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Walter Williams
Walter E. Williams
10 Feb 2016
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Why the 2nd Amendment


Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., in the wake of the Newtown, Conn., shootings, said: "The British are not coming. ... We don't need all these guns to kill people." Lewis' vision, shared by many, represents a gross ignorance of why the framers of the Constitution gave us the Second Amendment. How about a few quotes from the period and you decide whether our Founding Fathers harbored a fear of foreign tyrants.

Alexander Hamilton: "The best we can hope for concerning the people at large is that they be properly armed," adding later, "If the representatives of the people betray their constituents, there is then no recourse left but in the exertion of that original right of self-defense which is paramount to all positive forms of government." By the way, Hamilton is referring to what institution when he says "the representatives of the people"?

James Madison: "(The Constitution preserves) the advantage of being armed, which the Americans possess over the people of almost every other nation ... (where) the governments are afraid to trust the people with arms."

Thomas Jefferson: "What country can preserve its liberties if its rulers are not warned from time to time that their people preserve the spirit of resistance? Let them take arms."

George Mason, author of the Virginia Bill of Rights, which inspired our Constitution's Bill of Rights, said, "To disarm the people — that was the best and most effectual way to enslave them."

Rep. John Lewis and like-minded people might dismiss these thoughts by saying the founders were racist anyway. Here's a more recent quote from a card-carrying liberal, the late Vice President Hubert H. Humphrey: "Certainly, one of the chief guarantees of freedom under any government, no matter how popular and respected, is the right of the citizen to keep and bear arms. ... The right of the citizen to bear arms is just one guarantee against arbitrary government, one more safeguard against the tyranny which now appears remote in America but which historically has proven to be always possible." I have many other Second Amendment references at

How about a couple of quotations with which Rep.

Lewis and others might agree? "Armas para que?" (translated: "Guns, for what?") by Fidel Castro. There's a more famous one: "The most foolish mistake we could possibly make would be to allow the subject races to possess arms. History shows that all conquerors who have allowed their subject races to carry arms have prepared their own downfall by so doing." That was Adolf Hitler.

Here's the gun grabbers' slippery-slope agenda, laid out by Nelson T. Shields, founder of Handgun Control Inc.: "We're going to have to take this one step at a time, and the first step is necessarily — given the political realities — going to be very modest. ... Right now, though, we'd be satisfied not with half a loaf but with a slice. Our ultimate goal — total control of handguns in the United States — is going to take time. ... The final problem is to make the possession of all handguns and all handgun ammunition — except for the military, police, licensed security guards, licensed sporting clubs and licensed gun collectors — totally illegal" (The New Yorker, July 1976).

There have been people who've ridiculed the protections afforded by the Second Amendment, asking what chance would citizens have against the military might of the U.S. government. Military might isn't always the deciding factor. Our 1776 War of Independence was against the mightiest nation on the face of the earth — Great Britain. In Syria, the rebels are making life uncomfortable for the much-better-equipped Syrian regime. Today's Americans are vastly better-armed than our founders, Warsaw Ghetto Jews and Syrian rebels.

There are about 300 million privately held firearms owned by Americans. That's nothing to sneeze at. And notice that the people who support gun control are the very people who want to control and dictate our lives.

Walter E. Williams is a professor of economics at George Mason University. To find out more about Walter E. Williams and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at



10 Comments | Post Comment
Sir;... If revolution is necessary, as I am certain it is; then arms are essential for the defense of that revolution from reaction... The only problem is, that the vast part of the armed population in this country are reactionaries who would defend democracy and power for themselves, but attack democracy for all others... They like the constitution and do not grasp that the document was always used agains them... The democrats like the constitution too, selectively, but the constitution has only been enforced and empowered by the congress and the Courts, selectively...
I don't think a constitution that can only be taken selectively is much of a constitution...It may make some people feel a little better to offer all comers, even the government, some possible fight... It is simply impossible to think of the puny might of small parties as worth a shiver from the government... They present a much greater threat to their neighbors and children with their guns...In fact, the limits suggested by government on clip size seem reasonable enough, and the suggestion of armed guards in schools also seems reasonable... And the revolution when it comes should involve all the people, the writing of a new constitution and infinite patience in selling it to the great majority of Americans... The division so long fed by the parties to the people as justified has to be overcome; but if we are one nation, we have got to prove it to ouselves, and hopefully not as we did in the Great Civil War...
Our ability to communicate with each other as the Ante Bellum South could not with the North is much improved . .. But the South was an armed camp, fearing the North and prepared for the war they brought to life....Just as now, the South had everything going their way; but the more they sensed the rising tide of public sentement against them, the more they over reacted...
No one is seriously talking about gun control, but what is said is heard by a part of the population whipped into a distrust of government bordering on paranoia...Unlike many liberals, I have no reason what so ever to trust the government, but put into perspective, insurrection is not a social activity no matter how much the government is failing the population...
most respects, the government and the gun nuts are both in the wrong, and both in support of each other in the wrong...The liberals in the right are in the wrong for the most part in their opinions of guns, and are worse wrong in the expectation that government, our government will result in justice... Relying on the kindness of strangers when those strangers are in the pay of those paying them for unkindness- is not reasonable...
All right and left have going for them is that government finds it nearly impossible to do much of good or evil...Starved of cash, and as unable to tax, just as the confederate government, over extended in defense of our capital abroad, the American government is still dangerous to us, but to try to kill us, would kill them...
Comment: #1
Posted by: James A, Sweeney
Mon Dec 31, 2012 1:19 PM
"Those who pound their guns into plows will plow for those who don't." Thomas Jefferson. The second amnedment is very easy to understand once you read what our founders said and wrote about it. While you're at it, read what Sara Brady had to say about guns.
Comment: #2
Posted by: kenema
Tue Jan 1, 2013 9:03 AM
Why not allow citizens to carry fully automatic weapons and rocket propelled grenades? If an AR-15 assault weapon is an important piece in controlling the tyranny of government, would we not be safer if citizens were armed with the fully automatic M-16 and RPGs? Obviously, none but the most die-hard Chuck Norris fans would advocate such a change. My point is that there is obviously a need for gun control and the devil is in the details. If RPGs were legal at the time of last few mass killings, the death toll would likely have been vastly higher, but would we be "safer" from our government? It is time for the grownups to ignore the gun industry and look closely at the problem of reasonable limits. Let's get to work.
My list:
1. Background checks for ALL gun purchases. NO EXCEPTIONS.
2. Free the ATF to do their job and release collected data on gun violence. Is the crime centered on only a few types of firearms? Nobody knows and the NRA likes it that way. They can't handle the truth. (For true absurdity, I understand that even congress could not get complete data about the "Fast and Furious" from the ATF due to the Tiahrt amendments, having to rely on the Mexican government instead.) Repeal the Tiahrt Amendments immediately.
3. Allow the CDC to investigate the epidemic of gun violence, including the issue of violent media.
4. Limit the size of clips to something rational, perhaps 8 or 10. Ideally, a buy back / exchange to get existing big clips off of the street would be included.
Others will have different ideas. Let's talk.
Comment: #3
Posted by: Mark
Tue Jan 1, 2013 9:25 AM
Re: Mark;...The right to bear arms is a degradation of the obligation of free citizens to bear arms... It is the people who should be armed rather than their government which should exist by their will as an appendage of their power... The disconnect of the government from the people they fear- is not the result of democracy, but an inevitable consequence of government put out of reach of their government... And even if I believe the majority of the people wrong, dangerously wrong, and ridiculously wrong, this wrongness too is the result of denied democracy because you can only afford to be wrong where your opinions have no power, and you can only afford to leave people around you uneducated and unreasoning so long as they have no power...
Knowledge is not power, but the two are so interconnected that one cannot be defined without the other... If we can be kept ignorant we will never have power, but having power must know to use it with wisdom; and ultimately it is wrong to conceive of democracy as static... A republic, a state, even a nation state is static, designed to maintain a certain form into perpetuity...Reality is dynamic and democracy is dynamic, designed to adapt to reality, and to be self correcting... What does it matter what mistakes a people can make so long as they can correct them??? Clearly, our founding fathers did not have the reverence bordering on religious adoration for the constitution as this now people have... It is those greats of our history who conceived of the constitution as malliable who forced it to meet changing needs and conditions- with change; but without the threat of revolution, what concern would be the unhappiness of the people???...
Now that government has lost its vision, perhaps even it soul and mind; this people is unhappy, at odds, and bedeviled...Only revolution will cure our illness and give this people new life... It will not happen unless those who cling to their guns, and to their religion which is respectively to each, their freedom and morality, are brought gently along and assured of their power and ability to defend themselves...Freedom is power, and there is absolutly no other rational definition of it... If out of fear of each other, or enemies within or without we surrender our power to the government, we have surrendered our freedom...
This government as it stands already has every authority it needs to do good and needs no more power to do wrong... The vast lands of this country inhabited by people far distant from police and protection must defend themselves, and be expected to because no one can afford the police we have or go without protection... In addition, we have plenty of laws, plenty of cops, courts, and prisons at a tremendous cost, the paying of which is laid upon a disaffected population... There is nothing in another law that will endear better this people to their government... A small number of police where the actual danger exists will do more than a many new laws...What is most needed by this people will as always be forced upon them... The natural conservatism of people forbids the casual change of forms... Without the declaration before me, people will bear evil while evils are bearable, and yet they now bear those evils with waning patience...
And you are right that we should talk... Government ought to be the center of our national communication, but it has become the point of our miscommunication, confusion, and distrust...We will not solve our problems talking at each other and hearing no one... We must talk with each other with care and respect, as we would if we thought that other was armed... How hard is respect???
Comment: #4
Posted by: James A, Sweeney
Tue Jan 1, 2013 1:07 PM
Wonderful web page of quotes on the GMU web site to which Mr Williams linked. All should check them out and read then to refresh our memories. Less than famous quotes which I had forgotten were Carl Rowan quotes of no guns and then a few years later he waves a gun at someone who had jumped into his pool and Joyce Brothers, who's husband was permitted to have a gun in NYC. Always something interesting each week from Mr. Williams.
Comment: #5
Posted by: Mandy
Wed Jan 2, 2013 6:27 AM
Mark in what senarios are background checks not done? I've bought guns from retail stores, gun shows, and off the internet and in every case I had to submit to a background check. Also, your solution is for corrupt government agencies to conduct studies and release data? I don't see that helping all too much. Well the ATF is corrupt, I have no problem with the CDC, but why would they be involved in gun violence data research? And last, is gun violence really an epidemic? According to FBI crime statistics, gun violence has gone down in recent years. Automatic rifles account for less than 1% of all violent crime. Not really epidimic levels.
Comment: #6
Posted by: Chris McCoy
Wed Jan 2, 2013 6:52 AM
Google the phrase "gun show loophole" and you will find plenty of discussion. I hope by this time next year, they will end with the statement that laws were tightened to require background checks on ALL sales of firearms, not just ones by licensed dealers. By calling the ATF a "corrupt government agency" are you saying that you would not want their data released? (They already have the data. They are forbidden from spending a penny to release it.) Why do you fear their data? Would it not be interesting to know if certain dealers were the source of a statistically much higher proportion of the gun sales where the gun is later used in a crime? Or not? Would it not be useful to know if a certain type of firearm is much more likely to be used in certain crimes? Would it not be useful to know if there is no such clear pattern? Why does the NRA not want ANYBODY to know these things? Not even congress?
A more interesting number to look at than "automatic" (do you mean semi-automatic? If automatic rifles are considered, their use in crime is rare because they are very hard to get and if you alter a gun to make one, and get caught with it, you are in big trouble for possession alone. Chalk one up to gun control...) is large clips. What percentage of violent crime involves the use of clips with a capacity of more than 8 or 10 bullets? If we exclude small handguns, how do the big clip numbers look? ATF could tell us, if the gun lobby cowed congress would let them. Time for the grownups to speak up. We need to do something about this problem and the "something" is likely to be more effective if we have the stats to avoid committing to "feel good" rather than effective measures.
If you compare our nation's gun death rate to other 1st world countries, we have a big problem. (We are number 9, right after Mexico, on the full list...) It is also clear that the problem is quite complex and multi-factorial and many of those factors may not be about guns. The CDC has the ability to tease apart complex process and this would be right up their alley. Yes, the crime rate has fallen. That does not mean that we should accept 8,500 gun murders a year as "normal". Webster on the word epidemic: "affecting or tending to affect a disproportionately large number of individuals within a population, community, or region at the same time <typhoid was epidemic> ..." Gun deaths in our nation, compared to other first world nations, clearly meets the definition.
Another way to look at the recent horror is this: Can you imagine if the deaths had been the result of a terror sleeper cell that had trained somewhere in the middle east? We would move heaven and earth to eliminate the risk. Okay, we might draw the line at authorizing the FBI to look at recent background checks to see if there was evidence of other cells in the data. That is, after all, what the Bush administration did when the FBI wanted to look at the records right after 9/11. Cancel citizen's civil rights? Sure, but don't mess with gun stuff. That would piss off the NRA. The unexamined records were ordered destroyed.
Comment: #7
Posted by: Mark
Wed Jan 2, 2013 9:22 PM

I agree.

Someone needs to design a automatic rifle that looks like a flower or a tool used by an abortion doctor, and that could be used by an abortion doctor to kill unborn babies.

Liberals and Democrats would love such a rifle and probably hand them out in public schools.

Comment: #8
Posted by: SusansMirror
Thu Jan 3, 2013 3:13 PM
Re: James A, Sweeney
Well said, sir. So very true.
Comment: #9
Posted by: Krista
Sun Jan 6, 2013 10:27 PM
Guns are a means to an end. The Japanese manage twice the suicide rate of the US with virtually none of them using a gun.

The best way to fight violent crime is through better law enforcement in cities such as NYC, and differently than in NYC, for criminals have to wonder if their target is packing a weapon.

Conflating use of weapons for the commission of crime and for suicide with the lawful use of weapons is wrong. The difference is the intent, not the weapon.

Do we want school shootings to morph to car bombings and poison gas attacks?

Comment: #10
Posted by: Tobyw
Sat Jan 26, 2013 6:22 AM
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