Mr. Speaker, the Supreme Court is considering Washington, DC's total handgun ban. It is illegal to buy, sell or own a handgun in this Nation's Capital of ours. Of course, DC has one of the highest homicide rates in the entire country.

   The center of this debate is a question that has never really been clearly answered. What exactly does the second amendment to our Constitution mean? Did the Framers intend to protect an individual right or provide for State militias?

   The second amendment states, "A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed."

   Our Founding Fathers risked their lives in the American revolution to create our Nation. They distrusted government, especially a government that wouldn't trust its own citizens.

   Our Founding Fathers knew the importance of an armed citizenry from their experiences in the American War of Independence. They trusted an armed citizenry and a citizen militia as the best safeguard against the tyranny of government.

   To truly understand the meaning and purpose of the second amendment, we need to understand the men that wrote the Constitution and what they said when it was ratified. The Founding Fathers were very concerned that a strong Federal Government would trample on individual freedom and individual rights because that's what happened to the colonists, and that's what governments historically do to their people, trample on individual rights.

   So after the ratification of the Constitution, the Framers knew that a declaration of rights had to be added to protect basic individual rights, rights that are inalienable, created by our creator and not created by government.

   So the Founders looked at the English common law, at the English declaration of rights of 1689, which specified the guaranteed right of the people to bear arms.

   Those who claim there is no individual in the second amendment ignore the most basic feature of American rights: Rights in this nation belong to individuals.

   The second amendment was included in the Bill of Rights to prevent the Federal Government from disarming the public like the British Army did to American citizens. The right of the free people to defend freedom and protect themselves was so important that it was placed second in the Bill of Rights.

   Thomas Jefferson knew the importance of an armed citizenry. He said, "No free man shall ever be debarred from the use of arms."

   Samuel Adams wrote that "The Constitution shall never be construed to prevent the people of the United States who are peaceable citizens from keeping their arms."

   And of course James Madison, who helped write the Bill of Rights, once wrote that the Americans had "the advantage of being armed, and that other nations governments were afraid to trust the people with such arms.