There are those among the gun-control crowd who advocate repealing the Second Amendment. They think that by doing so, they would be prohibiting people from owning guns. Unfortunately, they have a woeful lack of understanding of rights and the Constitution.
People’s rights do not come from either the original Constitution or the Bill of Rights. That’s what many in the gun-control crowd do not understand. They think that the reason people have the right to own guns is because of the Second Amendment.
As the Declaration of Independence points out, people’s rights come from nature and God. Thus, even if the federal government had never been established, even if the Constitution had never been ratified, and even if the Bill of Rights had never been enacted, people would still have the right to keep and bear arms because people’s rights preexist government and are independent of government.
By its very terms, the Constitution does not give anyone any rights, including the right to keep and bear arms. The purpose of the Constitution was simply to call the federal government into existence and to set the powers that it would have. If a power was listed, the government could exercise it. If a power was not listed, it could not exercise it.
Thus, the question naturally arises: Did the Constitution give to the federal government the power to control people’s ownership of weapons? It did not. That’s because the American people did not want a government that would have the power to infringe on people’s natural, God-given rights.
What about the Bill of Rights? It too does not give anyone any rights. A careful examination of the language of the First and Second Amendments shows that those two amendments are simply restrictions on the power of the federal government to infringe on rights that are natural and God-given and that preexist the federal government. In fact, a better name for the Bill of Rights would have been the Bill or Prohibitions.
Why did our American ancestors insist on passage of the Bill of Rights? After all, since the original Constitution did not give the federal government the power to deprive people of such rights as freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom of religions, and the right to keep and bear arms, why did Americans deem it necessary to expressly restrict the federal government from infringing on such rights?
The answer is that the American people wanted to be doubly certain that federal officials got the message, which was: Don’t even think of using your power to destroy our rights. Our ancestors knew that the Constitution had called a government with limited powers into existence, but they used the Bill of Rights to make certain that federal officials clearly understood that they were expressly prohibited from infringing on people’s rights.
What about rights that were not expressly enumerated in the Bill of Rights? That was the idea behind the Ninth Amendment. It essentially says that people have more rights than are enumerated in the Bill of Rights and that the federal government is prohibited from infringing on those as well.
Thus, repealing the Second Amendment would not affect people’s natural, God-given right to keep and bear arms. For that matter, neither would abolition of the Constitution and the federal government. Rights that are endowed in people by nature and God are permanent and inalienable and exist independently of government.
This article was originally published at the Future of Freedom Foundation and is republished here with permission.