OPINION: The Second Amendment was never about protecting rights — it was about suppressing them

OPINION: The Second Amendment was never about protecting rights — it was about suppressing them

(Natalie Bauer • The Student Life) If you’re ever asked for a random quote from the annals of Virginia state government, here’s one to remember: “Nothing will preserve [liberty] but downright force … Everyone who is able might have a gun.” Such a statement would not be out of place from Virginia Republicans today, with the newly elected Democratic legislative majority having just passed several major gun control bills, though not before a “pro-Second Amendment” rally last month of over 20,000 people against new gun regulations. But this quote isn’t from 2020 — it’s from 1788, during the debate on whether Virginia should ratify the proposed constitution for the 12-year-old nation. It was said by Patrick Henry, of “Give me liberty, or give me death!” fame. But we can assume he didn’t mean everyone ought to have a gun — presumably, he didn’t include the slaves he owned throughout his life . In Virginia’s debate on ratification, some might draw parallels to modern America’s unique gun culture, distinguished by the belief that gun ownership is necessary to protect our rights. But we also see the true motivation behind the Second Amendment, a direct result of these debates in Virginia — perhaps, with implications for contemporary legal interpretations. In summer 1788, as fellow Virginian James Madison (the primary writer of the Constitution) and his Federalist bloc pushed for ratification, they were opposed by Henry’s Antifederalists, who feared a strong federal government would subvert state authority. Of particular concern was Article […]

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