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The Security of a Free State

Libertarian Presidential Candidate Speaks on the Second Amendment

by Aaron Russo
Candidate for the Libertarian Nomination for the U.S. Presidency

special to

March 31, 2004

Many of my friends like to say -- and I tend to agree with them -- that the Second Amendment should have been the First Amendment. It is upon the right to keep and bear arms that all our other rights depend. A right that we're not able or allowed to defend is no right at all.

Throughout my life, I've made a habit of studying the Constitution and trying to understand it. Most especially, I've tried to see it through the eyes of the men who framed it and the men who made it possible. The Bill of Rights didn't happen by accident. It happened by intent. It happened after a successful revolution against the mightiest empire the world had yet known. And those who wrote and ratified the Second Amendment spoke plainly, fully aware of what their words meant:

"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." 

Those who would disarm Americans like to use the words "well-regulated militia" as a stopping point. It's okay for the National Guard to have weapons, they say, but the framers didn't intend for all Americans to carry military arms.

But "well-regulated," at the end of the 18th century, simply meant "well-trained." Military units, at that time, had to know close order drill. How to march, how to fire in unison. The government had an interest in making sure that they learned these skills -- and no interest at all in having anyone disarmed. The fact is that the early US militia laws required every able-bodied male to own and maintain a musket, and keep powder and 40 rounds of ammunition on hand at all times. George Mason, the man who wrote the Second Amendment, said that the militia is "the whole of the people."

Personally, I'm fond of the second clause: "Necessary to the security of a free State." That clause is more relevant today than ever before. Could 9/11 have happened to an armed society? How far would a terrorist with a boxcutter have gotten on a plane full of Americans exercising their Constitutionally protected right to keep and bear arms? The security of America requires, and depends on, the willingness and the ability of 280 million Americans to provide for their own security and to come to the defense of their fellow Americans when the situation requires it.

Finally, the Second Amendment makes itself plain as to where the right to keep and bear arms resides: It is a right of "the people." Not "the states." Not "the United States." The people. Not the government.

One would think that so simple and plainly written a provision as the Second Amendment would hold a place of honor with those who seek and hold political office. Sadly, that has not been the case. The 20th century unfolded along two parallel paths: The disarmament of the American people and their subjection to an increasingly brutal government. These parallels are not coincidental. It was the first which made the second possible.

As a candidate for the presidency of the United States, the obligation of that office is not something that I can shirk: "To preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States." Those politicians who would disarm the American people violate that oath. They become enemies of the very document they swear to defend -- and if the people whose rights that document is supposed to secure.

Let me make myself clear:

- As your president, I will not ask Congress to renew or extend any of the 20,000 unconstitutional "gun control" laws which currently exist. As a matter of fact, I will veto any such renewal or extension, and I will veto any new laws passed with the intent of disarming law-abiding Americans.

- As your president, I will direct the departments of the executive branch to cease enforcement of all such laws -- and I'll direct the Solicitor General to defend that order in court, on Constitutional grounds, if Congress attempts to compel their enforcement.

- As your president, I will direct the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division to take to court any state which passes or enforces laws in any way infringing upon the rights of Americans to keep and bear arms. The Constitution clearly places these rights in the hands of the people and makes them inviolate; and my duty as president extends to enforcing the Constitutional guarantee of a republican form of government to the states, the right to keep and bear arms being an essential characteristic thereof.

"The security of a free State" is more than the security of that state's government. It's the security of the people who consent to be governed. It's their security against crime, and their security against the government itself.

For the security -- and freedom -- of the American people, 

Aaron Russo 
Libertarian for President