The Second Amendment and the War on Guns


The right to keep and bear arms is a vital element of the liberal order that our Founders handed down to us. They understood that those who hold political power will almost always strive to reduce the freedom of those they rule, and that many of the ruled will always be tempted to trade their liberty for empty promises of security. The causes of these political phenomena are sown in the nature of man. The U.S. Constitution, including the Second Amendment, is a device designed to frustrate the domineering tendencies of the politically ambitious. The Second Amendment also plays an important role in fostering the kind of civic virtue that resists the cowardly urge to trade liberty for an illusion of safety. Armed citizens take responsibility for their own security, thereby exhibiting and cultivating the self-reliance and vigorous spirit that is ultimately indispensable for genuine self-government. While much has changed since the eighteenth century, for better and for worse, human nature has not changed. The fundamental principles of our regime, and the understanding of human nature on which those principles are based, can still be grasped today. Once grasped, they can be defended. Such a defense demands an appreciation of the right to arms that goes beyond the legalistic and narrowly political considerations that drive contemporary gun control debates.