John Locke

John Locke

John Locke Providing Foundations for the American Constitution

Finding the traces of the Second Amendment in the ancient Greeks we now move towards its proponents in modern philosophical traditions. John Locke was an English philosopher who laid down the foundations of modern political “liberalism” and “Natural Rights”. Being the inspirer of both the European Enlightenment and the Declaration of Independence he held a central authority among the Founding Fathers of the United States.

It will be pertinent to say that most of the political ideologies and inspirations for the citizens of the United States are the direct influence of his philosophical works. His predictions and ideas were proved accurate and most of what he advocated was enacted in England after the Glorious Revolution and in United States after the Declaration of Independence.

Democracy and the right of people to rule was the basic notion of his philosophy which was ultimately upheld by the Founding Fathers. He was only 10 years old when he witnessed the Civil Wars of England which developed an inclination for the “Parliamentarians” and rejection for the monarchy which ultimately advocates the foundational spirit of American democratic Constitution. The significance of his political ideology in his contemporary era is prominent and can scarcely be exaggerated. The integration of individualism within the framework of his theory of Natural Law along with the origin and limits of a legitimate government instigated the U.S. Declaration of Independence and inspired the broad outlines of the Constitution and Amendments of America. George Washington, the first president of the United States, once described Locke as:

“The greatest man who had ever lived”

“Father of Liberalism” was the First Proponent of the Second Amendment

The liberty to possess private firearms and ammunition in United States is hotly debated in the world and surprisingly even in those countries too where the notion of liberty in speech, liberty of religion, liberty to write, liberty to act and even liberty to legislate their own laws for country is enthusiastically practiced. While the Father of Liberalism, John Locke, who was the intense inspirer of the Founding Fathers and origin of all these liberal notions, gave an entire opposite stance on this matter. For Locke the “Natural Rights” of citizen are God given and among them the “Right of Life” secures the chief position in his philosophy. This Right of Life inarguably demands the right of self-defense as a foremost right for an autonomous being. According to Locke the individuals has the fundamental right to bear private firearms and ammunitions so that they can keep a check against any tyrant or oppressor, a right which no government can abrogate.
“The state of nature has a law of nature to govern it, which obliges every one: and reason, which is that law, teaches all mankind, who will but consult it, that being all equal and independent, no one ought to harm another in his life, health, liberty, or possessions.”
-Second Treatise on Government- John Locke

It is a natural right of human being to protect himself and his family from attackers and intruders, a right which human being has been exercising from primitive era, is still a natural part of human instinct. Apart from the element of “life”, the other three elements in the philosophy of Locke seem to uphold the Second Amendment and depict his pro-gun prognostication. The “Liberty” of all equal and independent beings presupposes the freedom of possessing private firearms and ammunition, while Locke’s declaration of “Possessions” as the law of nature also secures the justness of the Forefathers’ verdict of possessing private firearms and ammunition in the form of second amendment.

Being a beforehand exponent of the Second Amendment and “Liberalism” he defended the notion of Founding Fathers who said that the “right of possessing private firearms must not be infringed” in the following words;

“The end of law is not to abolish or restrain, but to preserve and enlarge freedom.”

-Second Treatise of Civil Government (1690)

The Social Contract Theory

The age-old social contract theory which assures that the government must be with the consent of people been governed and there must be check against the government if it steps out of line, leaves power with the majority. In simple terms the Social Contract Theory asserts that the government must exist with the consent of people in order to protect the basic rights and common good of people. The word “consent” has been used more than 80 times in his Second Treatise on Government which shows the importance of people’s endorsement and, for that matter, the freedom to resist any untoward tyrant. The pivotal position in the social contract theory of Locke rests by the “people” and their right over their own life:
“Nobody can give more power than he has himself; and he that cannot take away his own life, cannot give another power over it.”
-John Locke Second Treatise on Government
So without the power of resistance and self-defense the Social Contract Theory of Locke is futile. In the modern world this power resides in the possession of legal private firearms and ammunition which ensures both the aspects of Locke’s theory; the right of self-defense and right to resist any government against the “consent” of citizens. The Second Amendment aptly secures the prerequisites of the Theory of Social Contract and the Right of Revolution.

Locke’s “Right of Revolution” and the Second Amendment of U.S

At the end of his Second Treatise Locke makes a distinction between the legitimate government and illegitimate government. The legitimate government preserves the rights of life, property, health and liberty while the illegitimate seeks to systematically violate these Natural Rights. Locke seems to forecast the significance of preservation of the Second Amendment to U.S. Constitution as it is the only way out to resist any tyranny or monarchy of an illegitimate government imposed on the citizens of America. The Founding Fathers deemed the Second Amendment necessary to protect the state against the intruders and tyrants equally. Locke justifies the right of citizens to rebel against the tyrant who devours the democratic rights of citizens which requires the “militia” and well-armed citizens capable of showing any resistance. In this stance Locke seems to be the proponent of Founding Fathers who insisted the same argument as a foundation of the unique fabric of the American nation and its justified right of possessing private firearms and ammunition to defend their historical outlines. As Socrates cautioned us about the scheme of a tyrant to disarm the citizens before embarking the tyranny, Locke seems to illustrate the both aspects of this problem. On the one side he enumerates the Natural Rights of citizens and advocates the right of life, property, health and above all the Liberty of Revolution, while on the other side he seems to preserve the this liberty by implicit forecasting of the pro-guns Second Amendment. This is a conspicuous fact that you cannot maintain this Lockean, congenital right of the Americans to resist against the tyrannically inflicted government without armed citizens (militia) having good ammunition. Locke has a unique perspective on his theory of revolution and consigned right to rebel as he deduce it from the theological origin of God given sanctions to human being;
“Whenever the Legislators endeavor to take away, and destroy the Property of the People, or to reduce them to Slavery under Arbitrary Power, they put themselves into a state of War with the People, who are thereupon absolved from any farther Obedience, and are left to the common Refuge, which God hath provided for all Men, against Force and Violence. Whensoever therefore the Legislative shall transgress this fundamental Rule of Society; and either by Ambition, Fear, Folly or Corruption, endeavor to grasp themselves, or put into the hands of any other an Absolute Power over the Lives, Liberties, and Estates of the People; By this breach of Trust they forfeit the Power, the People had put into their hands, for quite contrary ends, and it devolves to the People, who have a Right to resume their original Liberty.”

(Two Treatises of Government)– John Locke

Thus Locke implicitly held the Second Amendment a sacred fraction of the Constitution of United States and esteemed the possession of private firearms and ammunition as a religious duty. The same right was also cited in the “Declaration of Independence of the United States” written by Thomas Jefferson, one of the vital catalyst among the Founding Fathers and the proponent of John Locke;
“Whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute a new government, laying its foundation on such principles, and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness.”
This line not only succored the Declaration of Independence but also prescribed the course for the future policy makers of the United States. Its reflection is uttered by one of the Founding Fathers:
“What country can preserve its liberties if their rulers are not warned from time to time that their people preserve the spirit of resistance? Let them take arms.”
– Thomas Jefferson-  

Discovering Some Interesting Aspects of Locke’s Philosophy

1. Gender Equality; John Locke was the first philosopher in history who distinctly upheld the role of women in political and social sphere. According to him:

“Men (human) being, as has been said, by nature, all free, equal and independent”

Locke seems to challenge the age-old patriarchal structure of society by bestowing women equal political rights. This equality inevitably demands the reduction of disparities in physical strength. Locke was a true “Father of Liberalism” planting the “seed of feminism” in the early modern society. This equality between genders seems to uphold the Second Amendment and legalization of the possession of private firearms and ammunition. Two people equally armed with guns, are very likely to have equal harming and coercive powers, regardless of their physical disparities because in normal situations firearms are equally harmful in anyone’s hand. Buying firearms and having quality ammunition guarantees the safety of women regardless of their physical disparities. So the Second Amendment upholds the gender equality proposed by John Locke.

2. Natural Laws; There are natural laws which we had in the state of nature before the introduction of “Civil Government” or any Constitution and all the people had this right equally.
“The state of nature has a law of nature to govern it, which obliges everyone: and reason which is that law, teaches all mankind who will but consult it, that being all equal and independent, no one ought to harm another in his life, health, liberty or possessions…”  
(Treatises II.2.6) –
According to Locke the natural rights of “life, health, property and possessions” enumerated by Locke are within the Natural Laws and reason, and this is an interesting idea, because all our previous discussion on the advocacy of Locke for the pro-gun Second Amendment will fall within the laws of “Nature” which existed prior to the Second Amendment.

Strangely, this interesting aspect of “Natural” right was implicit in the wording to Forefathers when they wrote that this right “shall not be infringed”. You can infringe something existing beforehand, thus the Founding Fathers were also inspired by the Locke’s philosophy of “Natural Laws” and considered the right of possessing private firearms “Natural Right”.


To be curt “the Father of Liberalism”, being the true stimulus of the American Forefathers, through his political philosophy, instigated the “Declaration of Independence” and forecasted the “Second Amendment” in the Constitution of United States to preclude any anarchy in future. Locke considers these natural rights as predestined by the nature in the rational way. The way in which the philosophy of John Locke is integrated in the fabric of American Constitution, the strategy in which his Liberalism seems to uphold the liberty of possessions as a natural right, and the immense focus on the “consent” of citizens in his Social Contract Theory for any government and their proposed right to “rebel” against an illegitimate government, is a barefaced avowal of Locke’s advocacy for the possession of private firearms and ammunition by the Americans citizens.

John Locke

by Admin-Ammoright time to read: 9 min