Observations of a Citizen

Hal Rounds


Tennessee and the 2nd Amendment


Tennessee has a special relationship with the 2nd Amendment – and the whole Bill of Rights.  When the first government of the new United States was collapsing, the Philadelphia Convention of 1787 offered a new plan.  We live under that plan, the Constitution of the United States of America.


It wasn’t easy.  Many saw too much power in the proposed government.  Were these powers needed – or were they simply tyrannical?  Conventions in each state took months to debate these concerns.  Proposed in September of 1787, the plan required 9 states out of the 13 to ratify the Constitution, or it would fail.  It took until June of 1788, for the 9th state, New Hampshire, to ratify.  With that ratification these 9 states became a nation.  Then they had to begin work to make the plan real.  Virginia quickly joined, and New York followed in July, making a union of 11 states.


Two states, Rhode Island and North Carolina, refused to ratify.


North Carolina, stretching from the Atlantic Ocean to the Mississippi, largely objected to the powers in the Constitution, and their state convention adjourned without ratifying in August of 1788. They wanted a “bill of rights” or some such restraint.  Several ratifying states agreed; but had signed up under protest.


Today, we know the western half of that North Carolina as our state, Tennessee. Following refusal to join the Union in 1788, North Carolina found itself a separate, independent, nation.


That first Congress, with 11 states met, in New York on March 4, 1789.  They had the whole new government to organize, staff, and fund.  Despite these critical priorities, they drafted 12 amendments, and, in September, 1789, submitted them to the states.  10 of these amendments specified a list of rights that aimed to satisfy the concerns of many who had joined, and of North Carolina’s people.


This proposed Bill of Rights, plus the choice of George Washington as President, persuaded North Carolina to reconsider the Constitution just two months later. Their new convention met in November of 1789 - and ratified the Constitution more than a year after they had first rejected it.  As an equal state, North Carolina quickly ratified the Bill of Rights, before all but 2 of the other states.


This included the 2nd and 5th amendments that protect our right to keep and bear arms, and due process of law.


In 1796, North Carolina ceded their territory west of the Smoky Mountains, and Congress admitted it as the 16th state, Tennessee, whose constitution provided “That the freemen of this State have a right to keep and to bear arms …”


But a forgetful society no longer remembers what inspired the governing plan that still blesses us, and, in timidity and ignorance, many seek protection by the very sleeping monster that our founders knew had to be restrained.  They knew that our fundamental protections always lie in ourselves.


The “protections” proposed today include “Red Flag” laws – where anyone who can fabricate a pretense can accuse a friend, a spouse, a neighbor, or, really, anyone, of being a threat whose arms must be seized immediately.  These laws abandon the “Due Process” protections found in the Bill of Rights (and 14th Amendment), while they target the 2nd Amendment’s right to “keep and bear arms” that was never to be infringed.


The Senator who is proposing this law for Tennessee is from our neighboring Shelby County. 


Anyone who thinks that our rights are safe just because they “always have been safe” ignores history.  As once stated, “The price of liberty is eternal vigilance.”  Liberties once taken for granted are under assault, from within, as never before.  Vigilance identifies the need for action. 


Action begins by resolving what to do.  To preserve our rights, we must resolve to give them sanctuary from attempted violations.  Such resolve began here, in Tennessee, partly.  That’s where it must be revived.