trust its citizens with weapons cannot be trusted with power.
6. The right to bear arms is not granted by the Constitution; neither is it in any manner dependent upon that instrument for its existence. The Second Amendments means no more than that it shall not be infringed by Congress, and has no other effect than to restrict the powers of the National Government.
The Dred Scott majority opinion listed the unacceptable consequences of black citizenship: black citizens would have the right to enter any state, to stay there as long as they pleased, and within that state they could go where they wanted at any hour of the day or night, unless they committed some act for which a white person could be punished. Further, black citizens would have "the right to . . . full liberty of speech in public and private upon all subjects which [a state's] own citizens might meet; to hold public meetings upon political affairs, and to keep and carry arms wherever they went."
Special Note: The Dred Scott case is changed by the 14th Amendment which gave Blacks citizenship. It does not negate the legal position that keeping and bearing arms is still an individual right.