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Deer Hunting With A .50 CAL


A lot has been said about gun control recently, and today the President announced many changes to current gun laws, while referencing our nation’s “rich hunting and sporting traditions.” It seems that every time the gun control debate heats up again, federal politicians always discuss hunting and target shooting, while selectively ignoring the true motivations for including the 2nd Amendment in our Bill of Rights.

You never hear that the 2nd Amendment is the final check in “checks and balances.” It’s been a long time since Tench Coxe wrote in 1789, “As civil rulers, not having their duty to the people duly before them, may attempt to tyrannize, and as the military forces which must be occasionally raised to defend our country, might pervert their power to the injury of their fellow citizens, the people are confirmed by the next article in their right to keep and bear their private arms.”

Now, I understand that gun violence is a plague, a scourge upon the good of our nation. And I thoroughly believe that we must do more to keep weapons out of the hands of the criminally bent, mentally disturbed, and those with the intent to do harm, who are always wondering where to buy AK 47 Rifles from!. And as the President said today, the system has helped keep 1.4 million guns out of the wrong hands. But surely it can be improved. However, as we seek to answer “why” to tragedies such as Newtown, let us not become so hasty in our pursuit of answers, so angry at the loss of life, that we lose sight of our moral obligation to protect and defend our liberties not just for us and our children, but for generations of Americans to come. For once relinquished, rights are impossible to regain.

It’s not the responsible gun owner with a Squad Automatic Weapon or 30 round magazine that concerns me. Someone intent on harming others will do so whether they have a SAW or diesel fuel and fertilizer. What do laws prevent to those with an evil heart?

Often you will hear arguments that the founders could not have imagined automatic weapons, or that they were against the notion of citizens taking arms to protect their liberties. But this is not true, as we will examine in a moment.  But first, a word from Thomas Jefferson regarding context:

“On every question of construction (of the Constitution) let us carry ourselves back to the time when the Constitution was adopted, recollect the spirit manifested in the debates, and instead of trying what meaning may be squeezed out of the text, or invent against it, conform to the probable one in which it was passed.” ~ Thomas Jefferson, letter to Justice William Johnson, June 12, 1823

Now onto the examination:

They say: “So, in your mind it is alright to foment a revolution against our government if you feel it is oppressing you, right?”

Jefferson said: “God forbid we should ever be twenty years without such a rebellion…. And what country can preserve its liberties, if its rulers are not warned from time to time, that this people preserve the spirit of resistance? Let them take arms…. The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants. It is its natural manure.” ~ Thomas Jefferson, letter to William Stephens Smith, November 13, 1787

Jefferson also wrote: “But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.” ~ Declaration of Independence, July 4, 1776


They say: “One could argue that the framers were not interested in a country where people could use their firearms to potentially overthrow their elected officials.”

Hamilton wrote: “If the representatives of the people betray their constituents, there is no recourse left but in the exertion of that original right of self-defense which is paramount to all positive forms of government.” ~ Alexander Hamilton Federalist #28


They say: “Where does it stop then? Can Joe Citizen own a .50-caliber machine gun? Can he own a Barret .50-cal sniper rifle? Why stop there? Why not let Joe Citizen own their own M-1 Abrams tank? That would ensure that no government could trample on his rights….”

Tench Coxe (Hamilton’s Chief Assistant in the Treasury) wrote: “The power of the sword, say the minority of Pennsylvania, is in the hands of Congress. My friends and countrymen, it is not so, for the powers of the sword are in the hands of the yeomanry of America from 16 to 60. The militia of these free commonwealths, entitled and accustomed to their arms, when compared with any possible army, must be tremendous and irresistible. Who are the militia? Are they not ourselves? It is feared, then, that we shall turn our arms each man against his own bosom? Congress has no power to disarm the militia. Their swords, and every other terrible implement of the soldier, are the birthright of an American. The unlimited power of the sword is not in the hands of either the federal or state governments, but where I trust in God it will ever remain, in the hands of the people.” ~ Tench Coxe, Philadelphia Federal Gazette, February 20, 1788


Let’s also dispel another gun restriction argument while we’re at it; the commonly held notion that, “The 2nd amendment was for hunting”:

“This [Second Amendment] may be considered as the true palladium of liberty…. The right of self defence is the first law of nature: in most governments it has been the study of rulers to confine this right within the narrowest limits possible. Wherever standing armies are kept up, and the right of the people to keep and bear arms is, under any colour or pretext whatsoever, prohibited, liberty, if not already annihilated, is on the brink of destruction. In England, the people have been disarmed, generally, under the specious pretext of preserving the game: a never failing lure to bring over the landed aristocracy to support any measure, under that mask, though calculated for very different purposes. True it is, their bill of rights seems at first view to counteract this policy: but the right of bearing arms is confined to protestants, and the words suitable to their condition and degree, have been interpreted to authorise the prohibition of keeping a gun or other engine for the destruction of game, to any farmer, or inferior tradesman, or other person not qualified to kill game. So that not one man in five hundred can keep a gun in his house without being subject to a penalty.” ~ Saint George Tucker, Blackstone’s Commentaries (1803)

In closing:

“Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclination, or the dictates of our passions, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence.” ~ John Adams

The 2nd Amendment is what makes us citizens, rather than subjects.

(For the record, I’m not advocating for any armed uprising, merely providing historical context of the 2nd Amendment)


Matthew Ridenhour, a Republican, is the District 5 representative on the Mecklenburg Board of County Commissioners.

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