California’s Ninth Circuit has ruled in a 2-1 decision that a state ban on 18- to 20-year-olds buying semiautomatic rifles is inconsistent with the Second Amendment and must be overturned. “America would not exist without the heroism of the young adults who fought and died in our revolutionary army,” wrote Judge Ryan Nelson. “Today we reaffirm that our Constitution still protects the right that enabled their sacrifice: the right of young adults to keep and bear arms.”
Judge Nelson is absolutely right. The framers of the Constitution wanted everyone from the ages of 16 to 60 to be armed and ready to perform militia service – in defense of themselves and their families, their communities, and their state. By ruling in favor of a 20-year-old who wanted to own a semiautomatic rifle, the court was siding not only with the Constitution’s original intent but with thousands of years of tradition enshrining the duty of individuals to protect themselves and those around them.
“Americans have the right and advantage of being armed,” wrote James Madison, in Federalist 46, “unlike the people of other countries, whose leaders are afraid to trust them with arms.” But Madison, and others, were not content to rest on tradition – they made the Second Amendment explicit in the Constitution so that the right of individual citizens to keep and bear arms would remain inviolate. Madison’s good friend Tench Coxe laid to rest any ambiguity surrounding the matter by affirming that, “Their swords, and every other terrible implement of the soldier, are the birthright of an American.”
Coxe’s statement, like Madison’s, was made publicly at a time when debate over the proposed Constitution was at fever pitch. There was plenty of disagreement about adopting the new plan for a national government, but no one criticized this high praise for an armed population.
The intent of the Second Amendment was to maintain a citizenry armed equivalent to the soldiers of the day – up to and including our present day. Regardless of standing armies and police forces, under a republican form of government, sovereignty resides in the people. Nothing better exemplifies this fact than the individual citizen who is armed and capable of resisting tyranny – be it found in the depredations of the common criminal or the violent usurpation of government officials. The Ninth Circuit’s ruling adds to the growing body of pro–Second Amendment law and general skepticism toward the value and wisdom of gun-control laws that will help maintain that right for years to come, despite attempts by craven, ghoulish, and opportunistic politicians who hate freedom and its symbols.
Following that tragic mass killing at a Buffalo, New York, supermarket, would-be tyrants rushed to get in front of the cameras to denounce not only private gun ownership but free speech as well. New York governor Kathy Hochul used the massacre to demand stricter federal gun laws (like the ones that didn’t work in Buffalo) and “laws to deal with … the unfettered sharing of hate information on the internet,” including legal action against executives who allow legally protected speech on tech platforms – which means anything Hochul doesn’t like. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) whined about “social media” that “isn’t regulated” – despite functioning laws that already deal with threatening speech. “It’s not about free speech,” she assures us, “it’s about misinformation.” Nina Jankowicz must be salivating. Chicago mayor Lori Lightfoot, who runs the most violent city in the country, is imposing a 10 p.m. curfew for minors, as if more police harassment will fix the epidemic of violence.
Conveniently ignored is the sacrifice made by a man named Aaron Salter, a retired police officer and security guard who wounded the gunman in Buffalo but was himself killed in the exchange of fire. Governor Hochul acknowledged that her state has “some of the toughest [gun] laws in America,” only to blow right by that fact and instead blame other states where guns are allegedly “coming in from.” Perhaps if New York’s restrictive gun laws didn’t prevent more people from being armed at the Tops Friendly Market, a few vigilant citizens could have assisted Officer Salter, stopping the madman in his tracks and preventing further bloodshed. The toughest gun laws in the country certainly did not stop the killer. Fortunately, the Ninth Circuit ruling will make it easier for more decent, law-abiding people to arm themselves and maybe prevent a future massacre.