From Consortium News
A painting of President George Washington leading a force of federalized state militias against the Whiskey rebels in western Pennsylvania in 1794.
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Many politicians, especially those on the Right, pretend they are strictly adhering to the U.S. Constitution when they often are just making the founding document mean whatever they want -- but perhaps nowhere is that as dangerous as with their make-believe Second Amendment.
In the wake of Sunday's mass shooting in Las Vegas -- where one individual firing from a high-rise hotel murdered 59 people and wounded more than 500 at a country music festival -- we are told that the reason the United States can't do anything to stop this sort of carnage is the Second Amendment's "right to bear arms."
"Gun rights" advocates insist that pretty much any gun control violates the design of the Constitution's Framers and thus can't be enacted no matter how many innocent people die.
Some on the Right, as well as some on the Left, even claim that the Founders, as revolutionaries themselves, wanted an armed population so the people could rebel against the Republic, which the U.S. Constitution created. But the Constitution's Framers in 1787 and the authors of the Bill of Rights in the First Congress in 1789 had no such intent.
Arguably other individuals disconnected from the drafting of those documents may have harbored such radical attitudes (at least rhetorically), but the authors didn't. In fact, their intent was the opposite.
The goal of the Second Amendment was to promote state militias for the maintenance of order at a time of political unrest, potential slave revolts and simmering hostilities with both European powers and Native Americans on the frontiers. Indeed, the amendment's defined purpose was to achieve state "security" against disruptions to the country's new republican form of government.
The Second Amendment reads: "A well-regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed."
In other words, if read in context, it's clear that the Second Amendment was enacted so each state would have the specific right to form "a well-regulated militia" to maintain "security," i.e., to put down armed disorder and protect its citizens.
In the late Eighteenth Century, the meaning of "bearing" arms also referred to a citizen being part of a militia or army. It didn't mean that an individual had the right to possess whatever number of high-capacity killing machines that he or she might want. Indeed, the most lethal weapon that early Americans owned was a slow-loading, single-fired musket or rifle.
Further to the point, both the Constitution and the Bill of Rights were the work of the Federalists, who -- at the time -- counted James Madison among their ranks.
And whatever one thinks about the Federalists, who often are criticized as elitists, they were the principal constitutional Framers and the leaders of the First Congress. They constituted the early national establishment, people such as George Washington, Alexander Hamilton, Gouverneur Morris and Madison.
The Federalists feared that their new creation, a constitutional republic in an age of monarchies, was threatened by the potential for violent chaos, which is what European aristocrats predicted for the new United States. Democracy was a largely untested concept that was believed likely to fall victim to demagoguery and factionalism.