Gun Rights Don’t Come from the Second Amendment

Jacob G. Hornberger–Whenever there is a gun massacre, statists inevitably respond that it’s time to repeal the Second Amendment. The idea is that if the Second Amendment is gone, so will be the right to own guns in the United States.

There is just one big problem with that position: It’s wrong. The Second Amendment, like the First Amendment, doesn’t give anyone any rights. Instead, it prohibits the federal government from infringing on rights that are natural and God-given and that preexist government.

The Declaration of Independence sets forth the essential principles. Every person (i.e., not just American citizens) is endowed by nature or God with fundamental rights. These include life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

Thus, given that people’s rights are natural and God-given, they preexist government. The rights come first and the government comes second.

What is the purpose of government? The Declaration answers the question: The purpose of government is to protect the existence and exercise of people’s natural, God-given rights.

That was the reason for calling the federal government into existence with the U.S. Constitution—to protect people’s natural, God-given rights that preexisted the federal government.

A big potential problem arises: The possibility, even likelihood, that the government itself will end up infringing or even destroying people’s rights. That possibility deeply concerned our American ancestors. They were convinced that government itself, not some foreign entity, constituted the biggest threat to their freedom, privacy, property, and pursuit of happiness. That’s why they were not terribly enthusiastic about approving the Constitution. If they hadn’t approved it, the United States would have continued operating under the Articles of Confederation, under which the national government didn’t even have the power to tax people.



The American people finally decided to go along with the deal. The biggest argument that finally sold it to them was that the U.S. Constitution, which called the federal government into existence, strictly limited the powers of the federal government to those few powers that were enumerated in the document. Those enumerated powers did not include the power to infringe or destroy people’s natural, God-given rights — rights, again, that preexisted the federal government.

Thus, even without the Bill of Rights, the federal government had no legitimate authority to control what people read or what people owned, including books and guns. That’s because these rights preexisted the government and because the Constitution did not give the federal government the power to infringe on these preexisting rights.

In fact, if the government did infringe on people’s natural, God-given rights, it would be violating the very reason that people call governments into existence — to protect the existence and the exercise of their rights.

So why then was the Bill of Rights necessary? In a technical sense, it wasn’t. Since the powers delegated to the federal government were enumerated in the Constitution and since the delegated powers did not include the powers to control what people read or owned (including books and guns), the Bill of Rights was essentially superfluous.

In fact, some people even argued that by enumerating some rights in the Bill of Rights, that might be construed to mean that those were the only rights that were being protected. That’s why the Ninth Amendment was enacted — to point out that that was not the intention.

The reason the Bill of Rights was enacted was because of the deep concern that our American ancestors had about the threat that the new federal government would pose to their rights and liberties. They believed that this government — their government — would inevitably end up doing what every other government in history has done — destroy there rights.

That’s why they enacted the Bill of Rights — to hammer the message home that the American people were expressly prohibiting the federal government from traveling the road to tyranny that all other governments in history had travelled.

But notice something important about the Bill of Rights: It gives no one any rights. Instead, it prohibits the federal government from infringing or destroying rights that already exist. it really should have been called a Bill of Prohibitions rather than a Bill of Rights.

Thus, people don’t have the right to own guns because of the Second Amendment, just as people don’t have the right of free speech because of the First Amendment. People’s natural, God-given rights preexist government. They exist whether the Bill of Rights, the Constitution, and the federal government are there or not.

What happens when a government infringes or destroys the rights of the people? The Declaration of Independence gives us the answer: It is the right of the people to alter or even abolish the government and institute new government whose powers are limited to its legitimate function. That’s a right that every American living today should keep in mind.



2 Replies to “Gun Rights Don’t Come from the Second Amendment

  1. EXCELLENT …….. should be read by every child in America …. followed by a quiz.
    ————–
    There has never been a government that banned it’s own ARMED FORCES from “Keeping and Bearing” ARMS.
    Find one government in the history of humanity that felt a need to document a “RIGHT” for it’s ARMED FORCES to possess ARMS.
    Oppressive Governments are ALWAYS banning the People’S RIGHTS to arms.
    The claim that the Founding Fathers wrote the 2nd Amendment to give Our ARMED FORCES a “right” to keep and carry ARMS is S-T-U-P-I-D.
    The only reason for the Second Amendment is to clearly spell-out the GOD GIVEN RIGHT of INDIVIDUALS to keep & bear ARMS.
    The only reason for the BILL(list) of RIGHTS was to codify INDIVIDUALS’ GOD GIVEN RIGHTS.
    Has there ever been a government that was not chock full of it’s “rights” up to and including declaring itself to be the Lord God Almighty?! (Rome, Egypt, Israel,etc)
    Does the 1st Amendment mean the GOVERNMENT is allowed to give speeches? Try shutting up any Politician. But THEY would LOVE to shut YOU up, hence the FIRST Amendment.
    Anyone who tells you the 2nd Amendment applies to the Army or State Militia, is telling you they think you are STUPID.
    There has NEVER been a government that felt it had to codify it’s army’s/soldier’s “RIGHT” to “Keep and BEAR ARMS” because there has NEVER been a government that refused to allow It’s own soldiers to KEEP and BEAR ARMS!
    The Second Amendment was written for the People, like the other 9 Amendments in the Bill of Rights. This was confirmed by the SCOTUS in the DC vs Heller decision, where they stated that the “People” in the Second Amendment were the same “People” that are mentioned in the First and Fourth Amendment.
    The 2nd Amendment clearly guarantees the “right of the PEOPLE to keep and bear arms”, and certainly not “the Militia”.
    Why would “the Militia”, a type of army manned by citizen-soldiers as opposed to full-time “regulars”, need a constitutional amendment to guarantee they have the right “to keep and bear arms”?
    Is there any specific statement anywhere in the Constitution that the army Congress is empowered to raise has the “right to keep and bear arms”?

    Of course not. …………. That is assumed.
    “The beauty of the Second Amendment is that it will not be needed until they try to take it.” — Thomas Jefferson

    It is implicit in the nature of all kinds of armies —- be they militia or regulars, volunteer, conscripted, or mercenary — to be armed.
    They are all “armed forces”.
    They all “bear arms”.
    They all carry guns.
    That is what they do.
    It certainly no more requires an amendment to the Constitution to state that “the Militia” has the RKBA , than a specific statement that the army Congress is empowered to raise may be manned by armed troops.

  2. Jacob G. Hornberger, Many framers and founders spent considerable time living in Europe. Benjamin Franklin lived abroad 27 years representing our nascent Republic in Europe. They were well acquainted with the absolutism of Monarchy and Religion. I am of the belief that the Bill of Rights was designed to attract and expose those would attack the Republic from within. Those who would dictate the rights that are acceptable based on their various agendas. Those who would DICTATE to others what rights are acceptable and what rights are not acceptable. Assuming the powers of Creator. What a brilliant trap that exposes humanity’s enemies.

    Jacob, Excellent explanation of the Bill of Rights. Bravo.

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