Guns Guns Everywhere…Is this what the Founding Fathers Really Envisioned?

This is one of the steaming bones of contention in 2014 America.  It’s right up there with abortion, gay rights and immigration reform.  People turn blue in the face, (or red in the face depending on where you are) when this emotional and extremely controversial subject comes up in conversation.  I must admit that through the long list of gun related atrocities that have plagued the country the last 20 years, I’ve had my opinions, sometimes expressed, but oft times kept to myself.  It just another one of those hot button topics that will instantly earn you a label, that will immediately piss off someone within earshot, that will brand you as a progressive thinker or a subverter of the Constitution!  I’ve decided that before I weigh in with my thoughts on guns in America, I’d do a bit of research and see what exactly all the brouhaha is about.

No discussion of guns in America can even begin without an investigation of the 2nd Amendment.  You know that pesky little piece of legislation that the Founding Fathers felt was necessary to be included in the Constitution as an item in the Bill Of Rights.

Cover of "A Well-Regulated Militia: The F...

Cover via Amazon

The Second Amendment of the United States Constitution 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.” The exact intent of this language has been debated ad infinitum.  To be sure it was a different world in the America of the late 18th century.  Could the Founding Fathers have envisioned the society that has developed over the last 230 some odd years.  I think not.  Having said that I believe their meaning to be quite clear.  If you need to defend your self against an oppressive government,  you must have the right to bear arms.  If was an interesting and no doubt “revolutionary” idea back then.  When applied to the conditions that exist today it is as outdated as riding horses and keeping slaves.

Cornell University on their web site says,” On the one hand, some believe that the Amendment’s phrase “the right of the people to keep and bear Arms” creates an individual constitutional right for citizens of the United States. Under this “individual right theory,” the United States Constitution restricts legislative bodies from prohibiting firearm possession, or at the very least, the Amendment renders prohibitory and restrictive regulation presumptively unconstitutional.”  This is the argument that is voiced by many on the right and in the conservative camp in today’s political climate.  Cornell continues,” On the other hand, some scholars point to the prefatory language “a well regulated Militia” to argue that the Framers intended only to restrict Congress from legislating away a state’s right to self-defense. Scholars have come to call this theory “the collective rights theory.” A collective rights theory of the Second Amendment asserts that citizens do not have an individual right to possess guns and that local, state, and federal legislative bodies therefore possess the authority to regulate firearms without implicating a constitutional right.” This second interpretation is generally espoused by those on the left and by those who consider themselves progressives or common sense thinkers.

Where exactly did the idea for this even come from?  According to WIKIPEDIA the Second Amendment was “based partially on the right to keep and bear arms in English common-law and was influenced by the English Bill of Rights of 1689”. Sir William Blackstone described this right as an auxiliary right, supporting the natural rights of self-defense, resistance to oppression, and the civic duty to act in concert in defense of the state.

So where does Joe Refano and his big mouth stand on this issue?  Let me say right here that my interpretation sides with the left in that I feel the Constitution sought to protect the people, as represented in their regional states,  from an oppressive centralized government and not to guarantee every citizen the right to carry a firearm.


I believe it doesn’t matter one bit which side of the fence you’re on. Why??? Because what we need is a logical, rational and workable plan that addresses the problem with reasonable solutions.

I HAVE JUST SUCH A PLAN and I will clue you in as to what my solution (s) for the gun violence epidemic in my next posting.




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7 Responses to Guns Guns Everywhere…Is this what the Founding Fathers Really Envisioned?

  1. Joanne F says:

    Thanks for addressing one of my favorite subjects! It is the most misunderstood, misinterpreted and antiquated amendment in the Bill of Rights that is still being relied upon. Great job, Joe. I’m dying to chime in, and I can’t wait to see what everyone else has to say. I think my comment will be a bit long, and I apologize to everyone in advance, but this is an issue near and dear to my heart. Please bear with me.

    I want to preface my statements, if you don’t mind, by giving a little bit of my background in this area. I do this with some discomfort, but I find that when I comment in this area, most people treat me as though I’m making stuff up and have no basis in what I say. One of my areas of expertise as a lawyer is Constitutional law. (I don’t get to take on too many of those cases, because they are few and far between — and the ACLU has pretty well cornered the market — but I have litigated several civil rights cases.) I also have taught it both on the junior college level and at the high school level as a guest speaker for the Nassau County branch of the ACLU. (And to show you just how big a nerd I am, in law school I got the “book award”, the highest grade in my class, in Constitutional Law II, which was the study of the Bill of Rights.) OK, ’nuff said, I just want you to know that I’m not pulling stuff out of thin air.

    You perfectly quote the wording of the Second Amendment, and I’m so glad you did, because most people don’t even know the first two dependent clauses exist. Now, what was going on in America at the time the Founding Fathers adopted our beautiful Constitution and Bill of Rights as the basis of our democracy? We had just fought off the Brits to become independent under a government that was unable to raise an army. The colonists had to rely on each other to defend themselves and the country from outsiders. Why? Prior to the Constitution, we were governed by the Articles of Confederation, our first form of government. It was extremely decentralized, mostly because the Founders were burned out by King George III and his despotic behavior — they just didn’t want to have another heavy-handed federal government. Except after a few years under the Articles, they realized that the national gov’t was too decentralized and they couldn’t become cohesive as a country. So they changed to our Constitution, which gave the federal gov’t more power.

    Because the colonists had a “people’s army” at that time, and because the new federal gov’t was unable to raise the money to fund a militia, the citizens were expected to bear arms and defend the country — and that’s why the right was created as it was, with the words “well-regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state”. Don’t believe me? Look at the Third Amendment, which is completely obsolete today: “No Soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the Owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law.” Again, because it was difficult to raise the money to fund a militia, those few official Soldiers who did exist were housed in private citizens’ homes. Note that nobody talks about the Third Amendment today. But the Second Amendment went hand-in-hand with the Third, and is as obsolete as the Third. Now we have an overly well-regulated militia, and we don’t need people’s armies or private citizens to house the military.

    I truly believe there is NO private right to own guns, and in fact, SCOTUS did not claim there was such a right until its 2008 opinion in the Heller case. (Thank you, radical, activist right wing of SCOTUS, interpreting the Constitution in ways the Founders never intended for the past three decades.)

    Think my views are radical? Well, I am pleased to say that they have actually been vindicated very recently in a new book by a Constitutional Law expert, Michael Waldman, in “The Second Amendment: A Biography”. It is considered an outstanding, unbiased historical view of the “right to bear arms”. Here’s a link to a very good review of it:

    Here’s another link to information about his book:

    I truly hope Mr. Waldman gets the conversation going about the misinterpretation of the Second Amendment on the national level, so we can stop the insanity with gun violence. In the meantime, I am so grateful that you had the courage to devote one of your blogs to this important issue, to get the conversation going on the local level. Thank you! Well done!

    • joeref says:

      Your summation is excellent and it’s the perfect lead in to my next post on this subject which will be MY solution(s) to the ever contentious situation with the rights to bear arms. Thanks Joanne for a great piece.

  2. Joanne F says:

    Thanks so much, Joe, and I apologize again for being so long-winded. I’m very much looking forward to Part 2 and your solution(s)! I’m glad you care enough to discuss it and brainstorm it. I wish everyone else would get involved…

  3. joeref says:

    It’s a scary topic. Hope I don’t get shot! 😉

  4. Joanne F says:

    You so funny, Refano! 🙂 And while we joke about that, the truth is that the whackos with guns would just as soon shoot us for even discussing it. Why is it that those who advocate so strongly for unfettered rights to own guns are the least capable of handling them? What the NRA has wrought! Anyway, I’m going to read your solution post as soon as I have a few free minutes. I look forward to reading what you have to say.

  5. joeref says:

    Problem is the “whacko” is us! Many very “normal” people have picked up guns and used them in criminal acts. That’s one of the things that makes the issues so frigthening and so confusing. nearly anybody can have their 15 minutes.

  6. Joanne F says:

    Speak for yourself, pal! I’m no whacko! 🙂

    If anything, that “normal” people might pick up a gun and use it in a criminal act is further proof that guns don’t belong in the hands of ANY private citizens! Thanks for making my case for a total ban on private gun ownership. 🙂

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