American Gun Rights: Power to the People

The Second Amendment was NOT written to enshrine every American with the right to own a gun for hunting, sport or self-defense from violent crime. These un-enumerated rights are merely incidental benefits of what the framers of the constitution originally meant. Pure and simple, the Second Amendment was intended for one thing and one thing only: power. The framers wanted citizens to have the literal firepower to rein-in their politicians and unelected bureaucrats. Our founding fathers were revolutionaries. Extremists. Radicals. Insurgents. Guerrillas . . .

They wanted private citizens to be better armed than the armed forces of the government. AND they gave citizens other tools to express themselves or rein in an unpopular government.

It is times like these, when the government we elected passes laws that empowers them to confiscate our property (new taxes) and violate our liberty (forcing citizens to buy medical insurance), gun owners need to remember that firearms are the last civic weapon drawn in dissent.

In 1787, Thomas Jefferson, our third President, wrote to Colonel William S. Smith (referring to Shays’ Rebellion, a revolt of Massachusetts farmers against high taxation and debtor prisons):

God forbid we should ever be twenty years without such a rebellion . . . And what country can preserve its liberties, if its rulers are not warned from time to time, that this people preserve the spirit of resistance? Let them take arms. The remedy is to set them right as to the facts, pardon and pacify them. What signify a few lives lost in a century or two? The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time, with the blood of patriots and tyrants. It is its natural manure.

Jefferson echoed these sentiments more concisely in letter to his friends James Madison and Abigail Adams

I like a little rebellion now and then.

Jefferson possessed one of the greatest minds of his time. But he was wrong for his casual support for armed uprising; just as he was wrong about the French Revolution, slavery (his actions, not words) and his personal finances.

Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols were mass-murdering morons, not revolutionary heroes. Ted “the Unabomber” Kaczynski and Andrew Joseph Stack III were lone kooks, not modern-day prophets of liberty. Bill Ayers and Bernardine Dohrn should be rotting in prison, not hobnobbing with presidents and educating our young people at [formerly] esteemed universities.

Groups like ALF, AOG, BLA, ELF, JDL, KKK, SSCS should be repudiated with same prejudice we accord an Islamic fundamentalist in a C-4 diaper, not excused or offered financial aid by those who sympathize with their ends.

Before raising arms, we Americans must exhaust our rights to free speech, vote and due process.

Never before has our First Amendment right to free speech been stronger. No longer must political news and opinion be funneled through three media networks. Tools like the Internet and wireless communications have greatly enhanced our ability to bleed their spleens and solicit support for their ideas without first kowtowing to an old gray lady with a jaundiced eye.

If we don’t like the direction our elected officials are dragging the nation, be patient. Work to vote out incumbents at the midterm election. Participate in local primaries and caucuses to put quality candidates on the ballot.

Consider how President Lincoln intellectually wrestled with the use of the Second Amendment as he confronted the seven states that declared their independence from the U.S. in the weeks prior to his first inauguration.

This country, with its institutions, belongs to the people who inhabit it. Whenever they shall grow weary of the existing government, they can exercise… their revolutionary right to dismember or overthrow it.

However, Lincoln reasoned, secession was not justified because there was not “a single instance in which a plainly written provision of the Constitution has ever been denied [citizens of the breakaway states].” Therefore, “there needs to be no bloodshed or violence, and there shall be none unless it be forced upon the national authority.”

If only…

Gun control proponents like to scare people by saying that American streets would become the Wild West if everyone had handguns. I think that’s silly. But I’m glad that America hasn’t devolved into countries like Somalia or Afghanistan, where well-armed warlords and militias administer their own brand of tyranny, unchecked by impotent governments.

So what does the Second Amendment mean for us today? In 2008, the Supreme Court clarified that the language in the constitution regarding the formation of a “well regulated Militia” does not detract from “the right of the people,” meaning individuals, as used throughout the rest of the Constitution, “to keep and bear Arms.” Furthermore, the court ruled that self-defense from common crime is intrinsic in the notion of individual self-defense from tyranny.

IN the run-up to new civilian disarmament legislation, no doubt the media and political commentators will portray law-abiding gun owners as right-wing extremists. As the battle to protect the Second Amendment is joined, they will accuse gun rights advocates of fostering—if not organizing—anti-government violence.

This assessment is wrong. But there’s no denying the average American’s extreme dissatisfaction with the government that holds power over him or her. And it’s not entirely inappropriate to see the gun rights movement’s rallies as the initial rumblings of a revolutionary spirit which, once upon a time, lead to armed revolt.

The threat, the possibility, of such a popular, and yes, armed uprising has the government deeply worried. As it should. Why else would Vice President Joe Biden threaten to use an Executive Order to achieve the scope and scale of disarmament the Administration could not achieve through the legislative process?

Might there come a day when it is appropriate for the American people to rise up in arms against their government? Perhaps. If ever we are collectively denied our rights to express our political views and to vote. If the legal systems of our government collapses. Until such a time might come, keep your guns holstered. For now, open your mouths and punch your ballots.

[First published in 2010. Modified for current times.]

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About William C. Montgomery

William C. Montgomery is a freelance writer and photographer living in north Texas. His writing covers diverse topics including automobiles, business, politics, and gun rights.

81 Responses to American Gun Rights: Power to the People

  1. avatarPch101 says:

    The Second Amendment was, first and foremost, about the role of citizens in "the Militia", which was the equivalent to what we now refer to as the National Guard.

    The Second Amendment, which was ratified in 1791, directly references the Militia: A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed. Not just any old militia, but a "well regulated" one.

    The Second Amendment, of course, amends the Constitution, which was ratified four years earlier. If you have any doubts about what the "Militia" was, you need not have any, as it is referenced three times in the Constitution that preceded the Second Amendment. It is rather obvious that the Militia isn't just a rag tag group of self-appointed vigilantes, but a formal body subject to federal jurisdiction.

    Article 1, Section 8 references the Militia in two separate clauses:

    The Congress shall have Power To provide for calling forth the Militia to execute the Laws of the Union, suppress Insurrections and repel Invasions

    The Congress shall have Power To provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining the Militia, and for governing such Part of them as may be employed in the Service of the United States, reserving to the States respectively, the Appointment of the Officers, and the Authority of training the Militia according to the discipline prescribed by Congress

    Furthermore, Article 2, Section 2 makes it clear that the President is the Commander in Chief of not just the regular military, but also of the Militia: The President shall be Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States, and of the Militia of the several States, when called into the actual Service of the United States

    In a historical context, "arms" were a specific reference to military weapons. The Founders believed that US military forces should be largely staffed by civilians who were called upon when needed, and dismissed when they weren't.

    That was a fairly radical idea at the time, in that the old European powers of the day used mercenaries to do the bidding of the king. In effect, the overriding goal of the Second Amendment was to democratize the process of going to war. It was meant to make it difficult for the Congress to go off to war without the tacit approval of its citizens, as the standing military would have been too small to engage in warfare without the participation of the citizen Militia. Under this scenario, it would be impossible to fight if nobody bothered to show up.

    We've obviously moved far beyond what the founders intended. With the virtual elimination of the draft, along with the creation of the world's largest professional military, it's clear that nobody in government is relying on the opinions of Militia members to serve as a check and balance on US foreign policy. In that sense, we've become a modern day version of the sort of 18th century European empire that we overthrew in order to achieve our independence.

    • avatarWilliam C. Montgomer says:

      I agree with you that reference to “arms” is a reference to military weapons. However, I disagree with your insinuation that the right to own such weapons, as envisioned by the writer’s of the Bill of Rights, was contingent upon enrollment in a well-regulated POTUS-led militia. The context of the usage of the term “the people” throughout the Constitution is not a reference to the collective (i.e. the State or federal government) but to the individual. If it were not so, this would be the sole exception throughout the entire document. Thus, the operative clause of the amendment is “the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed” not the prefatory “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State.”

      The founders didn’t trust a government enough to empower it with a permanent and well-armed military. Instead, by means of the Second Amendment, they placed the responsibility for the security of the State directly into the hands of the citizenry, who could be temporarily assembled under the leadership of the POTUS only after an official declaration of war by the Congress.

      It was plainly understood, as Lincoln stated in his first inaugural address (quoted above), that the power to wage war rested in the people, not the government, and that the people could exercise this “right” to “dismember” and “overthrow” their government should they “grow weary” of it.

    • avatarRobert Fure says:

      Iin this argument, only a few things matter. Most scholars agree that the second amendment does have an operative clause, but if you want to ignore that, fine. We'll start with the definition of a militia:

      "The entire able-bodied population of a community, town, county, or state, available to be called to arms."

      The Militia Act of 1792 simply said that the Government has the ability to call upon the people to help in terms of emergency and that those that answer the call will serve under the command of the POTUS.

      The Militia Act of 1903 did two things: created the National Guard as an "organized militia" and defined the "unorganized militia" as males capable of bearing arms aged 17-45.

      So what the Second Amendment is saying is that in cases of emergency, when the government needs to able to call upon men capable of bearing arms, the right of the people to keep (own) and bear (use) arms shall not be infringed.

      How can the government call upon citizens to help if the citizens are unarmed? The law has never state that the militia is the National Guard. The Militia Act of 1903 clearly states that there is a militia outside of the National Guard.

      I don't think anyone here would argue that "arms" doesn't mean military weapons – which is why Assault Weapons Bans should be considered unconstitutional.

      The other argument you seem to have is "well regulated," which you take to mean well trained or controlled or organized. What it meant at the time was to be "properly prepared." That means that the militia (the people who can be called to bear arms) be properly prepared – of sound mind, body, equipped with their own weapons, and ready to defend their nation.

      When you bring up that no other Amendment has an "operative clause" I would bring up that EVERY amendment says "the people" meaning "all the individual citizens" so that clearly the second Amendment is about an individual right, not a collective one.

      Quickly still, take note that the many states specifically grant a right to their citizens to keep and bear arms in State Constitutions. Why would state legislators affirm a different right? Clearly they're referring to the same right, as is the case with state affirmations of free speech.

      Further, some nitpicking: America does not have the largest army. In terms of soldiers, there are several countries with larger armies, more tanks, etc. China, for example, as more troops, Russia, for example, has more tanks.

      Also, the American military isn't considered a "professional military" because it's an all-volunteer army. Next – the Militia was never meant to serve as a check and balance on foreign policy, but rather on domestic issues.

      Finally, scholars, the SCOTUS, and the literature of the founding fathers all agree that the Second Amendment means that individual citizens should never be deprived the right to keep and bear arms.

      • avatarMatt in FL says:

        Pch101 is a perfect example of how someone can be astonishingly eloquent and yet completely wrong in his interpretation.

        Thanks, Robert Fure, for the explanation.

    • avatarChris says:

      I and anyone else between 17-45 unless they have a damned good excuse are in the unorganized militia wether you like it or not. Get this crap out of the discussion.

    • avatarFrank Williams says:

      The Second Amendment was, first and foremost, about the role of citizens in “the Militia”, which was the equivalent to what we now refer to as the National Guard.

      By the same token, then, when the First Amendment speaks of freedom “of the press” it is, first and foremost, referring only to print media (books, magazines, handbills), as that is the only form of communication that is produced on a “press.” Electronic media to include TV, radio, and the internet have nothing to do with a press, and therefore can’t be included in any arguments about “freedom of the press.”

    • avatarIvy Mike says:

      That was a fairly radical idea…

      Not really.

      The founders just copied the successful Swiss citizen-militia defense, well-proven well before the Constitution was written.

      “The inhabitants of Switzerland emancipated themselves by the establishment of a militia, which finally delivered them from the tyranny of their lords.” ~Representative Jackson, first U.S. Congress, when it met and turned to defense measures in 1791

      And what is tyranny? What we have now (and the Right Militarists support): the fear and expense of a Standing Army.

      “What, Sir, is the use of a militia? It is to prevent the establishment of a standing army, the bane of liberty….” ~Rep. Elbridge Gerry of Massachusetts, spoken during floor debate over the Second Amendment, I Annals of Congress at 750, August 17, 1789

    • avatarConway Redding says:

      Actually, the “militia” consisted of every able-bodied male, each of whom was expected to have his own firearm, which he was to keep in his own home, not in some central armory, as is the case with the National Guard. Indeed, if the Second Amendment was in fact intended to give the citizens of the new nation that was aborning the means with which, if necessary, to fight back against a tyrannical government, just as the Founding Fathers had done, it would have made no sense at all to place the weapons of the citizenry under the CONTROL of the government.

    • avatartdiinva says:

      Every 18 year old male, it should be all citizens is required under penalty of law to enroll in the unorganized Militia. We call it draft registration now but what do you thing a draft is?

      While the Militia Act of 1903 declares the National Guard to be the organized militia, the Guard has evolved into a standing force of US volunteers. The Guard has merged the function of the state militia with that role of a component of the “Total Force.”

    • avatarJoe says:

      For you guys that don’t frequent the other blog where pch101 is a frequent commenter, his posts should just be ignored. His responses to your well reasoned arguments will only be insults. He will read your comment, think carefully about it and then call you stupid and try to move on to some other well articulated but poorly though out reasoning. Don’t waste your time.

  2. avatarDonal says:

    Our elected officials respond to money, and it may be that Teabaggers, members of a group that has long enjoyed prosperity and favor, are starting to realize that they have taken a back seat to multinational corporate interests that can outspend them, and whose interests don't necessarily include them.

  3. avatarPch101 says:

    Thus, the operative clause of the amendment is “the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed” not the prefatory “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State.”

    No, the operative clause of the Second Amendment is the entire amendment. Every word in it, from beginning to end.

    You don't get to just pick and choose the parts of the amendment that you like best — like it or not, you're stuck with the whole thing. The verbiage was not fluffy filler, but deliberately chosen by the Founders for reasons that you are not free to ignore because you find it inconvenient.

    And it's very clear in the Constitution, which was written four years prior to the Second Amendment, what a Militia is. It's an organized body, arranged by Congress and commanded by the President. A citizen's army.

    The right to bear arms is obviously in the context of serving in the Militia. The Constitution makes it clear that the Congress is not free to just exclude citizens from the militia; they have a right to "bear arms", i.e. carry military weapons that are obligatory in service to the militia.

    by means of the Second Amendment, they placed the responsibility for the security of the State directly into the hands of the citizenry

    The citizens were given that right within the context of a "well-regulated" Militia, organized under Article 1, Section 8 and led via Article 2, Section 2.

    If it was as clear cut as you would like to make it seem, then there would have been no need for any reference to a "well-regulated Militia." There is a reason that this point is made at the very beginning of the Amendment; the Founders obviously didn't want us to miss it.

    So it's not exactly high praise to them for some of us to skip right over it and act as if it was some sort of mistake or glib expression tossed in there just for kicks. If we wish to disagree with the Founders, that's our right, but let's not make a point of deliberately ignoring the stuff that we don't like.

    • avatarWilliam C. Montgomer says:

      I glibly skipped over no provision of the Constitution. I read the Amendment this way: In order to have a population of armed citizens to serve in well-regulated militias for the common defense, the framers of the constitution enshrined an unlimited right (“shall not be infringed”) for individuals (“the people”) to own and use (“keep and bear”) military-style weapons (“Arms”).

      Thus:

      – Militias = "well-regulated" (see, they didn’t even trust quasi-governmental groups with weapons)

      – Individuals keeping and bearing military weapons = "shall not be infringed"

      The Second Amendment does not say that the right of the people to bear arms is restricted to service in militias. If you can find an example of a founder’s writings or an early American court case that makes such a claim, I would be interested to look into it.

    • avatarJacknine says:

      Read Heller, it is an individual right, not a group right.

      Furthermore, the 2 parts of the sentence are not equal, grammar matters. The militia half cannot stand alone as a sentence whereas the 2nd half can, making the militia dependent on the right to bear arms.

      Lastly, the concept of militia when it was written, included me and my neighbors organizing ourselves for the common purpose of defense, should the need arise.

      You can always avail yourself of clause V.

      • avatarIvy Mike says:

        It is an individual right.

        However….

        The Republican Right conveniently forgets WHY it is a right.

        The 2A was written to PREVENT a Standing Army.

        No wonder the money-worshiping Republican Right Militarists claim the first part of the 2A is somehow “obscure.” The Right Wingers are just as conniving and dishonest as the Leftist DiFi herself. They hate the Constitution’s call in Article 1 Section 8 for disbanding any raised Army after 2 years.

        “What, Sir, is the use of a militia? It is to PREVENT THE ESTABLISHMENT OF A STANDING ARMY, the bane of liberty….” ~Rep. Elbridge Gerry of Massachusetts, spoken during floor debate over the Second Amendment, I Annals of Congress at 750, August 17, 1789

    • avataruncommon_sense says:

      “The citizens were given that right within the context of a “well-regulated” Militia, organized under Article 1, Section 8 and led via Article 2, Section 2. ”

      Pch101 that statement is an epic fail. Neither government nor the Constitution gives rights to the people. Those rights are pre-existing and inalienable. The 2nd Amendment simply codifies one of many rights that We The People have.

      • avatarIvy Mike says:

        Don’t forget:

        • The 2A was written to PREVENT a Standing Army.

        • The Constitution, Article 1, Section 8, calls for the Disbandment of any raised army after a period of 2 years.

        Unfortunately, the Right has as much disdain for the Constitution as the Left; weasels all!

        Marge, don’t discourage the boy! Weaseling out of things is important to learn. It’s what separates us from the animals! Except the weasel. ~Homer Simpson

    • avatarInBox485 says:

      “And it’s very clear in the Constitution, which was written four years prior to the Second Amendment, what a Militia is. It’s an organized body, arranged by Congress and commanded by the President. A citizen’s army.”

      Bull Sh!t !!!

      Anybody with any familiarity with history knows better than that. The people that served under the president as authorized by congress were the regulars. Any other able bodied male over 16 was part of the militia. The preface clause “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State” provides the explanation that the security of a free state is dependent on the militia (every able bodied male over 16 that is not already a military regular) being well “regulated” (a word which roughly translates in modern vernacular to disciplined but also having a sense of well functioning, efficient, etc.). The purpose of this clause is debatable (I would argue that it is a warning to future generations to not allow this right to be repealed), but its meaning is painfully clear in the context it was written in.

      Then after explaining the importance of having this well regulated militia, they go on to say “the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed”, where people means the same thing it means in every other instance it was used (in this, it was made explicit that the prefatory clause would not limit the scope of the right to active militia members, but to all that could be considered part of the people), arms referred to the comparable infantry arms to the military regulars (feel free to reference US v Miller), keep meaning they would be retained by the people and not in state armories (as with military arms), bear meaning the people could carry them at their discretion (rather than the discretion of the state), shall not meaning the same thing it means in all other forms of contractual law, and infringed carrying the common meaning.

  4. avatarPch101 says:

    The Second Amendment does not say that the right of the people to bear arms is restricted to service in militias.

    The Second Amendment makes it clear that the purpose of "bearing arms" (maintaining military weapons) is in in the context that "A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State"

    If the Second Amendment called for unfettered rights free of any context, it would have been limited to the latter half of its content: "The right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed."

    But it doesn't simply say that. If the founders had wanted to express a simple, open-ended right to gun ownership, then they would have said it.

    You should note that of the 10 amendments that comprise the Bill of Rights, the Second Amendment is the only one of the ten that begins with a clause that provides context for the right at issue. The other nine amendments just cut to the chase, with no explanations or caveats.

    The Constitution does not address gun control, whether pro or con. It limits its focus on to arms within the context of a militia. Presumably, Congress could pass a law if it so chooses just so long as it does not violate the right of citizens to serve in the militia. Otherwise, the states are free to regulate or not regulate them, as the case may be, under the Tenth Amendment.

    • avatarRalph says:

      An amazing dose of utter nonsense in direct opposition to the Court’s holdings in Heller and McDonald. Kudos. You have established that you have all the intellectual capacity necessary to be a Senator from California.

      • avatarAlphaGeek says:

        Bravo, sir. Well played.

        But hey, one of our Senators is 10% less crazy than the other one. That should count for something.

    • avatarGuywithagun says:

      Wow. You are quite the elegant idiot. Try reading the 10th amendment again:

      “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”

      The key here is “nor prohibited by it to the States”. The the power of regulating of arms is “prohibited by it to the States” by the 2nd amendment.

      The 10th amendment is null and void regarding the keeping and bearing of arms. Period.

    • avatarJJ says:

      WOW. You sher do got a way wit dem dare words feller. Now I ain’t no bookologist, but I tink I can undurstand dat the mulisha means me an you. It do say “da peepol” in da next breathe, rite? An I’m not sher, but “shall not” means “don’t do it” if I ain’t mistaken. Seems like a whole lota peepol figyerd it dat way fer quite sum time now. So why don’t you take yer fancy lies back to kollej where day like to make simple stuff sound complimicated…….. Go on naw git!

      Whew! Sarcasm Off.

  5. avatarWilliam C. Montgomer says:

    Again, if you can find any examples of a pre-Civil War court case or founding father writing that corroborates your interpretation of this, please pass it on.

  6. avatarPch101 says:

    Federalist No. 29 is entitled "Concerning the Militia," in which Hamilton argued for the need to transfer management of the Militia from the state to federal level:

    It requires no skill in the science of war to discern that uniformity in the organization and discipline of the militia would be attended with the most beneficial effects, whenever they were called into service for the public defense…This desirable uniformity can only be accomplished by confiding the regulation of the militia to the direction of the national authority.

    Obviously, Hamilton believed it was critical that the militia be "well regulated", and that the level of regulation occur at the federal level. The Militia clause of the Second Amendment isn't just a passing fluke, but specifically contemplated in the very same Federalist Papers to led to the writing of the Constitution.

    In Federalist No. 46, Madison argues that the militia was needed because the country was unable to field a standing army large enough to defend it, and adds that the militia was a tool against tyranny. The focus is on the militia in the context of it serving as a counterweight to the undemocratic nature of professional armies as they were used in Europe:

    But were the people to possess the additional advantages of local governments chosen by themselves, who could collect the national will and direct the national force, and of officers appointed out of the militia, by these governments, and attached both to them and to the militia, it may be affirmed with the greatest assurance, that the throne of every tyranny in Europe would be speedily overturned in spite of the legions which surround it.But were the people to possess the additional advantages of local governments chosen by themselves, who could collect the national will and direct the national force, and of officers appointed out of the militia, by these governments, and attached both to them and to the militia, it may be affirmed with the greatest assurance, that the throne of every tyranny in Europe would be speedily overturned in spite of the legions which surround it.

    The "right to bear arms" is not a matter of being able to use guns for just any purpose, but in the context of a militia. The militia was viewed as both a supplement to a federal standing army, and as a defense against abuse by a federal army. "Arms" are military weapons, and "bearing arms" is what a citizen soldier would be doing when using that weapon in his well-regulated Militia.

    I'm sorry, but it should be obvious to an objective mind that the founders just didn't give a whole lot of thought to the modern idea of "gun control." As was the case with most things, they adopted no position on it. The Second Amendment clarifies that participation in the Militia is a right of the people — it is not a professional army in disguise, but an organized body that represents the people.

    • avatarWilliam C. Montgomer says:

      I’m glad you brought up Federalist #46 because it precisely makes the point that I have been making: the framers of the Constitution wanted military power to rest with the people, not the government. In the quote you offer above, Madison is exploring scenarios wherein a State or group of States stand in opposition to the will of the federal government that has designs of encroaching on State authority (note that “State” is always capitalized and “federal government” is always lower case – you can see which he held should be subordinate to the other).

      Madison reasons that the largest army that the federal government could form (equaling 1/100 of the population at large, or 1/25 part of those capable of bearing arms) would be opposed by local militias fighting for the State comprised by “citizens with arms in their hands, officered by men chosen from among themselves, fighting [against the federal government] for their common liberties.” Implicit in this are the notions that 1) the citizens are individually armed; 2) they are regulating themselves by virtue of the officers that they elect, not the federal government; and 3) they are not acting under the command of the POTUS, but against him.

      And to conclude the quote you began, Madison wrote:

      Let us not insult the free and gallant citizens of America with the suspicion, that they would be less able to defend the rights of which they would be in actual possession, than the debased subjects of arbitrary power would be to rescue theirs from the hands of their oppressors [in this context meaning the federal government]. Let us rather no longer insult them with the supposition that they can ever reduce themselves to the necessity of making the experiment, by a blind and tame submission to the long train of insidious measures…

      The argument under the present head may be put into a very concise form, which appears altogether conclusive. Either the mode in which the federal government is to be constructed will render it sufficiently dependent on the people, or it will not. On the first supposition, it will be restrained by that dependence from forming schemes obnoxious to their constituents. On the other supposition, it will not possess the confidence of the people, and its schemes of usurpation will be easily defeated by the State governments, who will be supported by the people.

      It is clear that Madison (and other framers) envisioned that the population be armed with military arms so that they can quickly organize themselves to stand in direct opposition to the federal government. It flies in the face of reason that Madison could have believed that the armed citizens whom he envisioned fighting against the federal government’s regular army should be regulated by that same federal government.

      Yes, the constitution provides for the mustering of an army via militias under the POTUS to repel a foreign invasion. But there is no escaping the fact that the founders intended for individual citizens to be armed with military weapons so that they held the power to fight tyranny from the federal government of United States of America. To them, government tyranny was a much greater threat than a potential foreign invasion. To wit, they were so paranoid about arming the federal government that it took years of debate and the sinking of THOUSANDS of American merchant ships by the French and Barbary pirates before congress authorized the building of just three naval war ships. Adams called the strategy building “wooden walls” (i.e. the wooden hulls of the ships) around the country rather than take the risk of forming a standing federal army on American soil.

      Finally, as I stated in my article above, I do not believe that the right to bear arms is absolute or that our country would be better off with a bunch of heavily armed rogue militias bombing federal buildings, attacking military bases, and terrorizing the country. Times and weapons have changed. For example, I would not feel comfortable if my neighbor had a basement full of hand grenades. But this is where we started.

      • avatarRobert Fure says:

        Why can't a law abiding citizen have hand grenades? If someone really wants to blow up something, it's been proven time and time again they'll blow it up.

        But if someone wants to chuck a few hand grenades safely into the desert, why not?

        • Because I don't want to get fragged if my idiot neighbor mishandles his ordinance (not that any of my neighbors are, to my knowledge, idiots).

        • avatarOK S. says:

          The trouble about banning things for what might happen, is that there is no end to those things which might be used for tools of murder and mayhem–cars might be used (and have been used) to mow down pedestrians; two-by-fours might be used (and have been used) to beat people to death; fertilizer might be used (and has been used) to commit mass-murder and destruction; etc. Conversely, in our short history as a nation, cannons, bombs, etc. (think Cassius Clay, Kansas free-staters, etc.), have been used by private individuals to protect themselves from mob and/or government excited violence.

  7. avatarBrett says:

    Paging Anthony Scalia? Andrew Napalitano? Maybe we can leave Ginsberg out of this one….

  8. avatarMartin Albright says:

    Something else that has to be considered in the 2nd amendment debate is the history that pre-dates the revolution by more than a century. During the religious strife that preceded and followed the English Civil War, there were numerous incidents where religiously-motivated 'militias' (militias in the sense that the armed gangs in Somalia are militias) would terrorize those of a different religious bent. The culmination of this was the Glorious Revolution of 1688, the installation of William of Orange and his wife Mary as co-regents, and in the following year, the English Bill of Rights of 1689, which, among other rights, stated that:

    "That the raising or keeping a standing army within the kingdom in time of peace, unless it be with consent of Parliament, is against law;

    That the subjects which are Protestants may have arms for their defence suitable to their conditions and as allowed by law; "

    The Glorious Revolution would have been within the fairly recent historic memory of the writers of the Constitution, as would the abuses of power that cause Parliament to enact the EBoR in the first place. The intent of these two provisions of the EBoR seem to show both (a) a mistrust of a standing army, and (b) the neccessity for subjects to have the ability to to defend themselves when the government couldn't or wouldn't.

  9. avatarPch101 says:

    The Militia Act of 1792 simply said that the Government has the ability to call upon the people to help in terms of emergency and that those that answer the call will serve under the command of the POTUS.

    There were two Militia Acts of 1792. The key element of the first one, to which you appear to be referring, was that the president could dispatch militias from across state lines if the local militia was unable or, more importantly, unwilling to fight.

    The issue wasn't gun control or lack thereof, but of asserting federal authority over the militia. You can see that even not long after the ink was dry on the Federalist Papers that whatever theories they may have held about the right of militias to resist federal power were tossed out the window.

    (note that “State” is always capitalized and “federal government” is always lower case – you can see which he held should be subordinate to the other).

    Sorry, but that's a poor argument. The whole point of the Federalist was to argue for more centralized power in light of the failures of the Articles of Confederation. That required the subordination of state authority to that of the federal government. The Federalist Papers were effectively a marketing campaign for federalism, and a rebuke of confederation.

    It flies in the face of reason that Madison could have believed that the armed citizens whom he envisioned fighting against the federal government’s regular army should be regulated by that same federal government.

    How kind of you to completely skip over Federalist No. 29, which is devoted in its entirety to making precisely the opposite point, namely that the militia needs to be "well regulated", which therefore requires federal management. You then used that to misinterpret Federalist No. 46 in the same way that you managed to skip the entire first half of the Second Amendment, presumably because it muddies your argument when the entire document is taken into account.

    Again, the point here is that the Second Amendment's focus is not on the right to take one's gun to Starbucks, but on rights with respect to the militia. The founders weren't addressing "gun control" per se, as they were their military requirements.

    Taken further, those "rights" are really more a matter of duty — the subtext is that every able-bodied white male of that era was subject to being drafted into service, like it or not. The citizen soldier not only was required to serve, but had to buy his own equipment.

    Accordingly, the Constitution doesn't offer us much guidance about gun control, pro or con, aside from the rights attached to the militia. The only way that one can believe otherwise is to ignore half the Second Amendment, disregard most of the history, and distort or avoid the context from which this came.

    • The right to keep and bear arms was granted to the people so that there could be militias, but it was not granted to the militia, which in turn would grant exclusive license to its members.

      In order for the Second Amendment to mean what you divine, it would have to be written, “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of militia soldiers to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.”

      But it doesn’t say that. I doesn’t say that anywhere in the Constitution, early court cases, the Federalist Papers, or any of the writings of the founders. The notion that intent of the Second Amendment right was exclusive to enrollees of government-sanctioned militias is an idea that was popularized during the latter half of the 20th century by gun control proponents. It’s not historically correct.

      Look, I’m not saying that what the founders envisioned – the duty of all able bodied Americans to keep Arms and serve in militias – fits today’s society. In fact, the very premise of my article is to point out that fact. But the framers of the constitution simply did not intend the Second Amendment to restrict (i.e. infringe) on the right to keep and bear arms to those who served in federally regulated militias.

  10. avatarBrad Kozak says:

    I’m not a Constitutional scholar (nor do I play one on TV), but I’m thinkin’ that the Supremes settled the issue of “original intent” with Heller. And they are about to do it again, when they rule (presumably this summer) on the Chicago gun ban laws.

    For the record, my understanding of the history of the 2nd is that not only did the Founders recognize the need for citizens to be able to defend themselves against the tyranny of an out-of-control government, but the need for citizens to defend themselves immediately, in personal-defense situations where there was little to no chance they’d get help from the police or military. In that respect, life today isn’t that different from back in the late 1700s – police typically function as a symbolic deterrent and to catch the bad guys after the fact. Odds are, they won’t be there when you need them, because they can’t be everywhere at once.

    Speaking of History, the first thing the Nazis did was to confiscate the firearms of the populace. Makes it so much easier to control the sheeple if they can’t fire back. The 2nd Amendment recognized the tendencies of government – any government – to eventually abuse their own powers. As Mr. Montgomery so eloquently pointed out, armed responses to governmental excess should NEVER be a first response, but a LAST one, after all other avenues (ballot box, peaceful protests, et cetera) have been completely exhausted.

    Historically, revolutions reach their tipping point when the sentiment for revolt moves from the radical, fringe elements and encompasses those in the middle that are typically apolitical. This was as true in the American Revolution of 1776 as I suspect it is today. I, for one, hope that the Tea Party movement serves as a ‘wake-up call’ to an unresponsive Federal government, and that said government will rein itself in. Then again, I have little confidence this will happen, based on history, if nothing else. I would much rather see the country change course courtesy of the ballot box, and not the ammo box.

    • avatarDonal says:

      I think that the federal government is very responsive – to corporate lobbyists and campaign donors. And the Supreme Court has paved the way for corporations to get even more of a response in the next elections. This will perplex the Tea Party even more. Despite all the complaining about welfare and entitlements, the middle class people from whence Tea Party has come have traditionally been beneficiaries of both substantial government job creation, such as the DOD and all the industry behind it, and of cheap energy, subsidized roads, automobiles, suburban development and all the industry behind that. With increasing costs of energy, the decline in employment, and a general lack of growth, they are looking to the government to make things right – as if cutting taxes or stimulus spending can actually make up for a sea change in the global economy.

      • avatarRobert Fure says:

        Why do you keep bringing up The Tea Party followers when they have nothing to do with this argument?

        • avatarDonal says:

          I was responding to Brad's comment about the Tea Party movement. Maybe you should ask him why he keeps bringing them up, eh?

        • avatarFrancis says:

          Actually, the Tea Party has nothing to do with reiligon, although most Tea Party people have strong beliefs in God unlike the Flea Party people currently camping out around the country for weeks with taking a bath most Flea Party people’s reiligon is the the left wing of the Demo.party called Communism . take from the haves and give to the have nots

  11. avatarPch101 says:

    In order for the Second Amendment to mean what you divine, it would have to be written, “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of militia soldiers to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.”

    The implication of the Constitution is that the militia is a civilian force. There would have be no such thing as a “militia soldier”, as the militia was not a professional army.

    But the framers of the constitution simply did not intend the Second Amendment to restrict (i.e. infringe) on the right to keep and bear arms to those who served in federally regulated militias.

    Again, this is where you folks miss the point. The founders were not discussing gun control at all, either way. You’re trying to fit a 21st century square peg of a political question (gun control, to be or not to be) into an 18th century round hole (the need for a militia.)

    It is absurd to argue that the Constitution adopts a rigid position on widespread guns proliferation when it doesn’t discuss that subject at all. The founders were focused on meeting their military needs, not on whether weekend warriors get to have their fun.

    It’s probably no coincidence that the militia amendment is slotted in the Bill of Rights right next to the prohibition of the quartering of troops. The Second Amendment creates a check and balance to the standing Army, while the Third explicitly constrains the standing Army. The Third is archaic in modern times, but it goes hand-in-hand with the Second.

    • avatarHal says:

      I am also not a constitutional scholar. But I am a citizen. And a military Officer who treasures the Constitution that I am sworn to uphold. I am capable of reading the constitution quite plainly. I do not believe it was crafted in such a way as to require an entire class of scholars, specialists and attorneys to interpret it. Furthermore, it has been my experience that each time someone comes along and uses their *vast* knowledge to “interpret” this document, somehow the individual citizen is always on the losing side of that interpretation.

      It is funny how that always seems to work. As such, I place very little credence in your claims that the RTKABA applies only to a militia.

      “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

      The security of a free State means keeping it free of threats from without and tyranny from within. Also, as we can all agree that the founders were quite specific with their use of language, the placement of the words “the people” describes individual rights, just as they do in the first, fourth, ninth and tenth amendments.

      The founders believed it was important enough to make TRTKABA the SECOND of ten amendments in the Bill of Rights… a bill so important that some States refused to ratify the Constitution unless it included one. Virtually all of those amendments enshrine the rights held by individual citizens… and it is no coincidence that those rights usually placed simultaneous limitations on the government itself. So am I now to accept that, of the entire bill of rights, the Second Amendment is the ONLY amendment that somehow limits the right of an individual to State sanctioned activities? I’m not Steven Hawking, but that would seem to contradict the entire context of the Bill of Rights. As would the individual states’ bills of rights which were crafted around the same time period. Unless I am mistaken, most or all of those 13 States were very plain about TRTKABA pertaining to individuals.

      I work, so I skimmed your previous comments and if I am misinterpreting your stance please let me know. However, if that is what you are stating then I can only assert that you have taken a revisionist stance on what this right means and who it was for. Or you have been manipulated by a class of “educated” individuals who have, for generations, been pouring over the language of the constitution in order to legally justify their own ends. They are not dummies, but that doesn’t make them right. It makes them sinister.

      Finally, your earlier dismissal of operative and prefatory clauses flies in the face of everything I have ever read about how English laws were written at that time. This too could only be described as revisionist.

  12. I find the argument that guns make us free or firearms protect us from a tyrannical government to be ludicrous and weirdly unhinged from the reality of the 20th and 21st centuries. First, nothing available at any gun show in this country will protect against us the full force of the U.S. military. Your entire arsenal are popguns against a single white phosphorous blast that would render an entire county unlivable. Second, the arc of our county’s movement toward increasing freedom goes through generations of abolitionists, underground railroaders, feminists, labor rights movements, unions, civil rights activists. The side that prevailed in all of these pushes to extend rights were mostly peaceful, always unarmed in the face of police bullets and dogs and fire hoses, and in the case of early labor protests, unarmed against the U.S. military itself. The dramatic change in women’s rights over the last century was accomplished without a single shot fired. Early suffragists were imprisoned and tortured, declared mentality ill, but a few short years later, the 19th amendment was added to our Constitution.

    In short, our freedoms have come from political participation, from voting, from active campaigning, both for public offices and for political causes. Guns are incidental, and as the first half of the 2nd amendment makes clear, are regulated in a civil context, whether a formal National Guard, or local democracy (like a citizen’s referendum). The “right to bear arms” is conditional, hence that statement’s placement in the bottom half of the amendment. It’s a statement not about personal liberty but about civic responsibility.

    • avatarjmk says:

      you don’t keep up with the supreme court much, do you?

      you for sure haven’t read much world history.
      humans are greedy – it is a survival trait and one of the reasons we dominate the planet.
      we are also, incontrovertibly, all too willing to practice violence to feed the greed.

      i refer you to this snippet for a quick lesson on what happens in modern, “civilized” countries after civilian disarmament:
      “In 1929, the Soviet Union established gun control. From 1929 to 1953, about 20 million dissidents, unable to defend themselves, were rounded up and exterminated.

      In 1911, Turkey established gun control. From 1915 to 1917, 1.5 million Armenians, unable to defend themselves, were rounded up and exterminated.

      Germany established gun control in 1938 and from 1939 to 1945, a total of 13 million Jews and others who were unable to defend themselves were rounded up and exterminated.

      China established gun control in 1935. From 1948 to 1952, 20 million political dissidents, unable to defend themselves were rounded up and exterminated

      Guatemala established gun control in 1964. From 1964 to 1981, 100,000 Mayan Indians, unable to defend themselves, were rounded up and exterminated.

      Uganda established gun control in 1970. From 1971 to 1979, 300,000 Christians, unable to defend themselves, were rounded up and exterminated.

      Cambodia established gun control in 1956. From 1975 to 1977, one million educated people, unable to defend themselves, were rounded up and exterminated.

      Defenseless people rounded up and exterminated in the 20th Century because of gun control: 56 million.”

      source: http://blog.wilsoncombat.com/paul-howe/2nd-amendment-and-the-kool-aid-drinkers-by-paul-howe/

      • avatarmatt says:

        Germany established gun control in 1938

        Actually gun control in Germany was established long before 1938, and the 1938 law by and large lowered restrictions on firearms, if not eliminating them. But no one wants to acknowledge that the Nazis did anything good.

        “The 1938 German Weapons Act, the precursor of the current weapons law, superseded the 1928 law. As under the 1928 law, citizens were required to have a permit to carry a firearm and a separate permit to acquire a firearm. Furthermore, the law restricted ownership of firearms to “…persons whose trustworthiness is not in question and who can show a need for a (gun) permit.” Under the new law:
        Gun restriction laws applied only to handguns, not to long guns or ammunition. Writes Prof. Bernard Harcourt of the University of Chicago, “The 1938 revisions completely deregulated the acquisition and transfer of rifles and shotguns, as well as ammunition.” The groups of people who were exempt from the acquisition permit requirement expanded. Holders of annual hunting permits, government workers, and NSDAP party members were no longer subject to gun ownership restrictions. Prior to the 1938 law, only officials of the central government, the states, and employees of the German Reichsbahn Railways were exempted. The age at which persons could own guns was lowered from 20 to 18. The firearms carry permit was valid for three years instead of one year.”
        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gun_politics_in_Germany#The_1938_German_Weapons_Act

        The greatest act of gun control in Germany was actually forced up on them by the Allies.

        “After 1945, the Allied Forces commanded the complete disarming of Germany. Even German police officers were initially not allowed to carry firearms. Private ownership of firearms was not allowed until after 1956. ”
        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gun_politics_in_Germany#Current_laws

        • avatarCurzen says:

          of course the 38 legislation banned Jews from owning any guns at all which you seem to omit. the 28 legislation was passed to prevent the SA from staging a violent coup, it succeeded at that but as the electorate embraced them it ultimately still failed.

      • avatarWC says:

        Australia established gun control in 1996. Are we about to see millions of Australians exterminated?

        Japan established gun control in 1945. Are we about to see millions of Japanese exterminated?

    • avatarPaul says:

      “First, nothing available at any gun show in this country will protect against us the full force of the U.S. military. Your entire arsenal are popguns against a single white phosphorous blast that would render an entire county unlivable.”

      Huh? You need to get your facts right, lady, because your statement has no credibility. Unless, of course, you live in a county the size of my back yard. Besides, yours is an argument in favor of total capitulation. Tell that to the men who died in Afghanistan and Iraq after being shot by AK-47s. Or the thousands who died in Vietnam at the hands of peasants who were sometimes armed with nothing more than Mosin-Nagant bolt-action rifles. If you remember, we lost that war, right? Brave men gave their lives to protect your freedom to write such drivel. Don’t abuse that right. Think first.

    • avatarCurzen says:

      I find the argument that guns make us free or firearms protect us from a tyrannical government to be ludicrous and weirdly unhinged from the reality of the 20th and 21st centuries.

      In the 20th century Germany went from the representative democracy which was the Weimar Republic to the defacto dictatorship of the NSDAP replete with genocide and war. Later in the 20th century Iran went from a brief go at democracy back to repressive monarchy due to the Brittish and American staging of a military coup. Just two examples of many. You saying you can be sure that in the next 10, 50 or 100 years it is impossible for severe repression being put upon Americans (more so if they were entirely defenseless) is what’s ludicrous here.

      nothing available at any gun show in this country will protect against us the full force of the U.S. military

      two recent wars have seen strong and lasting opposition against the full force of the US military with weaponry less sophisticated than what Americans can legally purchase.

      The side that prevailed in all of these pushes to extend rights were mostly peaceful, always unarmed in the face of police bullets and dogs and fire hoses, and in the case of early labor protests, unarmed against the U.S. military itself.

      That’s great. really. I hope it always works out like that. But neither you nor me can guarantee that.

      The “right to bear arms” is conditional, hence that statement’s placement in the bottom half of the amendment.

      the constitutional scholars making up the US Supreme Court came to a very different understanding.

    • avatarSandbox Vet says:

      I am an Officer in the military, actually a Tank Company Commander who saw my mighty horses face a stern test from such popguns in Iraq. Additionally, I have taught military history at West Point.

      I promise you, what you can get at a gun show and put together at Home Depot is every bit as effective against the “mighty US Military” as the weapons the insurgents I fought in Iraq and Afghanistan used to fight us to a standstill.

      As far as the meaning of the 2nd Amendment, both sides have plenty of “evidence” for their belief concerning whether or not the right to bear arms is an individual right, and what the founders meant by “militia.” Depending on the context, and passage selected, both sides can be secure in the knowledge that they are right but, fundamentally, it doesn’t matter what we think. The current legal interpretation by the SCOTUS says it is an individual right.

      Unless or until they rule differently, Mary and Pch’s interpretation of the 2a is somewhat irrelevant. This debate is not new, and will not be solved by amature lawyers and historians on TTAG. The SCOTUS determines what the modern interpretation of the 2a is. Therein lies the importance of the last election, or more probably the next election. Nothing less than the meaning of the constitution is at stake, making on side of the issue happy, and the other indignant.

      Mary, I also agree that by and large liberty is best promoted peacefully. However, to say the civil rights movements didn’t have some violent moments is incorrect, and their violence was not unjustified. Further, to say that liberty can never be furthered by use of arms is both ignorant of the past, ignores the present (Arab spring) and naive about the future and the continued “benevolence” of the US government. Do I believe the government is tyrannical, or will become so…no I don’t.

      But to think that it will never happen, that it couldn’t happen here, is also naive. It absolutely could, and I believe it is more likely if the government has nothing to fear from a disarmed citizenry.

      Additionally, and I apologize if I put words in your mouth, as a woman I don’t know how you could wish for a world free from guns (or a similarly effective means of defense). Without defensive weaponry, the physically weak are at the mercy of the strong (aka much larger Men). If the response time for the police is 10-20 minutes, or more in many cases, that is an eternity for a strong man to assault, rape, or kill a woman and leave before the police arrive. He may be caught, and punished, but the damage is done…Just saying. Thus I believe women should be the most ardent 2a supporters

    • avatarHal says:

      Hahaha! You keep trusting the State. ****THAT**** is the only thing that is “ludicrous and weirdly unhinged” from reality in this conversation. Do us all a favor and crack a history textbook or two and read up on your beloved 20th century. For every single significant triumph of non-violence (which I completely agree were wonderful) there was a tyrant who killed millions. Get a grip lady.

    • avatarAPBTFan says:

      Mary Anne, have you ever heard of what the Viet Cong/Viet Mihn managed to accomplish against the full might of the French then the American militaries?

      How about the Mujahadeen and what they managed to do against the full might of the Soviets for 9 years and our American military from 2001 to the present? They have no heavy armor, no artillery, no drones, no air force, no smart bombs, no GPS linked central command, no billions of dollars worth of military hardware – nothing remotely resembling the world-class high-tech weaponry and coordination our Armed Forces can bring to bear but are they beaten?

      Let’s go back even further to the American Revolution. We were a loose group of pissed off Colonists (that didn’t always get along) using whatever weapons we could get our hands on and we beat what was the mightiest military force in the world at the time. It is because they beat them and because of the Constitution they put in place that you are free to make uneducated opinions. The history of civilization is not only our greatest teacher but also our greatest predictor of what we may expect.

      Maybe you don’t like firearms, maybe you don’t put much stock human nature and maybe you’re confident that our government is truly looking out for you as an individual but I advise you, ma’am, to meet the other half of the country.

  13. avatarTotenglocke says:

    Billy, people like you are why our nation has no hope (at least not long term). You will always make excuses for why “this latest batch of rights being taken away and totalitarian behavior by the government isn’t enough to revolt over”.

  14. avatarjmk says:

    the 2nd Amendment is for hunting like the 1st is for letters to the editor.

    the 2nd amendment is about target shooting like the 1st is about sing alongs.

  15. avatarmatt says:

    Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols were mass-murdering morons, not revolutionary heroes. Ted “the Unabomber” Kaczynski and Andrew Joseph Stack III were lone kooks, not modern-day prophets of liberty.

    You obviously have never read any of Kaczynski’s works. Andrew Stack was willing to martyr himself due to a overly oppressive government. And McVeigh and Nichols were trying to start a revolution. FLAME DELETED

  16. avatarstateisevil says:

    “If ever we are collectively denied our rights to express our political views and to vote. If the legal systems of our government collapses. Until such a time might come, keep your guns holstered. For now, open your mouths and punch your ballots.”

    HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAH.

    No, the reason I’m not going to start violently resisting government is because gun owning libertarian types have no local organization. Why go it alone and look like a wack job? We are under serious tyranny, I’m in the minority seeing it. Maybe when we get less comfortable more will realize it.

    Voting accomplishes nothing, jury nullification has been nullified, and the government doesn’t need to censor anyone because we’ve been educated in their schools and/or are on the government payroll.

    • avatarMichael B. says:

      +1

      Open your eyes, people. Tyranny is here and it’s only getting worse. The only reason most people aren’t on the streets demanding it end is because it hasn’t come swiftly enough for them to realize what’s happening. Instead of mass raids and arrests we see groups being targeted and taken out over the years. People who own plants you don’t like, imbibe liquor they made on their own, etc. etc.

  17. avatarAharon says:

    “Pure and simple, the Second Amendment was intended for one thing and one thing only: power. The framers wanted citizens to have the literal firepower to reign-in their politicians and unelected bureaucrats.”
    — That was political poetry.

    I’m not sure how much Lincoln may have or not intellectually wrestled with and legally debated the rights of the States to rebel and leave the Union. Joe Biden’s comment about Obama doing an EO might simply be Joe being his usual Bozo the Clown big-mouth self. Is the USG deeply worried under its skin? I don’t know though I suspect they are (right or wrong) only concerned about a small percentage of gun owners rising up and going revolutionary. Yes, a small number can cause trouble. One-third of Americans are now immigrants and I have trouble imaging them risking their lives since now most of them have far more freedoms and liberty than they ever had before.

  18. avatarI'm your Huckleberry says:

    “Gun control proponents like to scare people by saying that American streets would become the Wild West if everyone had handguns.”

    Um, wasn’t the shootout at the OK Corral instigated because of a violation of Tombstone Arizona’s GUN BAN?

  19. avatararaomd says:

    @Pch101: Blather on all you wish, but the Supreme Court of the United States of America did NOT buy your “opinion”. You want to re-argue Heller on this forums? That matter is settled. Maybe you should have been the one at Supreme Court on the case?

  20. avatarMark says:

    I really enjoyed the commentary above citing the different sources on this subject. It been some of the most interesting reading without serious flaming on diferrent points of view.

    Our country is changing fast and I hope it doesn’t take to much to reset us. We’re going to have to feel a real loss and some real pain before the majority of this country wakes up, but that’s what its going to take. I just wonder how high of a price we’re going to have to pay!

    • avatarDrDave says:

      Pretty clear to me that the price we will have to pay is the total collapse of our society. Brought on by lack of personal responsibility and a total disregard for basic moral principles. The only question is who will be around to rise from the ashes, and will they learn from our mistakes.

  21. avatarDJ says:

    “If ever we are collectively denied our rights to express our political views and to vote.”

    That actually made me laugh. They still “vote” in Venezuela and Cuba. And if they ever move to deny those rights, don’t you think they’ll secure as many of the firearms in private hands as they can first?

    • avatarLeo338 says:

      I laughed as well. Is that were we are supposed to draw the line? Take our guns, make us all criminals over night but when they talk about taking away our right to vote then that is when we revolt. If we listen to people like this then we are destined to fail.

  22. avatarMichael B. says:

    To the author:

    Rebellion doesn’t necessarily mean armed rebellion. It can also mean such things as mass noncompliance. I’m aware that Jefferson advocated that the tree of liberty needed to be refreshed with the blood of patriots and tyrants and all that, but I’d like to see the context in which he said: “I like a little rebellion every now and then.”

    • In 1786, Abigail Adams wrote to Jefferson, who was in Paris, about the Shays’ Rebellion. The quote you ask about was penned on February 22, 1787, in response to Abigail’s news. As such, his usage of “rebellion” is in specific reference to violent insurrection. A fuller excerpt from the letter:

      “The spirit of resistance to government is so valuable on certain occasions, that I wish it to be always kept alive. It will often be exercised when wrong, but better so than not to be exercised at all. I like a little rebellion now and then. It is like a storm in the atmosphere.”

      You can see the full letter here (if you can read it).

    • Jefferson’s letter to James Madison, in which he uses similar language to the quote used above from the Abigail Adams letter is also in response to news of Shays’ Rebellion. Again, it is a direct reference to violent insurrection. In context, it reads:

      Malo periculosam, libertatem quam quietam servitutem. Even this evil is productive of good. It prevents the degeneracy of government, and nourishes a general attention to the public affairs. I hold it that a little rebellion now and then is a good thing, and as necessary in the political world as storms in the physical. Unsuccesful rebellions indeed generally establish the incroachments on the rights of the people which have produced them. An observation of this truth should render honest republican governors so mild in their punishment of rebellions, as not to discourage them too much. It is a medecine necessary for the sound health of government.” — January 30, 1787

      You can see an image of the entire letter here.

    • avatarkarlb says:

      After he saw the horrors of the French Revolution, Jefferson modified his thinking about the desirability of revolutions.

  23. avatarAsh says:

    Mrs. Cummings, I find your argument ridiculous. Who do you think the Military is comprised of? Do you honestly believe that an assault on the people or the rule of an oppressive government would be allowed by our Military men? This isn’t some arbitrary force of mercenaries, they are a force of Patriots and if they, their families, or their friends were under tyrannical rule I think you would find the minority that would “follow orders”. Also, the general public isn’t what you believe it to be. It is comprised of thousands and thousands of combat Veterans and leaders who are well versed in the tactics and the implementation of American warfare, these are some of the most well armed individuals in this nation and they are strict students of the Constitution.

    I’ve heard your type of argument several times now and it’s always presented by someone who see the Military as this oppressive power that will enforce it’s will upon the people. This is where the “elitist” attitude of oversight comes from, that the government will guide the “little man” and teach him how to behave. How could We the People ever stand against the might of the Military? Your question is without merit and shows your ignorance about the young warriors of this great nation who continue to provide you with your freedoms.

  24. avatarLance says:

    Good post. but its preaching to the cuior to me. I gee the 2A is not for hunting or home defense its about fighting government tyranny.

  25. avatarGw says:

    “The power of the sword, say the minority…, is in the hands of Congress. My friends and countrymen, it is not so, for The powers of the sword are in the hands of the yeomanry of America from sixteen to sixty. The militia of these free commonwealths, entitled and accustomed to their arms, when compared with any possible army, must be tremendous and irresistible. Who are the militia? Are they not ourselves? Is it feared, then, that we shall turn our arms each man against his own bosom. Congress has no power to disarm the militia. Their swords and every terrible implement of the soldier are the birthright of Americans. The unlimited power of the sword is not in the hands of either the federal or state governments but where, I trust in God, it will always remain, in the hands of the people.”
    The Pennsylvania Gazette, Feb. 20, 1788.
    Tench Coxe writing under the pseudonym “A Pennsylvanian”.

  26. avatarMichael Reed says:

    Much interesting discussion here. May I add my two cents worth?

    The Founders studied history intensively and were acutely aware that EVERY previous democracy had eventually turned into a dictatorship. They were attempting to build a stable system that would allow the people a voice in their government but at the same time protect their rights. A difficult balancing act. They came up with a unique arrangement that they knew was an experiment that might fail. Thus, when asked what sort of government the constitutional convention had created, Franklin responded, “A republic, if you can keep it.”

    I view the Second Amendment as kind of a birthday cake. The right to protect oneself with a gun and to hunt with a gun are like the icing on the cake. The primary purpose of the amendment, however — the cake itself — was the right of the people to protect themselves against a tyrannical government.

    Also remember, the Founders had just gone through an 8 year war against tyranny; they sure as heck did not want their descendants to go through that again. Thus, the escape clause of the Second Amendment.

    Also remember, when the Minutemen and other militias went to war against the Redcoats, they brought their own guns, which were as good as and in some cases better than military issue weapons. (Think Kentucky long rifle versus Brown Bess musket.) There were even some artillery pieces in private hands.

    The right to own guns strikes me as an absolute. There MAY be some wiggle room in the “well-regulated militia” phrase as to what type of guns those might be, or even who might possess them, but I would be very wary about any limitations.

  27. avatarWilliam says:

    Well then, I’m today rejecting the President’s command. I’m in a different militia than that one.

  28. avatarJerryboy says:

    i disagree that arms should be a last resort. “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”, in other words, an armed march on DC in 1934 after the NFA was passed would have nipped most of our current problems in the bud.

  29. avatarBHirsh says:

    William, you wrote: “Before raising arms, we Americans must exhaust our rights to free speech, vote and due process.”

    Generally viz the whole of society, yes. Specifically, when attacked by government force pursuing illegal and/or unconstitutional orders, no.

    An unconstitutional law is no law at all, and to submit to “the system” when it is invincibly rigged against you is to become it’s slave instead of a sovereign citizen.

  30. avatarJust a Random Canadian says:

    I was raised in Florida, but I am a Canadian. My parents still live in Florida. I find the American Gun Control argument really fascinating. I have a question:

    What is more important? Is it the RIGHT to have a gun or is it the actual POSSESSION of the gun that is important?

    What would happen if the US government removed all restrictions against the Second Amendment? If they came out and said that you, as an American citizen now have the right to own and carry any weapon that you want. You could buy anything from a Phalanx CIWS to claymore mines to a .22 revolver. If you can afford it, you can own it. BUT: You have to pay a government tax of 100% of the value of the weapon. You have to insure the weapon against loss, damage and liability. You have to demonstrate competency with the weapon. And if you want to sell the weapon at a later date, you’ll have to pay another tax. They’d, in effect be giving you more rights, and at the same time, limiting access to the weapons. Its not a perfectly thought out idea, but the micro-chip started out as a “what if” too and after a while it worked out pretty well.

    I read some stuff by a 2A advocate, and he, in typical fashion, brought the gun argument back around to cars. He said, and we’ve all heard this a million times, “Thousands of people die because of cars but we don’t ban cars.” I think that the pro-gun lobbyists are shooting themselves in the foot with this argument because in order to drive a car you have to demonstrate competency with a car to get a license. Then you have to register your car with the government. Then you have to put insurance on your car. If you sell your car, you have to report the sale to the government. So in my worthless foriegn opinion, if you’re going to use the “Cars” argument, you should be willing to accept the implementation of a similar system of government control.

    It’s just my 2 cents.

    Oh yeah, like I said: I’m Canadian. I’m also a gun owner.

    • avatarMatt in FL says:

      Without going into details about the specific things (tax, insurance, etc) that you named, I will say that “right” and “possession” are one and the same, and are inseparable. The 2A says, in part, “the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.” You cannot put a bunch of caveats (taxes, insurance, etc) in front of my ability to possess that gun without infringing on my right to possess it. What if I can afford the weapon to which I’m rightfully entitled, but not the government specified tax or insurance? You have then prevented me (read: infringed on) my right to own and possess that gun.

      There’s a whole ‘nother argument about arms vs. ordnance re: your Phalanx CIWS/claymore example, but I’m not going to get into that, because like the Supreme Court, once I hit your desire to separate “right” from “possess” and realized you can’t do that, anything said after that is irrelevant.

    • You raise some interesting thoughts. First, let’s look at the original intent of the second amendment. The intent was to create a bulwark against governmental tyranny. In 1775, the Massachusetts militia with help from militias from neighboring states had the British Army trapped in Boston. From a command and control standpoint, it was a disaster. Each of the militias had their own commanding officer and each was doing his own thing.

      The second Continental Congress convened to consider creating a Continental Army under a central command. This was not a slam dunk debate because delegates were greatly concerned that the leader of such a force might, sooner or later, try to declare himself king. Finally they agreed to create the army and recruited George Washington as commander-in-chief, but they handicapped him by limiting soldier enlistments to one year, not allowing Washington to chose his own generals, and limiting the overall size of the army to no more than twice the size of the British Army.

      Many of these restrictions were loosened after the fall of New York City when it became clear that they were not practical impositions to put on Washington if they wanted a prayer of defeating the British. Nonetheless, the history is instructive in understanding the mindset of the men who wrote the second amendment. With good reason they were deathly afraid of tyrannical government and, as my article explains, wanted the ultimate power to overthrow the government to remain with the people.

      The framers of the constitution believed that the rights they established were not granted by government, but endowed by their creator (i.e. god) that precedes the establishment of government or writing of the constitution. Therefore, government can’t license political speech, religious worship or gun ownership anymore than they can license your right to breathe the air.

      Cars do not enjoy the status of being identified in the Constitution of the United States, the foundational legal document of our country, as a god-given right. As such, regulations and restrictions regarding their ownership and operation are not analogous.

      I believe that it is valid to question whether the original intent of the writers of the Constitution of United States is obsolete. The world has changed. There are real public health concerns due to the lethality of weapons today in populations that are far denser than in rural 18th century America. And is it crazy or paranoid to think that after a two-hundred year tradition of government leaders honoring electoral results, free speech, military subjugation to civilian rule, etc. that the government could lapse into tyrannical totalitarianism. Besides, the government has nukes and could wipe out any uprising of citizens bearing semiautomatic hunting rifles, right?

      Some people would agree with all of the above and others would point out countless examples in current and recent history of governmental malfeasance. However, it bothers me to see the debate reduced to haggling over weapon styling, magazine capacities, gun free zones, taxation, etc. without addressing the core issue: are weapons in the hands of civilians a protected right necessary to protect citizens from abusive governments? If so, then government has no place in regulating them. If not, then the constitution needs to be amended and then everything else can go on the table for debate.

  31. avatarJust a Random Canadian says:

    Thanks, Matt, for your response.

    I don’t desire to separate anything. I was asking because it seems to me that there are two different trains of thought on the issue. There are the “I will because I can” people (the Possession argument) and the “We shouldn’t because it opens the door to other constitutional changes that we might want less and restrict our freedom more” people (the Right argument).

    I definitely don’t want to argue semantics about ordnance and arms.

    “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

    I’m not sure that even back in 1791, taxation would have been seen as an infringement…more of a necessity, probably. You might see it as an infringement. That’d be a matter for the SCOTUS to decide, wouldn’t it?

    I think that if the men who wrote that could have known what was going to happen in the US 300 years later, they may have refined it significantly. They may have written more than 1 sentence.

    And didn’t Thomas Jefferson say something about all laws and constitutions being reviewed or rewritten every 19 years because the world belongs to the current generation? He was an important guy in US history, as I recall.

    • I’m curious about your repeated interest in the imposition of taxes on firearms purchases. What would that accomplish? That only rich people can exercise their god-given right to self-defense? Do the poor and oppressed not have the same right to arm themselves? That doesn’t seem fair. And does the tax magically make the guns somehow safer? Or the gun buyers more responsible? I don’t get it.

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