We Know Exactly What the Founders Thought About Guns Because We Can Read What They Wrote

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George Washington AR-15
Courtesy warrior12.com

By Daniel Kowalski

In all my years of existence, the Second Amendment of our Constitution has always been considered controversial. Opponents claim it is the cause of gun violence. Proponents assert that it helps guarantee freedom and safety.

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.

These twenty-seven words have been the subject of much debate during the 20th and 21st centuries. Does it mean that citizens only have a right to own guns if the state has a well-regulated militia in place that they are a part of, or does it mean absolutely that the right to bear arms should not be infringed? Perhaps it means that you can only use guns for hunting purposes, or you’re not allowed to have anything more complicated than an 18th century musket because that’s what the founders had when they wrote this?

The last two questions don’t seem to make sense when you look at the wording of the Second Amendment, but somehow opponents have made this a pillar of their arguments because they keep repeating and insisting on it on the grounds that “we don’t know what the founding fathers really intended when they wrote this.”

But that’s not true. We do know what the founding fathers thought, because they wrote a series of seventy-eight essays called The Federalist Papers to sell the Constitution to the American people in the late 1780s. Exploring these writings can shed light on the views of the founding fathers, and thus, on the proper interpretation of the Second Amendment.

In the lead-up to the Revolutionary War, Americans were the most heavily-armed people on the planet in regard to citizen ownership of firearms. This was a necessity of life on the frontier because it was needed for protection against Native American attacks as well as wild animals. In the more heavily populated areas of New England and the Middle Colonies, the French were to the North and West which created another security threat. Essentially, the people were on their own for protection and needed to take matters into their own hands.

During the Revolutionary War, the British Army committed many atrocities against the colonists that were fighting for independence. These experiences left a bitter taste for many regarding powerful government and a large standing army. The fear was that a tyrant could seize power and then use the power of the military to oppress the people.

Jeremy AR-15
“You need one of these…because tyranny.” – Jeremy S.

At the same time, many American citizens identified their allegiance to their state rather than the country, preferring to say I am a Virginian over I am an American. Much resistance to the adopting the Constitution came from a fear that a centralized national government would overpower the state and oppress the people in the state as a result. Federalist Paper No.46, believed to have been written by then-future President James Madison, addressed these concerns.

The highest number to which, according to the best computation, a standing army can be carried in any country, does not exceed one hundredth part of the whole number of souls; or one twenty-fifth part of the number able to bear arms. This proportion would not yield, in the United States, an army of more than twenty-five or thirty thousand men. To these would be opposed a militia amounting to near half a million of citizens with arms in their hands, officered by men chosen from among themselves, fighting for their common liberties, and united and conducted by governments possessing their affections and confidence.

These numbers that Madison is using are based on the population during the 18th century, but the concept remains the same. If the American military was used to oppress the American people, they would be vastly outnumbered by the citizenry.

He goes on to write . . .

Besides the advantage of being armed, which the Americans possess over the people of almost every other nation, the existence of subordinate governments, to which the people are attached, and by which the militia officers are appointed, forms a barrier against the enterprises of ambition, more insurmountable than any which a simple government of any form can admit of.

The concept of the population outnumbering the military being a guaranteed check against the growth of tyranny is only effective if the citizenry is armed to the point where they can make a difference should a fight ever break out.

During the American Revolution there were essentially three fighting forces on the land in North America. On one side was the British army while on the other was the American Army supplemented by local militias. Both the British and American armies held the militia in inferior regard as they were unprofessional and often unreliable.

After five years of indecisive fighting in the North, the British devised a strategy were they would conquer the South, move north to crush the middle colonies, and finally conquer an isolated hostile New England. In a worst case scenario, with the South secured, the British high command figured that they would at least be able to hold onto some of their colonies if they lost the war.

The British army under General Cornwallis was limited in manpower so their idea was to crush the American army and then install loyalist local governments with militias to maintain the public order in their absence as they moved through the continent.

founding fathers revolutionary war guns
“We’re doing this so you bastards can own whatever guns you want. So don’t screw it up. ” (Shutterstock)

That plan ultimately didn’t work because the local militias of the Carolinas fought what were essentially guerilla campaigns to prevent the British from being able to withdraw from areas they had taken over. The delays caused by this prevented General Cornwallis from a timely execution of his plans, and by the time he did arrive north in Virginia, he was eventually ambushed and cut off by Washington’s army.

This is how some citizens with guns who weren’t in the army contributed to the defeat of the most powerful military in the world at the time.

It should be clear at this point that the early Americans saw gun rights as an important check on government power. But does modern weaponry makes this point moot?

AR-15 rifle
Dan Z. for TTAG

An extreme argument from the gun control crowd is that AR-15s and similar weapons would be futile against the government’s advanced weaponry arsenal consisting of arms like F-15 fighter jets. President Biden himself said, “If you need to worry about taking on the federal government, you need some F-15s. You don’t need an AR-15.”

It’s really difficult to imagine why the sitting President of the United States would make this argument, as it does nothing to win over the pro-Second Amendment crowd to accepting gun control measures. To the contrary, it only seems to reinforce former President James Madison’s view that an armed citizenry is essential as an equalizer to a corrupt government.


Daniel Kowalski is an American businessman with interests in the USA and developing markets of Africa.

This article was originally published on FEE.org. Read the original article.

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  1. We have gotten kicked pretty well by people using small arms and improvised explosives over the last sixty or so years.
    Plus…many members of the military would refuse to kill other Americans if it ever came to that. Or at least that is my hope.

    • That’s probably a reasonable supposition today but I wouldn’t count on it holding up if the current regime maintains power – they’re working hard to remake the US military into the their version of an armed branch of the Democrat Party if not formally then for sure philosophically and policy-wise. The troops who served under fire are rapidly becoming an even smaller and less influential minority – most of the “leadership” hold people with actual field experience in contempt. It started under President Obama and with what we’ve found out after Uncle Sleepy’s election there wasn’t much of a pause during President Trump’s term. Glad I retired when I did – was bad enough then, doubt it’s any better now…

      • AI, drones, cyber-centers…
        Automating and centralizing lethal force, removing the questionable forces on the frontlines, is the governments answer to ensure that when an “American” needs to be killed, the trigger will be pulled.

        The “elites” in power realized that if freedom loving, constitutionally minded troops would oppose orders to fire on fellow Americans, than they had to find a way to circumvent that obstacle. Just recruit the “right” kind of people to do their master’s bidding and give them controls to armed drones.

    • AntiFa and BLM are being trained and groomed to be the SA and SS of the Democratic Party when the time comes

      • It does not matter what marching busy body foot tapping Gun Control useful idiots think or say about the Second Amendment when the History that predates and post dates The Second Amendment confirms their beloved Gun Control in any shape, matter or form is Rooted in Racism and Genocide.

  2. Don’t forget the Anti-Federalist Papers.

    IIRC, it was the Federalists who didn’t think we needed a Bill of Rights in the first place (not that we didn’t need rights, but because those rights were self-evident and nobody would ever want to violate them). The Anti-Federalists didn’t trust the government, not even the new government we were forming.

  3. “I ask, sir, what is the militia? It is the whole people except for a few public officials.” – George Mason.

    • “To disarm the people…[i]s the most effectual way to enslave them.”

      – also George Mason, referencing advice given to the British Parliament by Pennsylvania governor Sir William Keith, The Debates in the Several State Conventions on the Adoption of the Federal Constitution, June 14, 1788

  4. Does it matter?
    The antis will always be antis and the normie fence-sitters will always lean toward the “nice” thing.

    Ironically we live in a world where chopping down jackboots who kick in your door because you’re a radical who thinks the BoR matters will only make you and your kind appear ever more dangerous and push more normies into the open arms of fascism and away from individual rights.

    As long as some body, department, cabal, force, club is allowed to rule you regardless of whether they call it a republic, a democracy, a commonwealth or whatever this will always be the end result. We can see how the courts even now hand down one weak sauce milquetoast ruling after another just leaving it all ready to come crashing right back down. The courts won’t save you. Politicians won’t save you. God might save you but that’s after none of this matters anymore.

  5. The British Army of 1776 was the most professional and feared Army in the world. Their Navy dominated all other militaries. They were equipped with the most advanced technology and weapons available. The American colonists, even the Continental Army, scrounged and scraped for weapons beyond muskets and frontier rifles. They were always woefully under equipped with modern military arms, especially Naval vessels and cannons. The argument that you must have the same weapons as the US military has in order to win seems somewhat hollow when we look at revolutions over the centuries, starting with the American one.

    • That’s not the argument. The argument is that the founders wanted to ensure that the citizens never had to worry about outgunning the government. While they were not so outfitted, the fact remained that if the materiel were available the Founding Fathers would have been able to purchase and own it. Nowhere do they ever suggest anything less than a well-armed populace.

  6. “If you need to worry about taking on the federal government, you need some F-15s. You don’t need an AR-15.”
    /Dementia Joe

    Regarding Joetato’s comments, please review Afghanistan and Iraq.

    • Once you beat the US with a few IED’s and rusty AK’s they reward you with all the F-15’s, tanks, APCs, small arms, high tech optics and drones you could ever want.

      • Then they send you BILLIONS in cash after that! Because blowing money is what they do best. We have nothing to show for it except for a select few insiders becoming wealthy. That’s why they fought tooth and nail for control of the executive branch. They wanted to be in control of doling out our wealth. The ideological battles are a distraction. They love having “emergency” after “emergency” so they have an excuse to spend money like crazy.

        The Biden administration has provided more than $2.35 billion in taxpayer dollars to Afghanistan since the Taliban retook control of the government in 2021 following a deadly U.S. evacuation.
        August 8, 2023

  7. 2016 — The federal govt. already used the US military in overtaking the winner of the 2016 election via an armed coup and thereafter installed a tyrant (Biden, et al) in to power. With the NFA and Hughes Act in place such a coup was possible.

  8. The statement about ordinary citizens being armed and fighting against the US Military has a big flaw. What percent of citizens are former military members? They are trained and many are leaders or could be leaders in a new Civil War. Plus there are many sportsmen who know camouflage, stalking and various weapons and how to use them effectively. Add to all this the fact that many in our Armed Forces would choose to not fight against the citizens of their country. I would predict many will go AWOL, and perhaps a good portion join the citizens.

  9. No matter the weaponry, when things get really bad, the most committed wins. Proven time and again over the years.

    • Woe to you if you make war against your own countrymen. A whole lot of POTG are pizzed off that our country has gone to he!!

  10. In looking at the past (history) an invading army has never in human history been able to keep the land they have taken from the local indigenous people. The Romans got kicked out of conquered territory as well as the Mongols, Russians, Germans, Japanese, and Americans. The only place that it has not occured yet is the USA. The advantage is always with the local indigenous force and will continue to be so. If, God forbid, America enters into a second civil war, the locals will most likely win but the cost will be high. It will most likely cause the demise of the United States of America and cause the formation of new countries from the broken apart USA.

  11. We also know what the Founders thought about a Free Press and the First Amendment. What we have to guess at it what additional restrictions or regulations THEY would have thought necessary had they lived to experience the Internet, Social Media, Television, Biased News, etc.

    Fair to say we honestly don’t know.

    Now extrapolate.

    • Well, according to some people on TTAG. And on other sites where I’ve read, the first amendment only exists inside of a church.
      Once you step outside that church you have no first amendment rights.

      • You can say anything you want…as long as you are not an enemy of the regime. Burning an American flag is one way to exercise your rights. Burning a rainbow flag is hate speech.

        • I suspect the people who say the founders were Atheists. Are also the same ones that say. The second amendment was written for hunters.

  12. Although it’s not taught in schools anymore, the Second Amendment has a very dark and somber purpose. It gives ‘We the People’ the ability and means to violently overthrow our own government if it becomes a tyranny that doesn’t reflect the will of the American people. After eight years of fighting the most powerful military in the world with personally-owned firearms, The Founding Fathers wanted to make sure that the new Republic was governed by the people, not a handful of ruling elites. That was a new concept in the World at the time. They understood human nature that power corrupts. Once someone gets power, they don’t want to give it up. If the democratic process failed and the power elite trampled on the rights of the people, they wanted a guarantee that they could overthrow those in power in order to keep their hard won freedoms. The United States of America was founded by the barrel of a gun and they wanted the people to be able to keep it free by a gun if need be. When ballots don’t work — bullets do. That concept is what started and won the American Revolution. The Second Amendment is the ‘enforcement clause’ of the Constitution and Bill of Rights. Without it, all the other Rights are just words on a piece of paper. As recent history has shown, those who want to take away our guns are the same ones who want to take away our freedoms. Gun control is people control. Never forget our history. Never give up your guns.

    • Well said.

      I tell my kids – if you never have to use a weapon in fear or anger, it’s because your forefathers did. You may be required to use them the same way to ensure the freedoms and security of your children and grandchildren.

      It’s a sobering thought.

  13. The second amendment protects two rights.

    1. The right of citizens to form militias.

    2. The right to keep and bear arms.

    The founders knew that without the right to keep and bear arms, exercising the right to form militias would not be possible.

    The feds are actively attempting to paint citizen militias as terror groups. This is a back-door attack on the second amendment. If the feds can prevent the formation of militias, the rest of the second amendment becomes almost worthless.

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