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Young on Old Meanings

09/10/2021 8:44 PM | Anonymous

Young on Old Meanings  by Tom Reynolds

In Wednesday’s email, SCOPE talked about the Left’s attempt to turn Constitutional Originalism around and use it against the 2nd Amendment.  As usual, Doctor Robert Young was thinking along lines similar to SCOPE when he wrote an article in Doctors For Responsible Gun Ownership entitled “Corpus Linguistics & Bearing Arms: Much Ado About Nothing”.  Below are some of the highlights from his article and the full text can be read at: Corpus Linguistics & Bearing Arms: Much Ado About Nothing .

Dr. Young wrote about Dennis Baron’s attempts to flip Constitutional Originalism, written in the Duke Center for Firearms Law (DCFL).  Young wrote:

“DCFL contends that because nearly all the examples they find of the phrase ‘bear arms’ in the English language are used to refer to military conduct, the Second Amendment must only guarantee ‘the people’ the right to ’bear arms’ in the service of the state (i.e., a state-appointed militia). Just so they don’t look entirely one-sided, Baron does qualify ‘. . . [I]t’s not clear that any text has one single, original meaning that everyone would have shared.’”

“Baron also quotes the amicus brief by Everytown for Gun Safety [sic] in NYSRPA v. Corlett to say that ‘. . . America [was] never [a] place . . . where people carried weapons freely and routinely, particularly in urban areas.’ Utter nonsense, which anyone familiar with American history through the entire 19th century could refute.”

Dr. Young then goes on the attack:

“The militia developed from the beginning of the colonial period as groups of townsmen who came together to provide for their mutual protection…the Colonies’ militias were simply the assembled groups of local ones under the command of elected leaders. This was still essentially individuals making their own decisions to come together, exercising their Second Amendment rights ‘to keep and bear arms’ in the common defense, an extension of their pre-existing right to self-defense.”

“The point Baron’s linguistic method makes is that ‘. . . nonmilitary uses of ‘bear arms’ are almost nonexistent in any sort of text’ of the Founding era. But let’s ask, how exactly are ‘the people’ supposed to get the arms they ‘keep’ at home to the militia’s gathering place if they don’t have the equal right to “bear” them to there, as well as in battle?”

Dr. Young concludes the debate with quotes from people who were actually alive during the Revolutionary period:

“We have scores of quotes by the authors of the Constitution and their peers that manifest their insistence on the importance of the citizenry owning and using (therefore carrying as well as ‘bearing’) arms routinely for proper purposes, including hunting, target practice, and self-protection. Gentlemen in America like Washington and Jefferson carried pistols routinely. More common folk had their muskets and rifles at hand whenever they decided they could be useful.”

“From WallbuildersJohn Dickinson, Constitution signer: affirmed that inalienable rights such as self-defense were rights ‘which God gave to you and which no inferior power has a right to take away.’

Fisher Ames, a framer of the Bill of Rights: ‘The right . . . of bearing arms . . . is declared to be inherent in the people.’” 

“From Buckeye FirearmsThomas Jefferson: ‘Let your gun therefore be the constant companion of your walks.’
Jefferson, again: No free man shall ever be debarred the use of arms.’
And again: ‘The laws that forbid the carrying of arms are laws of such a nature [as to] disarm only those who are neither inclined nor determined to commit crimes. . . Such laws make things worse for the assaulted and better for the assailants; they serve rather to encourage than to prevent homicides, for an unarmed man may be attacked with greater confidence than an armed man.’

“From the Lonang Institute: Revolutionary militia colonel and then Federal judge, Henry St. George Tucker, 1803: ‘In many parts of the United States, a man no more thinks of going out of his house on any occasion, without his rifle or musket in his hand, than a European fine gentleman without his sword by his side.’  

These quotes are just a fraction of the evidence. There is a great deal more, from many, many sources. “

“The Second Amendment’s purpose is timeless, and meant the same in 1789 as in 1998, and as in 2021.”

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East Aurora, NY 14052

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