Founding Fathers and the Second Amendment

to the Constitution: Would they have backed

a change, given America's modern stability?



Beijing Youth Daily, People's Republic of China

Making Sense of America's Right to Bear Arms


From time to time, an article in China's state-controlled press is so startling, one is prompted to wipe one's eyes. Perhaps fitting for Independence Day weekend in the United States, this article from China's state-run Beijing Youth Daily appears to praise the American right to bear arms as 'the last line of defense against tyranny and the defense of civil rights.' In fact, the author almost seems like he'd like to propose a Second Amendment to China's Constitution.


By Fu Dalin


Translated By Sarah Chan, Joy Klingman and Mark Klingman


June 30, 2010


Beijing Youth Daily, People's Republic of China - Original Article (Chinese)

Banning guns is one of the most closely followed and one of the most hotly-debated legal issues in America today. To the Americans, a gun is not a tool, it is a right. And although this concept has been endlessly debated for over 200 years, it has been tenaciously protected and continues to be upheld by the highest judicial authorities. On June 28th, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a ruling expanding the constitutional protection of the right to bear arms, meaning that in all the states, American citizens have the right to own guns, overruling state and local gun control laws. [Justices Extend Firearm Rights in 5-to-4 Ruling]


The Court's slim majority likely reflects the profound complexity of American attitudes toward guns. On the question of whether a Chicago gun ban is constitutional, in a 5-4 ruling, the Court held that the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which guarantees citizens the right to bear arms, also applies to state and local laws. Before this, on June 26, 2008, also in a 5-4 ruling, the Court overthrew a 32-year-old Washington D.C. gun ban. The narrow majority in both rulings reflects the trend of public opinion, and the public debate reflects the range of views on this controversial issue. That's no accident, for behind the issue lay deep and conflicting cultural values and legal traditions. With a little digging, one finds that this issue reveals a lot about the United States.



Revelation 1: At all times, the civil right to 'violence' must be maintained


We may wonder: Why do Americans so love guns? Are they inborn advocates of violence? In fact, on the contrary, Americans see guns as important as life, precisely in order to resist violence. As early as the American Revolutionary War, Americans struggling for freedom understood that armed citizens were the last line of defense against tyranny and the defense of civil rights. With their hard-fought freedom paid for in blood, America's founding fathers were fully aware of the importance of "people having the freedom to overthrow tyranny." But how to overthrow a tyranny if there are no guns? So followed a constitutional amendment that specifically provides that, "the people's right to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed" (Bill of Rights, Article II).


[Editor's Note: The entire Second Amendment reads: 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.]


U.S. Second Amendment: Bitterly fought and defended for 200 years.


But time passes, and the United States is well beyond the danger of government tyranny. Yet the natural American preparedness against tyranny hasn't changed. The spirit of the Constitution - defending of rights as if to prevent a fire, defending against the abuse of power as if preventing a flood - hasn't changed, and it continues to ensure the people's right to bear arms. Therefore, in America's heart of hearts, "guns are a right." And only by protecting the rights of citizens to bear arms can the government monopoly on the use of violence be countered, effectively preventing a small number of people using "guns" from imposing authoritarian dictatorship.


Revelation 2: At all times, maintain awe in the authority of the Constitution.


However, maintaining this right has come at the expense of untold bloodshed. Even with the frequent shootings of innocents, Americans still reject the view, "better late than never." Legislation banning guns is always fraught with difficulty, one reason being that Americans are in such tremendous awe of the Constitution established by their "forebears."


In recent years, as the issue of guns prominently emerged again, groups supporting and opposing gun control joined in heated debate on the interpretation of the Second Amendment.


Supporters believe that the constitutional amendment, which was established over 200 years ago, is "outdated," and that based on previous court rulings, the government should have the right to regulate firearms. The other side simply relies on the amendment and opposes any measures to regulate guns.


The Second Amendment has become a "fence" beyond which American gun control legislation cannot pass. On many occasions, discussions on gun legislation stall because of controversy over the amendment.


Yet in order to change this amendment, a majority of States must agree. That seems unlikely, since out of the 50 States, 44 have explicit provisions in their constitutions enshrining the right of citizens to bear arms. Therefore, the federal government can repeat calls for gun control "legislation" all it likes, but due to the existence of the Second Amendment, the government dare not "overstep."


Revelation 3: The transplantation of laws require a thorough cultural investigation


Up to now, the United States is the world's first and the only country in which citizens have the widespread right to bear arms. Beyond the Constitution and those who interpret it on and off of the Supreme Court, on a deeper level, this is also due to America's unique "gun culture" and political background. Guns best embody the wild, strong, independent and uninhibited personality of Americans. In the U.S., firearms are just as integral a part of American culture as hamburgers, hotdogs and rock-n-roll. Although most people support some form of gun control, they don't want to restrict them the way Europeans do, and they're even more adamant about keeping the individual rights to bear arms.   



At the same time, there are deep differences between political parties and interest groups, influencing political power and the legislative process. Due to the influence of interest groups, the two parties in the United States have taken completely different political positions on guns: the whole Republican Party advocates gun rights, while Democrats tend toward gun control. Different political views directly influence U.S. legislative change, and what seems to be an equitable distribution of legislative power is in fact is the product of compromise.


This suggests that while legal transplantation has gradually become the trend, one cannot rashly introduce laws from other countries with different political experiences and legal systems without carefully investigating the details of its culture and politics.



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[Posted by WORLDMEETS.US July 3, 8:49pm]



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