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The 2nd Amendment and its Complex Foundations

Posted by Sara Cooper | May 30, 2023 | 0 Comments

One day, maybe you want to learn more about your rights as a citizen or just have curiosity for what the Constitution stands for, and you stumble upon the simplified definition of the Second Amendment: The right to bear arms and a well-sanctioned militia for a free State. To many American citizens, especially in the Central Valley, there are strong feelings in approval of this foundational right. However, this instilled belief to protect yourself and personal property is derived with a complex history that did not guarantee this right for all Americans initially. 

With the United States' history of enslavement and discrimination of African Americans, many Southerners and surrounding colonies during the 1700's thought enslaved persons should be prohibited from possessing a gun or weapon. This was in fear due to the potential of slave revolts occurring. As slave owners, their intentions were to maintain power and prevent any access of opportunity for African Americans to excel in any skill or lifestyle that was deemed “threatening.” Of course, this wasn't surprising to discover. 

It'd eventually become a wrongful regret as the American Revolutionary War emerged in 1775, and with the fight for the American colonies to win, they did not have enough white men to enlist in the Continental Army and fight. The time was ticking, and each side of the war was trying to find their best solution to overrule the other side for the upcoming years of this fight. Upon thought, the idea to have enslaved men join as soldiers came along with a “deal”: if you fight, you can be freed. Even though this was a wish that was highly hoped for, taken a chance with, and no matter which side that was fought for, the guarantee was flipped into a complete untruth. 

I think it's important to note here that every historical component of the United States that we are intensely taught and every method we enact on a daily basis to assimilate in this country, are not sprouted out with pure intentions. This argument can be applied especially to learning about this powerful amendment.

The Second Amendment also includes a state militia, what we know today as a standing army as a form of national security for our nation. It was also established with complexities that involved enslaved African Americans seen as a threat. Their initial purpose was to protect the colonies, which meant to prevent slave revolts and any hint that would detail assistance that slave owners would disagree with. It all came into consideration as the amendment was official after the Constitutional Convention in 1787 about who was a citizen. Would people who fought in the war be declared citizens? What about the Naturalization Act of 1790 that freed slaves? 

This was a pending concern that really had blurred answers. Enslaved uprisings were attempted and failed, and when citizenship was granted, nothing was truly over. From the resistance of the Black Panther Party to stay alive to the lack of consequences that Kyle Rittenhouse received for his horrendous actions with no accountability, there is much realization that the Second Amendment always mirrors the possession to own a gun runs deeper than a constitutional right that is unstable. 

When learning about all that was told above, I felt disappointed and infuriated by the horrible roots of a discourse that we encounter daily due to the travesties and trauma that many Americans see as normalized, creating this political division that has cost lives. The policies and protections that are now up at risk of no longer being mandated have always come at the cost of helping those who were not seen as important in the past unfortunately.

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