Judge Andrew Napolitano

When the Second Amendment was written and added to the Constitution, the use of guns in America was common. At the same time, King George III -- whom we had just defeated and who was contemplating another war against us, which he would start in 1812 -- no doubt ardently wished that he had stripped his colonists of their right to self-defense so as to subdue their use of violence to secede from Great Britain. That act of secession, the American Revolution, was largely successful because close to half of the colonists were armed and did not fear the use of weaponry.

If the king and the Parliament had enacted and enforced laws that told them who among the colonists owned guns or that limited the power of the colonists' guns or the amount of ammunition they could possess, our Founding Fathers would have been hanged for treason. One of the secrets of the Revolution -- one not taught in public schools today -- is that the colonists actually had superior firepower to the king. The British soldiers had standard-issue muskets, which propelled a steel ball or several of them about 50 yards from the shooter. But the colonists had the long gun -- sometimes called the Kentucky or the Tennessee -- which propelled a single steel ball about 200 yards, nearly four times as far as the British could shoot. Is it any wonder that by Yorktown in 1781, the king and the Parliament had lost enough men and treasure to surrender?

The lesson here is that free people cannot remain free by permitting the government -- even a popularly elected one that they can unelect -- to take their freedoms away. The anti-freedom crowd in the government desperately wants to convey the impression that it is doing something to protect us. So it unconstitutionally and foolishly seeks, via burdensome and intrusive registration laws, laws restricting the strength of weapons and the quantity and quality of ammunition and, the latest trick, laws that impose financial liability on law-abiding manufacturers and sellers for the criminal behavior of some users, to make it so burdensome to own a gun that the ordinary folks who want one will give up their efforts to obtain one.

We cannot let ourselves fall down this slippery slope. The right to self-defense is a natural individual right that pre-exists the government. It cannot morally or constitutionally be taken away absent individual consent or due process. Kings and tyrants have taken this right away. We cannot let a popular majority take it away, for the tyranny of the majority can be as destructive to freedom as the tyranny of a madman.

Judge Andrew Napolitano

Judge Andrew P. Napolitano is the youngest life-tenured Superior Court judge in the history of the State of New Jersey. He sat on the bench from 1987 to 1995, during which time he presided over 150 jury trials and thousands of motions, sentencings and hearings. He taught constitutional law at Seton Hall Law School for 11 years, and he returned to private practice in 1995. Judge Napolitano began television work in the same year.