As the debate rages over the interpretation, and even the relevance of the Second Amendment, we must look to history in order to understand why the Founding Fathers wrote this amendment.

The most obvious point of reference is that the men who wrote our Constitution were “revolutionists.” They had just used arms to overthrow a government they believed unjust, and they wanted to insure the future citizens of this great country the opportunity to do the same, should the need ever arise.

Those who doubt this need only reference the individual writings of the founders. As only one example, Samuel Adams wrote, “The Constitution shall never be construed to authorize congress to prevent the people of the United States, who are peaceable citizens, from keeping their own arms.”

There is nothing ambiguous about that statement!

The Founding Fathers did not create the concept of an individual’s right to keep and bear arms. This and many other rights outlined in our Declaration of Independence and Constitution, pre-dated colonial America, and many were rooted in the English Bill of Rights. Our founders, when writing the Second Amendment, voted, as did the English representatives in 1699, to reject a motion that would have added “for the common defense” after the phrase “keep and bear arms.”

The right to bear arms, in England and in America, was derived not only from the need to defend against external aggression, but also for the purpose of defending oneself from civil strife, religious and government persecution and for personal self-defense and self-sufficiency.

 Not only is the right to bear arms a constitutional right, it is also a fundamental natural right. Throughout history, civilian disarmament has been a precursor of oppression. During the 20th century, approximately 262 million people were murdered by their own governments. From Russia, China, Cambodia and Germany to Turkey, Guatemala and Uganda, the history and statistics are horrific. In every nation where this genocide was perpetrated, the segment of the population to be victimized was disarmed before the killing began.

Today, the argument on gun control, in America, is focused on violent crime prevention. After the Newtown shootings, President Obama, many Democrats in Congress and the mainstream media began an intensive campaign to encourage the American public to demand strong gun-control legislation. It always amazes me that after any well-publicized shooting spree, there are people who exploit the tragedy and suggest that the answer is to take guns away from the people who didn’t do it. In fact, there is no evidence that restrictive gun laws protect anyone other than criminals.  Preventing law-abiding citizens from carrying guns simply makes them more vulnerable to attack.

Let’s look at some statistics. Gun ownership has been steadily climbing for the past two decades, with the FBI statistics showing record permit applications for the last several years. During that same period, according to the Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Statistics 2011 study, U.S. gun-related homicides have plummeted 39 percent, while non-fatal gun related crime fell 69 percent. As gun sales sky-rocketed beginning in 2005, violent crime began dropping at an even more accelerated rate. FBI crime data consistently shows that law-abiding gun owners are not the problem.

A recent study published in the Harvard Journal of Law & Public Policy concluded there is a negative correlation between gun ownership and violent crime, internationally. The study showed that, in general, nations with strict gun-control laws have substantially higher murder rates than those who do not. In fact, the nine European nations with the lowest gun ownership rates have a combined murder rate that is three times higher than that of the nine European countries with the highest gun-ownership rates.

I guess the criminals don’t turn their weapons in.

A survey of 23,113 police chiefs and sheriffs, across the United Sates, found that 62 percent agreed that a national concealed handgun permit would be effective at reducing the rates of violent crime. The same study showed that 80 percent of the rank-and-file officers support the right of properly trained citizens to carry a concealed weapon. That is because only one public policy has been shown to reduce death rates from violent crime — concealed carry laws.

Florida’s homicide rate plunged from 37 percent above the national average to 3 percent below after the 1987 change in its concealed-carry law. In fact, across the country, states that have made it easier for its citizens to arm themselves have seen their crime rates fall dramatically.  

Almost all mass shooting occur in “gun-free zones.” The idea that declaring any area a “gun-free zone” will improve safety is in itself, insane. Criminals break the law! They bring their guns, knowing that the honest citizens there will not be armed, and therefore will be unable to stop the slaughter. Who thought this one up? In spite of all the statistics, the Democrats believe the solution to violent crime is simple: Take away all the guns. Have we lost all common sense in America?

As the gun debate continues to focus on crime in America, we must not be distracted from the most important reason the Second Amendment was written — a reason best expressed by Thomas Jefferson when he wrote, “The strongest reason for people to retain the right to keep and bear arms is, as a last resort, to protect themselves against tyranny in government.”

We must fight to keep our rights intact, under the Second Amendment, for as Aristotle wrote, “Only an armed people can be truly free.”

(Ms. Simms lives in Allegany and Jacksonville, Fla.)