, Newburyport, MA


December 27, 2012

Lay the myth to rest


With these two amendments as a frame, let us turn to the Second Amendment, which is about the “security of a free state … .” A permanent military is an established part of today’s United States. It’s common for our citizens to serve in our armed forces in a variety of ways; I am one of them.

But for my European ancestors of the 17th and 18th centuries, it was a different story. They had invaded the lands of an established people, who often resisted violently, and hunting was part of everyday life, so these newcomers were armed accordingly. When the relationship between the colonists and the English government unraveled in the later 1700s, it became the colonists’ turn to resist with force, which meant they had to acquire military weapons and they had to organize into militias. The term militia has taken on connotations far removed from the Minutemen that Paul Revere rode to warn, in part because we no longer need our citizens to organize and arm themselves with military weapons to provide for the “security of a free state … .”

Having a nation of more than 300 million people requires us to delegate all kinds of responsibilities in our much more complicated 21st century world, including what is “necessary to the security of a free state … ,” so we have delegated “the right of people to bear arms” to specialists, which we call police and soldiers, which our largely representative government does its best to see are “well regulated … .” Even with the dissent citizens have expressed about some of our wars, there is no longer neither king nor Parliment to “infringe” on the right of the American people, through its armed forces, “to keep and bear arms … .”

There is a important discussion to be held about military weapons and their copies in the hands of civilians, about hunting as it exists in our time, and about target shooting at a range, a discussion between people who can work together to address common concerns and leave the Second Amendment myth out of it. Our fundamental freedoms of religion, speech, press, assembly and petition are not at issue. However, the responsibility that goes with freedom is. The conversation cannot begin soon enough.


John Harwood of Newbury is a retired community journalist and a patriot.

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