Restrictions On Weapons, Military Federalism, And More – On Foundations of Freedom: Would the Founders support any restrictions on guns as “reasonable and necessary”? What restraints did they have on weapons in the Founding Era? Why is the federalism aspect of our military important? Plus, why did Benjamin Franklin never run for President? Tune in to hear the answers to these questions and more on today’s Foundations of Freedom program!
Air Date: 12/02/2021
On-air Personalities: David Barton, Rick Green, and Tim Barton
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Faith and the Culture
Thomas Jefferson said, “The Constitution of most of our States and of the United States asserts that all power is inherent in the people that they may exercise it by themselves. That is their right and duty to be at all times armed, that they are entitled to freedom of person; freedom of religion; freedom of property and freedom of press.”
Welcome to the intersection of faith and the culture. This is WallBuilders Live. We’re talking about today’s hottest topics on policy, faith and culture, other things that affect our life, but always looking at those things from a biblical, historical, and constitutional perspective. You can learn more about us at our website, wallbuilderslive.com, where you can get archives of the program for the last few weeks and months. You can also get a list of the stations across the country that carry the program.
And you can learn more about us the host here at WallBuilders Live, that includes David Barton, he’s America’s premier historian and our founder at WallBuilders, it’s also Tim Barton, national speaker and pastor and president of WallBuilders, and I’m Rick Green, former Texas legislator, and America’s Constitution coach.
You found us on a Thursday, we love doing Thursdays as a Foundation of Freedom program every week because we dive into foundational questions that you ask. Send your questions in email@example.com and we will get to as many of them as we can. Perhaps it’s about a part of the Constitution or the Declaration or something that Founders did, maybe it’s about a bill that’s running through Congress or in your state legislator, or maybe it’s a question about the proper role of government, whatever it might be, send it into firstname.lastname@example.org.
And while you’re at the website, wallbuilderslive.com, be sure and make that contribution, one-time or monthly, but that’s sure way to come alongside us and support what we’re doing and allow us to get this truth in the hands of as many people as possible so that we can restore America’s constitutional republic. But for now, we’re going to dive into those questions.
Are Restrictions Necessary?
Joe Shoemaker has the first question for us, guys. It’s actually on the Second Amendment, a subject all three of us love dearly. He says “I am a firm believer in the Second Amendment. However, question was recently asked me what regulations and restrictions on guns do you think are reasonable and necessary?
“Since I’m not a gun person, I have not given this much thought. I believe the Second Amendment was written so we can defend ourselves against our own country. Since technology has far advanced since the writing of this amendment, I can’t really say I want to see my neighbor driving his tank down Main Street, though I would not object to him owning one. Nor do I want to see someone’s collection of nuclear bombs. So I’ll ask you the same question but only broaden it. What regulations and restrictions on weapons do you think are reasonable and necessary?”
Alright, David and Tim, I have been driving my tank down the middle of our street, but we kind of have our own little compound. I’m just kidding. I wish I had a tank, it’d be nice. Do you guys have a tank I can borrow?
Well, actually, I think it kind of depends on how you define tank, Rick. I mean, if you listen to the climate change people, anything that uses much fossil fuels like our big old pickup trucks, that’s got to be a tank in their mind. So yes, I’ve been driving my tank very happily, very openly, very proud of my tank. I love having a tank and I have several of them actually.
Would you say your tank is armed or is it?
Yes. If I’m in it, my tank is definitely armed. If I’m out of it, my tank is still armed.
The Founder’s Intent
I got you. Okay. Yeah.
Yeah. And by the way, this is a great question. And to answer the question, let me throw out the caveat that I think it’s really important always to go back to original intent, and that’s a book we wrote years ago, but it still holds true. You go back…
So it’s important to go back to the book you wrote or?
Yes, you definitely want to go back the book I wrote.
To the actual original intent of the Founders and the Constitution?
Well, that too.
Okay, just clarifying.
Yeah. So in answering the question of the Second Amendment, I think you have to go back to the original intent of the Founders when they wrote that amendment. And I think there are some restrictions that they assumed to be in place that are not in place today that I think they would support. So in that sense, I don’t think that that it’s bad to have some restriction. I got to really be careful how I say this because I’m not calling for restrictions on Second Amendment.
But they started with the foundational assumption that you knew how to use weapons, you had been trained in the use of weapons, you grew up from your very youth using weapons, you knew how they were dangerous and where to use them, where not to use or what silly things were. I mean, if you look for gun accidents in the founding era, there are nearly none you can find.
And John Quincy Adams says that’s because we’ve been trained with guns from our very youth, and we understand it. So today, you got a lot of people going and grabbing guns and buying guns and carrying guns and waving guns around and doing stuff because I have the right to keep and own guns. No, you got the right to be responsible gun owner is what you have.
And the opposite side too, you have people who are terrified of guns because they’ve never been around guns and they think this is the most dangerous thing that’s ever existed, even though guns are not necessarily the most dangerous thing in the history of humanity. In fact, in the big picture history of humanity, percentages of populations, far greater percentages were killed by things, not firearm related than firearms.
But certainly, I think, dad, to your point the Founding Fathers were doing the laws they did, recognizing their God-given rights, but also they recognize in regard to given responsibilities for each individual. And this is also where the federal government had certain limitations. And like even the Bill of Rights, the Bill of Rights, the limitation of the federal government was that the federal government could never come in and restrict your God-given right of self-defense, and they recognize a firearm was the best tool for your God-given right of self-defense. But they said the federal government could never restrict that. This didn’t necessarily apply to states or counties or cities.
Because certainly, you have time in the founding era, when there was the actual you see, both ends of the equation were both sides of the coin, so to speak, they were sometimes the founding era where it was the law that you were required to own a gun if you live inside city limits or lived inside the county.
There were other times when if you were coming into a city, you were required to essentially check your gun and you couldn’t have the gun with you, you see some of both of these things. And today, there’s a lot of people who look at some of these onerous gun laws being passed in different cities or counties, and they say, wait, that’s a violation of the Second Amendment, it’s violation of this.
Not a Violation of the 2nd Amendment
Well, under original intent, it’s not exactly a violation of the Second Amendment because the Second Amendment was originally written to limit the federal government’s role so they could not be abusive in this notion of your God-given right of self-defense. Now, you still could argue at the state or at the county or city level, if someone is violating your ability to own a firearm, they’re violating your God-given right of self-defense with the greatest tool possible for what we’re talking about. And that’s a firearm.
But I think just original intent, there’s there is some nuance difference and history does matter. And had the Founding Fathers been alive today, I do think it would have been written slightly differently. And dad, your point, I do think that probably they would have had some educational standards involved in the process to make sure that they probably would have encouraged the use of firearms to be readily accessible, available to nearly every American. They might have made the exception for a violent offender or violent felon because read many Founding Fathers who said that firearms should be available to everyone who is peaceable.
So right, if you’re not peaceable, so presumably, if you’re a violent offender, whether it’s a physical assault or sexual assault, something along those lines if you’ve committed an act of violence against someone else, the Founding Fathers were in favor of saying, let’s not arm that person because they’ve shown themselves to be a violent offender of other people. With that being said, the Founding Fathers certainly would have been in favor of the vast majority of Americans owning guns, but I do think they would have wanted some qualifications to make sure training was involved.
Yeah, to go exactly what you’re saying, we have seen codes, where they specifically use the words offensive and defensive. And they said you’re not to bring weapons into town at all for offensive purposes. In other words, that would be a criminal. You’re going to bring it and use it for something, but you’re allowed to carry weapons for defensive purposes. And that’s another one of their original intent type of things.
And so while I look at and think, you know, they assumed a certain level of education because we faithfully taught that, we taught that in home, we taught that in schools, we taught that in neighborhoods, you were in a situation back then where that really you kind of were a community.
I mean, you’re just as liable to address and discipline the children next to you as you are your own kids because you just had standards in the community you didn’t violate. And so if I needed to yell at your kids, and you need to yell at mine, that’s okay. But today, we don’t have that same common standard. So I think that’s an assumption.
I think the other assumption they had, and by the way, Tim, as you pointed out, you know, there’s federal versus state stuff on this, the whole purpose was we give you a Bill of Rights to protect your God-given rights. And so to what extent did God give you the right of self-defense? To the same extent, he gave you that right of self-defense, where we want to protect that.
And so when it came to things like, you know, I don’t want to see a tank driving down my neighborhood, but I support the right to own tanks, that’s exactly it. The Founding Fathers knew, Tim, going back to what you said, there are so many things that have killed more people than guns have killed people. But the greatest people killer of all has been government. Nothing has killed more people than government has killed.
And so when you look at that the Founding Fathers believe that the people should be able to have enough arms in place to be able to remind their government you don’t want to mess with us, you don’t want to come after us. Well, if all we’ve got as pea shooters, and they’ve got 50 caliber machine guns, that’s not the point of the First Amendment. Because they point out consistently, Patrick Henry and George Mason others, that the greatest threat to your loss of guns will come from government, not from criminals or others.
And so they were very adamant you’d be able to have that. Which is why we see in Boston, they didn’t care if you have a cannon, you can have a cannon, but please don’t shoot it in town or within a mile of town is just so loud. And it wasn’t the fact of having a cannon, it was just this little loud just to be shooting off just for fun.
And the same way I don’t want to see my neighbor stockpile nuclear bombs. Yeah, I don’t want to see it, but I don’t care if he has one because he should have the same rights. But you say well, I don’t think private citizens should have nuclear weapons.
But if you’ve been trained with responsibility and morality and the concept of when and where you use them, the Founding Fathers are trained extensively in the concept of defensive warfare, you don’t start anything. Now, if somebody else starts it, you can take it on, but you don’t start it. I don’t care if my neighbor has a nuclear weapon, as long as he has that defensive concept that he will never use that unless it’s being used against him.
And specifically, this notion, even of a defensive concept, the part of the Second Amendment recognizing that it was for the good of the people to remain free, and will who would be the biggest violators of your freedom would be governments. And the notion that we needed a well-regulated militia was in case there was a government, whether it be the American government, or the French government, or the Italian government, whatever government it was if a government was going to come in and take away our God-given rights, liberties, and freedoms, you need the capacity in some level to be able to resist that government and tell that government no.
In the Second Amendment, the right of self-defense, specifically with firearms, that was part of that notion. And so you know, dad, as you’re saying, even this idea that you can have these incredibly powerful, deadly weapons that would terrify most people, but again, part of the reason would terrify most people, is we no longer live in a place where we have the moral underpinnings that we recognize right and wrong, we recognize basic critical truth, we recognize the value of life, as defined in scripture, that we are all made in God’s image, we are all that creatures of the Divine, so to speak, we’ve lost that notion.
And therefore without the moral underpinning, it’s easy to go the wrong way. And also because we don’t know that basic constitutional position, or kind of the laws of nature and nature is God, we don’t recognize his natural right of self-defense and what it’s there for. It’s not for us to be the aggressor. This is not the law of the lion or the tiger, the shark, survival of the fittest, and right, it’s this Mad Max world that you’re trying to conquer other people and take their goods and you’re trying to live and survive yourself. It’s a very different mindset.
And because we live in a world where we’ve lost a lot of the biblical truth, the moral underpinnings, and we don’t understand the history of the Constitution, and we see much more of the Mad Max as a reality around us, this is why the Second Amendment or firearms in general terrify a lot of people.
But it’s also if Mad Max is becoming more of a reality, this is why the Founding Fathers acknowledged you need the Second Amendment right of self-defense, you need the ability to have a firearm, so that if there are people out there who have lost their moral underpinning, who don’t understand basic rights and values, you need the ability to stop the evil before it brings an infliction on you or your household.
And again, that’s part of the reason why there was a Second Amendment say the federal government can never come and stop and violate that because there might come a time when you need the ability to stop a bad guy or a bad nation.
And the concept of being comfortable with other people having guns really goes back to a fundamental understanding the Founders had. John Adams articulated, he said, “Our Constitution is made only for a moral and religious people.”
If you have a moral and a religious people around you who have been trained in what’s moral and what’s right, and you have religious self-control, the restraint of the heart, I’m not selfish, I understand the golden rule, I understand the Good Samaritan, I understand looking out for others, I understand not shedding innocent blood, you’re not nearly as concerned with everybody on the street having guns as you are today.
Because when you see an Antifa or Black Lives Matter or those groups carrying guns around, your instant thought is, oh, I need to arm myself because they’re coming after me because this is a group that doesn’t understand religion or morality. They don’t have those internal restraints. And so the Founding Fathers had some assumptions up front that we really don’t have in place today. And the less we have them in place, the more scared we are of the stuff. But yet, the more we needed at the same time.
So it really is it kind of a paradox. Tim mentioned the Second Amendment, and the Second Amendment really has two parts: there is the right of individual self-defense, and there’s the right of collective self-defense. I have the right to keep and bear arms, and I have the right to be part of a militia. And the militia was we can join together and have a neighborhood watch, if you want, to be able to defend ourselves, our town, our property, our county or whatever it is, we can call that that militia, we call them National Guard’s, although that’s not what militia was. You still have the Texas State Guard, which is very different from the Texas National Guard.
So the ability to form militias as part of that as well, which really means a bunch of us can get together and create something for our own corporate self-defense, neighborhood watch, or whatever you want to call it. But it’s a great, great, great question. And there’s just some assumptions the Founding Fathers had in mind when they did this that we’re not really as familiar with today, which is why this is much more kind of a fearsome possibility or thought to have people armed as the Founders would have been back in their day.
Morality as a Restraint
It’s an absolutely fascinating discussion. And you guys might have been surprised I was so quiet on this subject as you all were discussing it. But I really was engaged in what you were saying. Because, you know, Tim, as you were talking about the moral and religious side of this, that was what came to my mind when David you said the words, you know, the Founders had restraints we don’t really think about today.
And what a difference the self-restraint that you’re talking about with the morality versus the restraint on the type of gun or how many bullets or how many rounds you got in your magazine. That’s what they typically government debates today in terms of restraints, and no discussion about the heart of man, about the morality, about what we’re teaching in the schools.
You know, even David, we were just watching on one of our classes, your discussion about civility, and Washington’s Rules of Civility, we’ve missed out on the self-restraints that you’re talking about and because of that had to lean towards tyranny, and have government tried to restrain us.
And that’s what I heard from what you guys were saying. I hope I understood that correctly. But that’s really our biggest problem right now is that lack of personal restraint. And that leads into also what you were talking about, doing the training, having the discipline to get trained if you’re going to carry a firearm and not just think, well, I’m just going to put this thing in my purse or in my truck or whatever, I don’t need training, I’ll take care of it. I mean, that’s foolish and dangerous for people.
So I love what you guys just said, I know we’re going to get emails, we’re going to get calls, people are going to say, oh, wait a minute, are you siding with those who think that we should be able to restrict the Second Amendment? Not at all what we were saying.
What we’re saying is we need more self-restraint. We need a society that has that morality that teaches the proper use and the safety. Bring those things back, and you’ll need less and less of government. Really good discussion, guys.
Alright, well, that was a great question. Appreciate you sending that in, Joe, took up half of our program today or more, but loved it. We’re going to take a quick break, we’ll come back and see if we get to a couple more questions before the day is over. Please send yours in to email@example.com. We’ll be right back on WallBuilders Live.
THIS PRECARIOUS MOMENT
Hi, this is David Barton. I want to let you know about a brand new book we have out called “This Precarious Moment: Six Urgent Steps that Will Save You, Your Family, and Our Country”. Jim Garlow and I have coauthored this book. And we take six issues that are hot in the culture right now, issues that we’re dealing with, issues such as immigration, and race relations, and our relationship with Israel and the rising generation millennials and the absence of the church and the culture wars, and where American heritage is, our godly heritage.
We look at all six of those issues right now that are under attack and we give you both biblical and historical perspective on those issues that provide solutions on what each of us can do right now to make a difference. These are all problems that are solvable if we’ll get involved. So you can grab the book, “This Precarious Moment” and find out what you can do to make a difference. “This Precarious Moment” is available at wallbuilders.com.
Article 1, Section 8
President Calvin Coolidge said, “The more I study the Constitution, the more I realize that no other document devised by the hand of man has brought so much progress and happiness to humanity. To live under the American Constitution is the greatest political privilege that was ever accorded to the human race.”
We’re back here on WalBuilders Live. Thanks for staying with us on this Foundations of Freedom Thursday. Taking your questions, and Shawn Adams has the next question. I want to know if Shawn is related to either of the Adams that signed the Declaration of Independence. Well, Johnson send us a note so if you’ve done some homework on that. But he’s got a Constitution question, constitutional clarification kind of ties to our last question.
“But Article 1, Section 8 of the Constitution, can you explain the following congressional powers and how they might apply to the Second Amendment to provide”, this is what in Article 1, Section 8, I forget which clauses you guys might have pulled up, I don’t, it’s to provide for calling forth the militia to execute the laws of the Union, suppress insurrections, and repel invasions. That’s the one that Biden’s not doing a very good job of right now.
And then to provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining the militia, and for governing such part of them as may be employed in the service the United States, reserving to the states respectfully the appointment of the officers, and the authority of training the militia according to the discipline prescribed by Congress.
So what do you guys think? I mean, that how does that fit? We just talked about Second Amendment, we didn’t really talk about the militia part of the Second Amendment, but you did talk about the group right of being able to come together in that way. So what do you all think?
Well, what you see here with this clause is the federalism of the military. There is an element of the militia which is part of the military that’s to be controlled by the Feds and there’s an element of be controlled by the states. Essentially, the militias belong to the States, but they can be called up by the Feds in case we need them, in case the British come attack us or whatever, and we need that, we’ll call them up.
So every state had militias back in their days. And mostly, every community had militias back in their days. You had local militias, state militias, and in the states’ militias would get called up to help George Washington in a big needed national battle somewhere.
So what you see here is that alright, all these militias need to be trained on federal rules and federal warfare and federal tactics, etc so that if they get called up on behalf of the nation, you’ve got a unified command. You know, if George Washington is your commander and he issues his command, you need to know what that means and be able to do it.
But at the same time, you’ve also got state’s stuff going on. And if you have to call out the National Guard because your southern border is being invaded by people from different nations, and there’s no control down there…
Is this just hypothetical?
It’s a hypothetical. I don’t know that that would ever happen in America’s history. But in case that was needed, you’ve also got state rules. So what you see here is the federalism aspect, notice the federal government does not control all of the military, it controls part of it. The states also control part of it. But there’s times when the feds can call it up, and because of that, all the states have to be trained in, if you will, the national or the federal concepts of warfare and chain of commands and orders, and tactics and everything else.
The Second Amendment
Now remember, this was written before there was a Second Amendment. At the time they wrote this in the Constitution, there was no concept of even having a Second Amendment. They wrote the Constitution without adding a Bill of Rights, they voted down a Bill of Rights. So they’re making sure here that you understand that this is not just a federal takeover of military power, this is something that’s shared with the states and with the communities because that’s what the militias were, they were local as well as state. And so it’s a really good indication.
And then when you throw the Second Amendment on top of this, what we were just talking about, then it really does give you a lot more insight because the Second Amendment is reinforcing what you see here, but it’s also saying, by the way, this is also an individual right, not only do you have the right to keep and bear arms, but your militia does as well. So it’s a great, if you will, melding together of all these clauses, even though the Second Amendment came several years later, it shows you what their thinking was at the time.
And only thing I would point out, David, when you say they weren’t even thinking of a Second Amendment, it wasn’t that they weren’t thinking of the first law of nature, and you’ve written a whole book on this. So I know that’s what you meant. It’s just they didn’t at that point think that they needed to put it in the Constitution because it was such a given. Right?
They Weren’t Thinking About It
That’s right. Yeah. The Second Amendment was an afterthought to reaffirm what was the first thought if you will. They didn’t do the Second Amendment because everybody knew that you had a God-given right. But a lot of these guys had the wisdom to say, yeah, but you know, the federal government someday down the road might not think the way we think right now, so we better give the people some extra protections.
So the Second Amendment really didn’t introduce a new thought, it just reaffirmed what they were thinking at the time in case some future federal government didn’t think that way anymore, or future state government, whoever. And so yeah, in saying that, that wasn’t what they were thinking about.
No, they definitely were thinking about the concepts, they had just not thought about writing it down and a Bill of Rights until all the states rose up after the Constitution was sent to the states, and they said, well, we’re giving you conditional ratification. We’ll ratify the Constitution if you put a Bill of Rights in there making sure that we draw clear boundaries around federal power.
So the fact that you have the Second Amendment that’s done really three to four years after this clause are written surely tells you more about what they were thinking at the time they wrote this clause because it was in their mind, they just didn’t think they needed write it down.
Why Did Franklin Never Become President?
Alright, fellows, maybe my favorite question for Foundation of Freedom Thursday ever, it comes from O’Fallon, Missouri, and it’s from Christie. She says “My son who is seven years old, and I listened to WallBuilders all the time, he is becoming very curious about our Founding Fathers question from a seven years old.
His name is John from Missouri. Why did Benjamin Franklin never run for US president?” That’s from John Heflin, seven years old in O’Fallon, Missouri. John, thank you so much for sending in that question.
And you know, David, you’ve read more of these Founding Fathers than anybody alive today. Why didn’t Benjamin Franklin ever run for US President? I guess he was a little bit up there by the time we had presidents.
Well, you know, it’s that’s a great question. And if I go to what John Adams said, John Adams said that Ben Franklin was the second most notable guy in the nation only behind George Washington. And so I think if he had run, he would have got elected for sure.
Well, let me also interject, right, this is a seven-year-old asking the question, I think most Americans could not answer this question.
Yeah, that’s right.
Already I’m very impressed. You know, one of the things, guys, we’ve talked about often when you look at the Constitutional Convention when the Founding Fathers are drafting the Constitution, and Benjamin Franklin has this incredible call to prayer during that time, and he’s reminding the people we need to remember God in the midst of this hard time.
One of the things worth noting in the Constitution Convention is that there’s actually some paintings depicting this Franklin was on a chair that whole time and actually, he had to be carried in and out, kind of in a chair, so to speak, there’s kind of a cart he was brought to and from the convention in because he had a really hard time walking, his body was already beginning to fall apart. So even though he was incredibly…
Yeah, and this is only like a year or two before he died at the time the Constitution…
At the Convention, right. So even though he was incredibly loved, and had he been younger and healthier, had he lived a little longer, he very likely could have and would have been a president. George Washington was a unanimous president from the beginning. There was a reason George Washington was chose to be the head of the chair of the Constitutional Convention. George Washington was the most respected, the most trusted of the Founding Fathers, but closely behind Washington would have been Franklin.
Restrictions On Weapons, Military Federalism, And More – On Foundations
Well, when Washington serves for eight years, Franklin is already dead before Washington had finished his term. Had Franklin been alive and been young and healthy enough that he could have gone on, I think it’s very likely he could have been a US president because he was that well-known and he was that generally liked by the American populace.
And by the way, him serving in the Constitution Convention was a huge sacrifice. He served throughout the convention, Tim, as you noted, kind of on a portable wheelchair they made for him to get him in and out. He was on the strongest known pain medication of the day just to be able to survive and make it through the daily meetings of the Convention. So bless his heart, his health was in bad shape and he sacrificed a lot to be there. But he’s a key guy. And that is a great, great, great question.
And absolutely phenomenal that on that medication and in such pain, and at that age, I mean, the speeches he gave and just how articulate and how powerful and the influence that it still has today, so thankful for that. John Heflin, thank you for that question. You’re seven, so I’ll tell you what, buddy, nine years, in nine years, we want you at Patriot Academy. You’re exactly the kind of young man that we’re looking for.
Thanks for listening today, folks. That’s all of the questions we’re going to have time to get to today on this Foundations of Freedom Thursday. But of course, you can get more at our website wallbuilderslive.com, just looking at the archive section for those Foundations of Freedom Thursday programs. And tune in next week, we’ll get to more of those questions. Be sure and send yours into firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com. We sure appreciate you listening today. You’ve been listening to WallBuilders Live.