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R. D. Skidmore

Rewrite the Second Amendment?
By R.D. Skidmore, Prof.
Jun 2, 2004 - 7:15:00 AM

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Richard Skidmore is a professor at Los Angeles Pierce College, Woodland Hills, California, having taught at Pierce College since 1975.
O’ Hear ye, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled in their December decision that the Second Amendment of the Constitution was not adopted "to afford rights to individuals with respect to private gun ownership or possession."

The left hails this courts decisions as decisive and correct, while the right sees the court as a bulwark to destroy our republican form of government and forging the links in chains of usurpation. Remember, this is the same federal court that declared the Pledge of Allegiance an unconstitutional endorsement of religion and has a record of more decisions reversed than any other court.

Have these judges made a sound judicial decision or legislated from the bench? The answer is in our history, our Constitution and especially the Second Amendment, a part of our "Bill of Rights." Some may think that surely this is a trick question that only a judge can divine. However, I assure you that the answer is meant for the common man in jury to resolve.

Judge for yourself, the Second Amendment states: "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."

Today’s media debates are often pro-gun and anti-gun advocacy matches. But reviewing the debates that confirmed our Constitution and our "Bill of Rights" we recognize that today’s debates are similar to those of 1787: Should we have a federal government that is overreaching and infringes on individual liberties or should the individual be protected and the federal government be limited?

Indeed I hear your question: Where can I find the answer to a limited or infringing government which in turn can resolve the debate on gun control and determine if the 9th Circuit Court gets an A or an F in its decision?

The answer is in two books, "The Federalist Papers" and "The Anti-Federalist Papers." One may obtain them at any quality bookstore, each at under $10.

Federalists sought a central federal government to assure a "more perfect union," with the benefits that an energetic government would bring in commerce and prestige much as England had. James Wilson, Supreme Court Justice and signer of both the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, saw with particular clarity, strong government could as much serve the people when controlled by them as it could injure them when it was hostile.

Anti-federalists were skeptical of any new constitution and saw the federalist hopes as lust by ambitious men for a "splendid empire" where, in the time-honored way, "the people would be burdened with taxes, conscriptions, and campaigns." They saw the enlarged powers of any central government as familiar threats to the rights and liberties of the people.

Be not mistaken in this, Federalists understood the need to limit the powers of government having endured the long struggle to end the "tyranny" of kings and wanted insurance that government would be faithful to the people, stable, and filled with wisdom in its enactments.

As the debate over the new Constitution progressed, anti-federalist objections crystallized into specific proposals for amendments that would assure the new federal governments limited powers. In some state conventions, these amendments were insisted upon prior to their ratifying the Constitution. Their proposals being similar in nature were later included as the first ten amendments, which we call "The Bill of Rights."

Consider Virginia, in 1788, offered 20 amendments for consideration.

Its 17th states: "That the people have a right to keep and bear arms; that a well-regulated militia, composed of the body of the people trained to arms, is the proper, natural, and safe defence of a free state; that standing armies, in time of peace, are dangerous to liberty, and therefore ought to be avoided, as far as the circumstances and protection of the community will admit; and that, in all cases, the military should be under strict subordination to, and governed by, the civil power."

Similarly Pennsylvania, upon ratification, issued 14 recommended amendments and the 7th reads: "That people have a right to bear arms for the defense of themselves and their own state … and that the military shall be kept under strict subordination to and be governed by the civil powers."

Considering our recorded history, one could reasonably ask: Did the 9th Circuit judges abrogate the history of our nation, ignore the grievances that compelled us to separate from England, discard the debates of the Federalists and Anti-federalists, legislate from the bench which is not their responsibility, and thus compel another re-writing of our natural history to justify their decree, relying on the general ignorance of the people to allow their decisions to stand? A simpler question is: What part of "shall not be infringed" is not understood?

Richard Skidmore is a professor at Pierce College in Woodland Hills, Ca. He may be contacted at

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