Because we Americans have lived all our adult lives under a liberal media, academic and jurisprudential mind-control regime that looked at the Bill of Rights and counted the amendments as, “One, Three, Four …“, the two recent rulings of the U.S. Supreme Court on the long-neglected Second Amendment may seem utterly astounding.

But the truly amazing thing about these decisions is that it took so long for the real meaning of the Amendment, which our forebears understood perfectly, to be formally recognized by the Court.

Even though groups like the Brady Campaign have continually waved their hands in our faces and purred, “This isn’t the amendment you’re looking for,” a Court majority finally cut through the bafflegab and affirmed its true history.

Perhaps the most revealing and surprising part of the case was a historical point emphasized by Justice Clarence Thomas in his concurring opinion.

The court’s sole black justice noted that when occupying Union armies left the South after Reconstruction and white majorities returned to political power, one of their top priorities was to disarm freed slaves.

So, those who had supported the abolition of slavery turned to the Second Amendment.

They said that black Americans, because they now shared all the rights of citizenship with every other American, had the right to keep and bear arms for self-defense against the depredations of re-empowered white Southerners who sought to use violence to deprive them of their constitutional rights.

Thomas quoted Frederick Douglass, a noted black abolitionist, as saying, “The black man has never had the right either to keep or bear arms,” and until he does, “the work of the Abolitionists is not finished.”

The first right-to-bear-arms ruling, D.C. v. Heller, overturned a gun ban in the nation’s capital. But because that case only applied to a federal enclave, the Second Amendment had not been “incorporated” under the 14th Amendment to apply to state and local jurisdictions.

That’s what this case, McDonald v. Chicago, accomplished for a city with a nearly complete ban on private firearms that was very similar to the one overturned in Heller.

And it was done in the name of a 76-year-old black Chicago resident named Otis McDonald, who lived in a high-crime neighborhood but had been refused the right to buy a gun to provide for his own defense.

That point was noted Thursday, not without incredulity, by a Washington Post columnist, Courtland Milloy, who wrote:

“In a scorcher of an opinion that reads like a mix of black history lesson and Black Panther Party manifesto, (Thomas) goes on to say, ‘Militias such as the Ku Klux Klan, the Knights of the White Camilla, the White Brotherhood, the Pale Faces and the ’76 Association spread terror among blacks The use of firearms for self-defense was often the only way black citizens could defend themselves from mob violence.’ “

Milloy added, “Thomas agreed with McDonald, concluding that owning a gun is a fundamental part of a package of hard-won rights guaranteed to black people under the 14th Amendment. And just because some black hooligans in Chicago or Washington, D.C., misuse firearms is no reason to give it up.”

Though Milloy doesn’t make a point of it, there is a world of difference between “hooligans” using illegally acquired guns to commit crimes, and law-abiding but defenseless citizens buying them legally to stop criminals from harming them.

In fact, that’s a commonsense point that applies to all Americans: The right to keep and bear arms is part of the Constitution, and it is an individual right, not one that belongs only to a government-run “militia.”

For one thing, as George Mason, the “father of the Bill of Rights,” said, the militia mentioned in the amendment is “the whole people.”

And as Investor’s Business Daily pointed out in a Wednesday editorial, the Second Amendment was not included under the parts of the Constitution that list the powers of Congress or the president.

Instead, it is part of the Bill of Rights, which (except for the right to bear arms) has always been interpreted to apply to individual citizens. “Why anyone thinks the Second Amendment does not apply to all Americans is a mystery to us,” the editorial said. “Governments have powers; individuals have rights.”

As a final point, let’s dispose of some red herrings: Just as with other rights, Congress, the states and localities can pass “reasonable” regulations on firearms. These rulings will not let people tote machine guns down the street any more than the First Amendment’s free-speech protections let people slander or libel each other.

Second, when gun-ban advocates cite “30,000 firearm deaths a year,” recall that many of the guns involved are already illegally possessed, and thousands of those slayings occur in the jurisdictions that, like Chicago, have the strictest firearms laws in the nation.

Meanwhile, places like Maine, where there are many guns and few restrictions on them, have very low rates of violent crime.

The right to keep and bear arms is a real civil right, just like free speech, freedom of religion and trial by jury.

That this right was reaffirmed as Americans prepare to celebrate the 234th anniversary of their independence only makes it more fitting — and sweet.

M.D. Harmon is an editorial writer. He can be contacted at 791-6482 or:

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