Our Founding Fathers’ faith in an almighty God helped establish the United States of America. In the Declaration of Independence they proclaimed; “We hold these truths to be self evident that all men are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights. That among these are the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness- that to secure these rights governments are instituted among men…”
In the Constitution, the Second Amendment, known as the right to bear arms, serves to protect our God-given right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Although the Constitution and Second Amendment has antecedents in English law they also seem rooted in Christian – Judeo tradition.
A “transcendent reality” – Almighty God – informs our constitutional government. The right to bear arms has a basis in the Sixth Commandment – “Thou shalt not murder.”
Unfortunately, due to an erroneous translation of this command found in the King James Version of the Bible which reads; “Thou shalt not kill,” many think the right to bear arms is against God’s will.
Nothing appears further from the truth. Scholars tell us the word murder found in the command comes from the original Hebrew word – “ratsah.” This is differentiated from another Hebrew word – “harag,” which means “to kill.”
Thus, according to a proper understanding of the Sixth Commandment, not all killing is murder.
The commandment allowed for the taking of life in two circumstances. Killing might be allowed, (1) to protect innocent life or, (2) to protect one’s land. We might visualize the commandment as two sides to the same coin. It protects innocent life by prohibiting murder while still allowing for killing in self defense.
In America, arms may be legitimately used to protect innocent lives from aggressive individuals who threaten us with violent crime like murder or rape. These absolute and God-given rights to life and to bear arms for protection is not something we wish to lose.
Three quotations from the Founding Fathers may provide guidance in the current gun control debate.
Samuel Adams said: “The Constitution shall never be construed…to prevent the people of the United States who are peaceable citizens from keeping their own arms.”
James Madison wrote: “Americans have the right and advantage of being armed – unlike the citizens of other countries whose governments are afraid to trust the people with arms.”
Lastly, the father of our country George Washington argued: “Firearms are second only to the Constitution in importance; they are the peoples’ liberty’s teeth.”
Due to our right to life and to self defense any gun control legislation deserves slow, careful deliberation.
Philip W. Chapman