The Right to Keep and Bear Arms

By: D.J. Bettencourt – June, 2013

D.J. Bettencourt
D.J. Bettencourt

All persons have the right to keep and bear arms in defense of themselves, their families, their property and the State. ~ Article 2A, New Hampshire Constitution

Immediately following the 2012 elections, New Hampshire Governor Maggie Hassan and legislative Democrats began filing legislation to strip Granite Staters of their Second Amendment rights protected under the state and federal constitutions.

Their latest effort has focused on repealing New Hampshire’s “stand-your-ground” law passed by the 2011-2012 legislatures. Before 2011, a citizen’s first obligation under state law was to retreat from danger before responding with deadly force. However, the previous Republican legislature revised state law to make clear that citizens have a right to defend themselves from a physical threat. Since its passage there have been no unintended consequences or vigilante behavior but none of that mattered to New Hampshire Democrats who have become obsessed with gun control.

While the Republican-controlled State Senate scuttled their efforts to repeal stand-your-ground last week, as Democrats continue their gun control efforts it is worth remembering our nation’s heritage and the foundation of our Second Amendment freedoms.

By the late fall of 1776, the Continental Army under George Washington was on the ropes. The year before, the army had stood tall at Bunker Hill and in spring, it had forced the British out of Boston. Six months later, it waited on the banks of the Delaware River in Pennsylvania for the British in New Jersey to cross and deliver their deathblow. The sunshine patriots and summer soldiers were gone. The Continental Army hardly existed as a functioning fighting force.

That summer and fall the Continentals had barely escaped annihilation at the Battle of Brooklyn, were thrown off the island of Manhattan in another defeat, and then chased the length of New Jersey to their hoped for sanctuary in Pennsylvania. Having defeated, if not broken, the organized resistance of the colonists, the British turned to terrorizing the local population into submission. This was a tactic that had worked well in the past as demonstrated in their historical suppressions of Irish and Scottish nationalists, as recently as the Jacobite Rebellion in Scotland only 30 years earlier.

Even then America was different. The British and their Hessian mercenaries did not encounter an unarmed European peasantry browbeaten by centuries of feudalism and oppression. Rather, they brought their policy of rape and pillaging on armed American farmers with a tradition of self-defense in a sometimes hostile land. Within weeks, the armed and outraged resistance of New Jersey farmers relegated the British army to garrison towns along the road from New York to Trenton. The British found that they could leave those forts only in groups of at least 500 soldiers and even then lost hundreds of soldiers in what has since become known as the Forage War. Accounts come down to us of Red Coat foraging parties of over a hundred men returning with less than 30 remaining. Their fighting strength was cut in half by the end of the winter. Armed citizens engaged in self-defense saved the Revolution and American freedom.

Our founding fathers whose Revolution and lives were saved by an armed citizenry, never wanted a country with citizens denied the very armed self-defense that had saved them. Having sat in Philadelphia in 1776 waiting to see if the British would cross into Pennsylvania, the leaders of our Revolution knew from their own experiences that just as a nation’s army may not provide a perfect defense, so it is not possible for its constabulary to provide immediate defense against all dangers. They knew in fact, and not just in theory, that freedom is founded on the right and ability of each of us to defend ourselves. So 15 years later they wrote a fundamental right to bear arms into the Federal Bill of Rights and confirmed that right in their states’ constitutions.

Since the days of our founders, too many have confused the safety existing because of this tradition of armed self-defense as a reason to abandon its very foundation. They have lost an understanding that armed self-defense is the bedrock upon which our freedoms arose.

Our founders knew that they would forfeit their lives if the Revolution failed. They also knew that they owed their lives to an armed populace, such as the outraged farmers of New Jersey, who held the means of self-defense. It is time for Governor Hassan and her fellow Democrats to brush up on history and stop ignoring the constitutional rights and safety of Granite Staters.