Question of the Day: What Does “Militia” Mean?

(courtesy billofrightsinstitute.org)

“The situation envisioned by the Second Amendment is, contra the liberals, one where most everyone owns guns,” Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry writes in his essay Both sides are wrong on the gun debate. Here’s why [via theweek.com]. “But, contra the conservatives, the founders envisioned a society where gun ownership is connected to certain service obligations. Imagine a situation more like Switzerland — the other rich country with widespread private gun ownership but where, because everyone is required to undergo regular training and secure their weapons and so on, gun violence is very low.” The hoops these guys jump through to infringe on the Second Amendment – absent historical knowledge and common sense. What do you think the prefatory clause – “a well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state” – means? Then and now.

comments

  1. avatar DJ9 says:

    “When asked what the Militia was, George Mason, one of the Framers of the U.S. Constitution, said, “Who are the Militia? They consist now of the whole people, except for a few public officers.” Yet we also see statutes like 10 USC 311, which defines it as “all able- bodied males at least 17 years of age and, except as provided in section 13 of title 32, under 45 years of age who are, or have made a declaration of intention to become, citizens of the United States.” Some state statutes define it as “able-bodied males” of different age ranges, such as 16 through 59.”

    More at link:

    http://www.lawandliberty.org/what_mil.htm

    I believe Switzerland’s low crime and violence rates are far more likely related to their highly homogenous culture, along with a tightly controlled border and restrictive immigration policies that keep it that way.

    One of the major downsides to our “melting pot.”

    1. avatar Jamie in ND says:

      Exactly right.

    2. avatar Comrade Terry says:

      +1

    3. avatar Gunr says:

      10-4 on that!

    4. avatar JasonM says:

      You’re spot on about how the founders viewed the militia. Also, in the revolutionary era, “well regulated” meant consistent, as in every male over 18 met a consistent minimum skill level with firearms.

      I don’t think our heterogeneous culture is responsible for our high not very high, but still higher than Switzerland, violent crime rate.

      The areas in the US with the highest crime rates are very homogeneous. In Bellevue WA, as a white male, I’m a minority, but our crime rate is very low.

      The countries with very high violent crime rates (not counting African civil and tribal wars as crime) are very homogeneous.

      The areas with low violent crime rates all have one common set of traits, which the areas with high violent crime rates all lack: wealth, education, and opportunity. The best way for us to fight the violent crime rate in the US is to get the income and education level of the urban poor up to the level of the middle class. And the best way to do that is to cut taxes (the lower the better), reduce the cradle to grave nanny state (the smaller the better), and eliminate the federal reserve.

      1. avatar nathanredbeard says:

        As a white male in Bellevue, WA, you are most definitely NOT a minority in any way.

        http://www.bellevuewa.gov/pdf/PCD/Demographic_Profile_of_Bellevue.pdf

        1. avatar JasonM says:

          Your four year old data is out of date.
          It just dipped under 50% earlier this year. Whites are a plurality, but not a majority.

        2. avatar Zach says:

          Funny thing about Bellevue is the minor sidewalk confusion when people originally from India tend to walk on the left and people originally from the US tend to walk on the right. Jason’s right – Bellevue is growing quite diverse, at least as far as ethnicity. But the ethics and attitude of the people there are generally quite similar. The technology industry attracts a particular type of person, I guess. (I worked in Bellevue for a couple of years recently, so I feel qualified to vouch for the town).

      2. avatar AZGarandGuy says:

        Don’t forget ending the “War on Drugs”.

    5. avatar DiR1776 says:

      Exactly right. I therefore got nothing to add…except that well regulated meant “in good working order” and ready to go when needed.

      1. avatar LarryinTX says:

        Normally, antis interpret that as “with many rules and regulations controlling the militia”, but my understanding for 40 years is precisely what you state, translating also to “well equipped and trained”.

    6. avatar int19h says:

      “I believe Switzerland’s low crime and violence rates are far more likely related to their highly homogenous culture”

      You’re talking about a country with 4 officially recognized state languages, that historically had a quite a few civil wars over religion (Catholic vs Protestant) and retains a religious geographic split even to this day.

      1. avatar DJ9 says:

        When was the last civil war there?

        1. avatar Yellow Devil says:

          1847. Which gave rise to the Swiss Federal Constitution of 1848. The Swiss had no major conflicts that I could think of after that.

          Not to berate Int19h, once again he sees the trees but misses the forest.

    7. avatar MWorrell says:

      Exactly. There’s nothing to speculate about.

    8. avatar Matt Black says:

      It bugs me when people point to the National Guard and the Reserves as the militia described in the 2nd Amendment. I’m sorry, but if they fight in the same wars in foreign countries and have the same ranks as the regular military then they are regular military. (A rose by any other name, if you will) I respect those guys, I just don’t view them as militia.

    9. avatar JuanCudz says:

      I believe Thomas Jefferson was a bit more succinct. “You ask Sir, what is the militia? The militia ARE the people.”

  2. avatar muddywaters says:

    “I ask, sir, what is the militia? It is the whole people, except for a few public officials.”

    1. avatar Ken says:

      -George Mason, in Debates in Virginia Convention on
      Ratification of the Constitution, Elliot, Vol. 3, June 16, 1788

      Sorry to be nitpicky, but quotes mean little without a source.

      1. avatar LarryinTX says:

        That quote is important regardless who said it and where/when. The reference is mostly important to assign credit, not to somehow lend credence to the thought, which can stand alone.

  3. avatar DrVino says:

    I’d like to see some historical, academic evidence to support or contradict Gorby’s assertion that the individual right is related to (if not dependent or contingent on) some sort of service obligation.

    1. avatar Ed Cardoza says:

      I don’t think Gorby was trying to say that the RKBA was contingent upon a duty for service, or suggests that if there was no expectation of service that the protection of the right would disappear. I think that he’s saying that the 2A is related to the militia. They are not one and the same.

      1. avatar ErrantVenture11 says:

        +100

        And this is what is happening right now, really. The people aren’t expected to serve, and so the Constitutionally-stated reason for the right is no longer sufficient to protect that right. What the anti-gun crowd doesn’t recognize or chooses to ignore is that there are several unstated reasons for protection of the RKBA, reasons which do not appear in the Constitution but are certainly cited by those who drafted it.

        1. avatar BR549 says:

          Indeed, while everyone else was still left believing the militia to be a necessary service for the maintenance of the state, globalists saw it for what it was; an obstacle to the tyranny they needed to thrive within. That’s what gave us the Militia Act (the Dick Act) of 1903.

      2. avatar DrVino says:

        He said: “… the founders envisioned a society where gun ownership is ***connected to certain service obligations***.” It seems that he believes that the RKBA is not an absolute but rather “connected” (contingent on, dependent on, related to or intended for) a “service obligation” (again, suggesting some sort collectively organized structure).
        I’m not saying I agree with him. I’m saying that it seems he’s saying he sees the intent of the 2A too be such.

        1. avatar int19h says:

          The way I read it, rather, is that the founders saw one as a natural right, and the other as a natural duty. If you take one or the other away, it’s no longer the same picture.

    2. avatar DJ9 says:

      My impression of Gobry’s comments in that area were that he seemed to think that because they were trained (“regulated”) by the government in how to use and store their weapons, they had less of a potential for random violence.

      While this may be true (depending largely on how well their screening for recruits works), it ignores several major differences between the Swiss and the US; first, the government is the one that issued the guns in Switzerland (and ammo, too). If the govt. issued the guns and ammo, then the govt. can take it away (as it did for many citizens not too long ago when they recalled much of the stored-at-home ammo, and required many citizens to begin storing their weapons at armories vs. at home). Second, the issued guns and ammo often came along with a period of conscripted service, another major difference between the Swiss and the US, and of course conscription is not part of unorganized militia procedure (once conscripted, you are now part of the Federal army, not a militia; this would be more the equivalent of our National Guard).

      Given these distinctions, we’re back to apples and oranges.

    3. avatar Jus Bill says:

      I think what the founders feared was the rise of a “Professional Warrior Class” such as the Hessians. Today we approach that in some respects with the “All Volunteer Military” (not too dangerous to the Union and her people) and the militarized “alphabet” Federal Law “Enforcement” Agencies, prominently featuring the DHS “constellation” (all answerable to nobody in particular and enforcing laws and their own administrative directives).

    4. avatar Anonymous says:

      I agree. Looking at the statements made by the founding fathers and those written in the bill of rights there is no connection made. I disagree with the author on this matter.

      But progressives don’t want nor care about some comments made from some guy a few hundred years ago – or some old parchment with words on it. They are about moving forward – progressing – towards fewer rights, greater technology, absolute equality, and what they feel is a better “future.” Because a better future means more stuff, less work, being more lazy, less thinking, and no responsibility.

  4. avatar CarlosT says:

    Gun violence is low in Switzerland because they have no significant gang problem. That’s it. If our gang problem here in the US went away, a large number of the homicides would go away as well.

    1. avatar DrVino says:

      Yes, but there have been a few stories in legacy print and video media highlighting some shooting sprees as well as a waning interest on the part of those Swiss gun owners to maintain training.

      Certainly, that was aimed to undermine Switzerland as a model used by the pro-2A camp. But also, if you notice, the antis don’t wring their hands over gangland killings but over mall, movie theater and school spree shootings.

      1. avatar Cowboy T says:

        Quite correct, because the vast majority of the antis are suburban White people (not saying there aren’t some Blacks, but most are indeed White) like Lori Haas, the Clintons, Bidens, Feinsteins, etc. Guess where suburban White people’s kids hang out? Shopping malls, movie theatres, and similar places.

        When it’s a school shooting, note that their hand-wringing is pretty selective there, too. The Columbine HS tragedy of 1999 made international news. But just a year previous to that, there were two school shootings, one at Palisades HS, and another in Chino HS, both in the Los Angeles, CA area. Majority Black and Latino. Barely a peep from the antis or their media allies there. But it happens in a majority-White school like ? “OMG THE EVIL GUNNNNZZZZZ, gotta ban ’em ALL! FOR THE CHILLLLDRENNNNN!!” In both cases, their response was wrong, because the *CORRECT* response is, “let the Good Guys (meaning, the adults) carry like they do in Harrold School District in Texas, or the State of Utah.” Suzanna Hupp is right.

        Furthermore, Josh Sugarmann just recently put out an article saying that Black men in particular ought to be disarmed. Oh, really, Josh? Apparently those “white sheets ‘n’ hoods” aren’t exclusive to just the South, but also the Northeast as well (Sugarmann’s from Newtown, CT).

        Basically, the antis are not just wrong, they’re racist pigs as well. I will be discussing this in an upcoming podcast episode.

        – T

  5. avatar Ken says:

    It’s very simple. The founders of this country were the militia. The militia is any group of citizens, banded together for mutual protection. They are all volunteers, unpaid, uncontracted, and free to leave at any instant they so choose. As such it is patently obvious that they MUST have their own arms, as there exists no “superior authority” to supply them. The “well regulated” simply means that the group must have some type of command structure, either elected, or by virtue of owning the arms and ammunition, or perhaps some respected person in the community or war hero(think Ethan Allen and his Green Mountain boys), etc. Without some type of leader, they are all nothing but a mob. Think Mel Gibson in “The Patriot”, in the scene where he says “You are all volunteers, and can leave anytime you want, but while you ARE here, you will obey my orders or I will have you shot!”
    Of course, the understanding of this will lead one to see the stupidity of the words “gun ownership is connected to certain service obligations”. One cannot be “obligated” to volunteer, now can one? That is an oxymoron on par with “military intelligence”! 🙂

    1. avatar DrVino says:

      This blog has provided numerous explanations that “well regulated” does not refer to legislation or command structure but to equipment and supplies (and, implicitly, skill and training).

      1. avatar Ken says:

        Lots of people online provide lots of opinions. But how many are rational, logical, and thought based? And how many are just empty opinions? Lots more emptiness than facts, methinks. For example; “well regulated meant “in good working order” and ready to go when needed.”
        Just who was it said or wrote that in the Revolutionary war days” What utter nonsense. He still has a right to hold whatever he chooses as his opinions, of course. Its just not correct, nor backed up by anything, is all.

    2. avatar Dave says:

      I was obligated to volunteer for service for my son’s tee-ball team. There is even a term for it: being “voluntold” (to do something).

      1. avatar Jus Bill says:

        You chose to be obligated. That was entirely a decision on your part to go along with the “obligation.” I think that obligation (control) would evaporate around the time the second person advised the “obligator” to go pound sand.

        1. avatar Ken says:

          They include that obligation in the form that signs your child up for the activity. Either the parents “volunteer” their time, or the child does not participate in the activity. So its a kind of coercion, really. Your don’t HAVE to volunteer, but then your child doesn’t have to participate, either.
          I ran into one of these where it was not in the signup agreement, but only sprung upon us parents later. I complained, and got it added to the form in future. I “volunteered” anyway, even though they “exempted” me from the “voluntolding”, based on there being no mention of it until the season was already underway. But the other parents didn’t care, so I went along with the herd of sheeple anyway, in the interest of peace. But I DID get it added for the next group…

  6. avatar michael nieto says:

    Our gun crime is actually very low and there is no real other country to actually compare American crime to to compare the third most populated country in the world to a country whose population is less than the New York City area is dishonest and quite pointless

  7. avatar Nathanael says:

    It’s pretty clear that the militia was the people, including just about everyone who was male, free, and able-bodied. However, while the militia and its important roles in civil life at the time provide a reason for the 2nd amendment, the meaning was not to restrict arms to those in the militia. Rather, the right to keep and bear arms is retained for the whole people. If it were only about securing weapons for the militia, the text would read something like, “the right of militia members to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.”

    1. avatar Ed Cardoza says:

      Well said.

    2. avatar Sabrewolfe says:

      Yeah, the wording of the 2A–especially the version that was ratified by the States–makes it very clear that the Founders considered the people to be the militia.

    3. avatar KCK says:

      Yes, as in
      The Militia is a subset of gun owners. In order to have a militia for mutual protection, members have to have guns to function, thus one must not infringe on gun ownership. How could you be part of a voluntary militia if you had to ask the government for permission to own a gun?
      One group wants to say you have to be militia to own guns per the 2A, but that does not make sense for personal defense nor putting meat on the table. The 2A does not protect hunting by mention because that was so obvious.it didn’t need mentioning.

    4. avatar JoshinNC says:

      +1

      Well said, Nathanael.

  8. avatar Sabrewolfe says:

    This is how I always perceived the “militia” of the 2nd Amendment. The general body of citizens, all ready to stand up in unison and put down any threat to the Nation and the liberties and freedoms it embodies.

    Rather than putting millions upon millions of dollars into gun control via the broken monstrosity that is the ATF, the government would be far better served to put those funds into making firearm education and training readily and easily available to those who want to take advantage of it. That is my idea of “common sense gun control.” Knowledge is power. By increasing the level of knowledge on safe weapons handling and by improving the skill levels of those who choose to own and carry guns, accidents will be reduced and crime will be cut down as people are better prepared to act effectively.

  9. avatar ErrantVenture11 says:

    The obligation to serve in Gorby’s assertion refers to an internal obligation or compulsion arising from one’s own sense of duty and a desire for justice, stability, and sovereignty, not an external obligation forced upon him (or her) by the government. This internal obligation would have truly been “common sense” back before we had a standing army or police forces. The idea seems a bit more foreign now, in a nation where the people leave national defense to a paid military and personal defense to a paid police state.

    That said, I believe whole-heartedly that there is still room for a militia mindset among the people, if only the government would stop foisting dependence upon the people. Simply put, we’re lazy and apathetic.

    1. avatar DrVino says:

      I am not sure that the side Gorby is taking.
      Additionally, I think it’s been demonstrated ad nauseum that the antis would argue that since we now have a standing army and police force, the need for a citizen militia is obviated.
      Again, not agreeing with him.

  10. avatar Pudd says:

    Gangs and the resulting violence don’t strike me as the problem. Gangs and what they do is a symptom of a problem or set of problems. Poverty, education and the incentives to stay on social programs comes to mind. Combine those with some of the negative cultural forces within those communities and we have a bit of a pickle.

    None of these big issues are black and white. They are complex and challenging. Probably why everyone focuses on simple easy answers.

  11. avatar Ralph says:

    because everyone is required to undergo regular training and secure their weapons and so on, gun violence is very low

    What a knothead! Switzerland has no crime because Switzerland has no gangs. There aren’t a whole bunch of Bloods, Crips and MS-13ers hanging out in the canton, blowing the Alphorn and yodeling.

    Where do they find these idiots?

    1. avatar Ken says:

      “Where one goes to find idiots, American Universities.” – Gallagher

    2. avatar DrVino says:

      See my comment above about a recently publicized spate of spree shootings. Certainly on a different scale than what we see here. Still, to say they are crime-free is not accurate.

      1. avatar Ralph says:

        Switzerland isn’t maniac-free. No place is. But half of Switzerland’s crime is committed by immigrants. Half! The crime rate among immigrants is about four times higher than that of “native” Swiss.

        I think that, just maybe, the US should be a wee bit more concerned about immigration along our Southern border.

        1. avatar Accur81 says:

          I don’t know Ralph, that sounds like it could be racist. And if anyone ever calls are even makes the slightest implication that you could be so, you must immediately drop every intelligent point that you are making and talk about whatever friends that you have who are minorities.

          /sarcasm.

          Seriously, though, if we import criminals we get more crime. I know that isn’t politically correct to say. Then again, I can speak to the crime rates of those who illegally cross our border. I’ll give everyone a hint: it’s much higher than concealed carry permit holders.

  12. *We* are the militia- simple enough.

    +1000 on the pic of Annie Oakley (who, fyi, believed that all women should know how to shoot, and personally taught hundreds, if not thousands, of women to do so!).

  13. avatar Full Cleveland says:

    In the US a militia is a group of people who, as ruled by SCOTUS, have the Constitutional right to have an abortion but do not have the Constitutional right to keep and bear arms without infringement.

  14. avatar Bobby C King says:

    I am a militia of ONE! When Freedom and Liberty is being taken by all around me, except me, I become a militia of ONE! If all members of a squad of an armed force are killed except one, that leaves a militia of ONE!

    If you believe that the Constitution is a living breathing document subject to the interpretation of the majority; I am a militia of ONE!

    Again, only 3% of the population took up arms to gain our independence from England. Remember that FACT on July 4th.

    You too can be a militia of one, and anyone who says different is very shallow in their thinking.

    1. avatar Dave says:

      “Again, only 3% of the population took up arms to gain our independence from England. Remember that FACT on July 4th.”

      I have been wondering about this. Can you cite your source for this ‘fact’? I looked but couldn’t find anything, other than opinion and random ass guesses, that said that it was 3%.

      1. avatar Accur81 says:

        It’s on my Ares Armor T-shirt.

  15. avatar launchpadmech says:

    Ask my kid. She will be in from Hell Hole Afghanistan in two days. She will say anyone who fights evil. Welcome her. LinkedIn. Helaine Briskman Moesner.

    1. avatar Tom in Oregon says:

      Great news. A belated Father’s Day present!

    2. avatar Accur81 says:

      She has my prayers for a safe return.

  16. avatar Michael B. says:

    Gun ownership was connected to militia service but not dependent on it.

    The government today would never reduce their power by establishing a Swiss-style militia system, unfortunately. They have the National Guard already and want to be able to send them into any backwater country they deem a threat.

    1. avatar DrVino says:

      “connected but not dependent”

      – finding support for this would be very helpful to countering an anti’s argument along this vein.

  17. avatar C says:

    A year or two of obligatory military service would be good for the young’uns.

    1. avatar Michael B. says:

      If it meant being deployed to some craphole in a war we don’t have the guts to win, only to come back home and be judged a threat by the government and mistreated by the VA, you can count me out.

      I wouldn’t join the military today nor would I be inclined to report for duty to that PC organization if I were conscripted.

    2. avatar John in Ohio says:

      No, it wouldn’t.

    3. avatar Yellow Devil says:

      No, as someone who has ten years in the Army, both active and reserves, I disagree. The military is not some magical club that can transform individuals of ill character to men and women that stand as the supreme moral pillars of society. It can help, yes, but people often forget that the military is indicative of the society it serves. As a NCO, I only have so much time, opportunities and tools to better my soldiers. The military is not and should not be a dumping ground of today’s youths to find character. They should already have a sense of purpose before coming in. I also believe that military service should remain purely voluntary and small in scope, as often mentioned in the Federalist Papers. Only under extreme martial duress or immediate invasion should we resort to any type of conscription.

  18. avatar former water walker says:

    I would not have had a problem with some sort of national service. I’m over 60 & had a big problem being drafted to fight in Vietnam. Happy it didn’t happen. 3000000000 guns in America makes it mite academic. We are all a one man militia…our own 1st responder.

  19. avatar mrwiizrd says:

    I think Penn and Teller did an excellent job of addressing this, NSFW language warning:

    1. avatar Accur81 says:

      Excellent!

  20. avatar dave says:

    Agree with the above… we are the militia, however in context with the time the militias were to be organized by the States (with a capital S) not the Feds. Historically (my interpretation) there was never any intention for a standing army such as we have now.

    1. avatar Ken says:

      At no time in the US, prior to the institution of the National Guard, was the militia organized by the states, or by any other “authority figure”. They were LOCAL volunteers, who just showed up at the town hall, or square or wherever, and asked what they could do to help. Study and read about the militia and the War of Independence and you will see.

  21. avatar Paul McCain says:

    Commas are important!!

    1. avatar LongPurple says:

      Commas are, sometimes at least, crucial to meaning. e.g. “Eats, shoots, and leaves”.

      1. avatar John in Ohio says:

        Let’s eat Robert! vs Let’s eat, Robert!

        Kinda important to Robert. 😀

  22. avatar Don says:

    “we the people” + “arms” = militia

    (and the militia is necessary to the security of a free State, so the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed)

  23. avatar Joe R. says:

    Don’t ignore context, George Mason followed nearly to the letter Virginia’s then-existing Bill of Rights but expanded even further the language to enhance the shall-not-be-infringed concept(s), so as not to alienate any of the possible signer-states, by whom Mason, and America, needed ratification.

    The 2nd Amendment was not for sporting or hunting purposes, it is the stop-gap and the insurance that, when the experiment of America fails, you will have the chance to enforce your vote in what comes next.

  24. avatar DanRRZ says:

    The intent behind the militia at our founding was to empower ordinary citizens with the right and ability to take up arms in defense of life, liberty, and property. This was based on a longstanding fear of standing professional armies due to the threat of one being used to enforce the whims of a tyrannical government. This notion was developed in response to the lessons learned from the turmoil in Europe at the time.

    Thus, a government for the people by the people was also to be protected by the people ensuring sovereignty would be preserved.

    AFAIK, there was no real barrier to entry. It was the expectation that every able bodied male had a moral obligation to serve in order to protect a system in which they had a vested interest.

    It certainly seems as though we have gotten a little lost over the centuries. The slippery slope of growing government power has taken the power to provide protection away from the people and created a multitude of alphabet soup agencies to undertake the task of security.

    This has greatly watered down the potential effectiveness of a popular militia with so many growing up to fear firearms and failing to learn how to defend themselves. Most, if not all of us reading TTAG have refused to get swept up in this wave, but we are in the minority.

  25. avatar BDub says:

    He is wrong that both sides are wrong. Owing firearms and being capable of defending yourself, your family and your property, precludes a militia obligation.The gun ownership was a given, and any militia obligations were merely utilizing that already present, unalienable condition – being armed.

    Also, the Founders envisioned not just gun ownership, but citizenship, having certain obligations, such as voting and participating in, and running for office in, government from time to time. Police have replaced on and career politicians the other, but neither of these facts do away with the preclusion.

    In summary, we are not armed because we might need to serve in a militia, we can be called onto to serve in a militia, because we happen to be armed.

  26. avatar PeterK says:

    Doesn’t the Dick act define the militia as every draft-able male?

    1. avatar John in Ohio says:

      Currently:

      10 U.S. Code § 311 – Militia: composition and classes

      (a) The militia of the United States consists of all able-bodied males at least 17 years of age and, except as provided in section 313 of title 32, under 45 years of age who are, or who have made a declaration of intention to become, citizens of the United States and of female citizens of the United States who are members of the National Guard.
      (b) The classes of the militia are—
      (1) the organized militia, which consists of the National Guard and the Naval Militia; and
      (2) the unorganized militia, which consists of the members of the militia who are not members of the National Guard or the Naval Militia.

      Source: http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/10/311

  27. avatar JasonM says:

    This what rights does the second amendment provide argument is a trap. And the people here are falling for it.

    If the second amendment said that people could own pets, it wouldn’t change the authority of the United States government to monitor, ban, or otherwise restrict the right to transfer, own, or carry firearms. The amendment that gun rights supporters should be focusing on is the 10th:

    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.

    Nowhere in the body of the Constitution does it grant the United States power over firearms, therefore that power is left to the states, and the people. Without an amendment giving the United States the authority, the NFA, GCA, Brady Bill, NICS, Toomey-Manchin, anything Feinstein has ever said, etc, etc, are all unconstitutional.

    1. avatar Ralph says:

      If you read the Commerce Clause, you will see that the power to regulate commerce was specifically delegated to the Federal government.

      All commerce. Not just the commerce you don’t care about.

      Now, the gun laws that you point to may be Unconstitutional, but not by virtue of the 10th Amendment.

      1. avatar JasonM says:

        If you read the commerce clause in the proper context, you’ll see that the power to regulate commerce granted to Congress was very limited:

        To regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several states, and with the Indian tribes;

        I’m not a foreign nation, nor am I an Indian tribe. So the only qualifier that could possibly apply is the middle one. They added that piece specifically to prevent one state from imposing tariffs on goods imported from another state, and to prevent states from imposing taxes on goods traveling through the state. Under the Articles of Confederation, some states implemented protectionist tax schemes. There was no intention to restrict, tax, or otherwise interfere with the free exchange of goods by people whether in the same state or not.
        Also, in that era, regulate meant to make regular or consistent, not to control or restrict. That’s a modern distortion from the same sort who believe the feds have the power to restrict a farmer growing food for his own consumption as interstate commerce. (Yes, that actually happened.)

        A proper reading of the Constitution, using only the finite granted powers, not the assumed powers that statists have been pushing for centuries, would invalidate all of the laws I mentioned. Not one of those laws can link to a specific enumerated power granting authority for every action in the law. The 10th Amendment explicitly states what is implied by the body of the Constitution: that the powers of the federal government are few, finite, and explicit.

        As an interesting side note, the framers considered the Constitution to be an obvious document that any person could read and understand. They did not think it was some convoluted pile of legal jargon that only nine people had the capacity to interpret.

        1. avatar uncommon_sense says:

          Jason,

          That is one of the best comments that I have ever seen appear on The Truth About Guns website. We the People of the United States have to hear this simple truth. We are doomed if we do not learn it and apply it.

          I implore the admins to ever so slightly alter Jason’s comment (for style) so that it can be a free-standing post of its own.

  28. avatar uncommon_sense says:

    What do you think the prefatory clause – “a well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state” – means? Then and now.

    It means exactly what it says.

    The only word that is somewhat lost in present-day English is regulated. That word doesn’t mean that government gets to restrict the militia, it means that the militia has to be well equipped and trained — in other words enable to function to full effect without any artificially imposed handicaps.

    That is why our government is violating the Second Amendment when they pass any laws that impede the ability of the good people of our nation to acquire, train, and become proficient with all of the same firearms that our military uses.

    1. avatar John in Ohio says:

      +1

      Short, sweet, and to the point. 🙂

  29. avatar Gregolas says:

    Can’t add to the excellent comments, so I’ll attempt to caption the picture:
    “Mary Poppins and her remedy for when the chimney sweeps get out of hand.”

  30. avatar Cowboy T says:

    “Is it a messaging problem when a mass shooting happens and nothing that we have to offer would have stopped that mass shooting? Sure it’s a challenge in this issue.”

    That says it right there. Nothing they have to offer would’ve stopped that mass shooting. Matter of fact, I’m not aware that it would’ve stopped any other mass shooting, at least during my lifetime.

    Here’s a better idea for them: if they’re so worried about harm coming to people, then how about taking on the issue of *VIOLENCE*, period, not just when it’s done with a firearm?

    – T

  31. avatar Steve M says:

    I believe that in the 2nd amendment, militia refers to the militia that congress has the right to raise as outlined in the original unamended constitution. Remember that the reason we have amendments is because the states were not satisfied with the wording of the constitution. For that militia to be well regulated, the people need to be armed. We knew all too well that military powers can be abused. If you read the amendments they basically outline protections against what the British did to us. Stifle the press, gun confiscation, taking over peoples’ homes, unreasonable search and seizure, etc. We needed and still need to make sure our government doesn’t become a force oppressive to it’s own people.

    1. avatar John in Ohio says:

      to make sure our government doesn’t become a force oppressive to it’s own people.

      IMHO, it’s already there.

  32. avatar Rick says:

    the clause about the militia is a reason, not a precondition.

  33. avatar Great Scot says:

    The Militia is anybody who believes in Liberty, Freedom and the Pursuit of Happiness and is willing to fight for these things.

  34. avatar last marine out says:

    The Swiss people got it right , everyone gets training, gives military service and gets to keep the military firearm at home, the national sport for the Swiss SHOOTING. And last nation you ever want to attack is Switzerland .

    1. avatar DJ9 says:

      As I said above, they are often conscripted for service (non-volunteer), which is where they receive their training. Several years ago all govt. ammo stored in homes was recalled/collected, and many folks were required to move their firearms to armories vs. storing them in dwellings.

      If the govt. giveth (loan, actually), the govt. can taketh away. I prefer our system.

  35. avatar Don'tBeStupid says:

    “Imagine a situation more like Switzerland — the other rich country with widespread private gun ownership but where, because everyone is required to undergo regular training and secure their weapons and so on, gun violence is very low.”

    I just trained (on biotech instruments) two customers from Switzerland, and the “firearms training” they told me about was a yearly obligation to fire…twenty rounds through a service rifle. Their assertion was that procuring additional ammunition, and the ability to practice beyond the minimum required, was extremely difficult.

    Having related this, I still agree with your post 🙂

  36. avatar Itsme says:

    “The strongest reason for the people to retain the right to keep and bear arms is, as a last resort, to protect themselves against tyranny in government”~ Thomas Jefferson

    “No free man shall ever be debarred the use of arms”~ Thomas Jefferson

    “My reading of history convinces me that most bad government results from too much government”~ Thomas Jefferson

  37. avatar Mecha75 says:

    The Dick Act of 1906 was designed to resolve an issue where the Federal Government was asking states to send their militia to support the army. Depending on the governor, they were told “NO”. So they created the Dick Act to split the state militia in to two parts. An organized and fully federally funded National Guard and an unorganized militia made up of the any able bodies citizen. issues with the way the national guard was drafted and mustered out during WWI created an amendment to the act that required each member of the state national guard to become part of a national guard of the US as well. Later amendments basically have turned the NG into nothing more than reserve units of Army since the state governors have only a limited power to veto their deployment and training determined by the federal government.

    In Perpich v DoD of 1990. the Minnesota Governor tried to veto a training deployment of the MNG to Central America. The SCOTUS said that he couldn’t and that it doesn’t violate the Militia Clauses because nothing in the Dick Act (and subsequent amendments) prevents the states from providing for and maintaining its own “MILITIA”

  38. Well, imaging if the Militia Act of 1792 was revised to apply today, just look at this for instance:

    “Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America, in Congress assembled, That each and every free able-bodied white male citizen of the respective States, resident therein, who is or shall be of age of eighteen years, and under the age of forty-five years (except as is herein after excepted) shall severally and respectively be enrolled in the militia, by the Captain or Commanding Officer of the company, within whose bounds such citizen shall reside, and that within twelve months after the passing of this Act. And it shall at all time hereafter be the duty of every such Captain or Commanding Officer of a company, to enroll every such citizen as aforesaid, and also those who shall, from time to time, arrive at the age of 18 years, or being at the age of 18 years, and under the age of 45 years (except as before excepted) shall come to reside within his bounds; and shall without delay notify such citizen of the said enrollment, by the proper non-commissioned Officer of the company, by whom such notice may be proved. That every citizen, so enrolled and notified, shall, within six months thereafter, provide himself with a good musket or firelock, a sufficient bayonet and belt, two spare flints, and a knapsack, a pouch, with a box therein, to contain not less than twenty four cartridges, suited to the bore of his musket or firelock, each cartridge to contain a proper quantity of powder and ball; or with a good rifle, knapsack, shot-pouch, and powder-horn, twenty balls suited to the bore of his rifle, and a quarter of a pound of powder; and shall appear so armed, accoutred and provided, when called out to exercise or into service, except, that when called out on company days to exercise only, he may appear without a knapsack. That the commissioned Officers shall severally be armed with a sword or hanger, and espontoon; and that from and after five years from the passing of this Act, all muskets from arming the militia as is herein required, shall be of bores sufficient for balls of the eighteenth part of a pound; and every citizen so enrolled, and providing himself with the arms, ammunition and accoutrements, required as aforesaid, shall hold the same exempted from all suits, distresses, executions or sales, for debt or for the payment of taxes.”

  39. Very crucial point here.

    The Second Amendment is granting the point that a well regulated militia is necessary BUT this does NOT for a moment mean that the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall be infringed.

    I believe this is a legitimate interpretation.

    Again, the comma is critical in the Second Amendment.

    When it was written commas were not simply scattered about as they are today, they we used very purposefully.

  40. avatar dh34 says:

    Well, IMHO since the Constitution calls for Congress to maintain a standing Navy (and I presume the Marines that come with it) and to raise armies as required, that any able bodied man would be considered eligible for service.

    I would also add that since many citizens lived along the frontier of the time, the militia, I would suspect that term included any collective self defense of citizens.

  41. avatar Tom in Oregon says:

    I believe, that today, it is those of us who choose to bear arms for a potential defense of home or self.

  42. avatar chaz says:

    “a well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state”

    What do I think this phrase means? Exactly what it says it means.

    The wording of this phrase is so clear that misunderstanding it take some effort. What it says is this:

    “A well regulated militia”

    “being necessary”

    “to the security of a free state”

    In plain english: we need a well regulated militia in order for us as a free people to be secure.

    This is the part where people start getting confused. What is a militia? This is a legal question. It has a legal answer. Per 10 U.S. Code § 311:

    (a) The militia of the United States consists of all able-bodied males at least 17 years of age and, except as provided in section 313 of title 32, under 45 years of age who are, or who have made a declaration of intention to become, citizens of the United States and of female citizens of the United States who are members of the National Guard.
    (b) The classes of the militia are—
    (1) the organized militia, which consists of the National Guard and the Naval Militia; and
    (2) the unorganized militia, which consists of the members of the militia who are not members of the National Guard or the Naval Militia.

    If you dispute the above than sorry: this is legally codified.

    “A well regulated militia” does not mean it has to be an organized unit. Definition 2 of the unorganized militia reinforces this. What did the term “well regulated” mean in 1787? It meant that you could behave yourself, follow basic orders, and that you could hit what you were supposedly aiming at!

    Everything else is self explanatory.

  43. avatar Jeremias Hedegaard says:

    It seems that the Left, while emphasizing the phrase “A Well-Regulated Militia” at the expense of “Shall Not Be Infringed” also hops over “being necessary to the security of a free state.”

    What threatens the security of a free state? From without, that’s easy enough to discuss. But internally, it usually comes from criminals, high and low. We understand the potential threats to our liberty from high-ranking lawbreakers (which we tend to call “tyrants”), and I think we understand how they are threatened at the local level by thugs. An armed populace keeps both in check.

    The Left doesn’t think in those terms, usually. They just want to undermine a right they don’t like.

  44. avatar Geoff king says:

    Hell yeah, where do I sign up for drill? I could stand to lose a few pounds, OK a lot of pounds.

  45. avatar Keith Morgenstern says:

    I think in recent times, the role of the “militia” is now called the “selective service system”, which all 18-26 year old males must sign up for. Because irrespective of possesing firearms, if a militia is needed, the selective service (aka: DRAFT) is HOW they get called up for service.

    So, perhaps that is the pathway for us all to side step the anti’s rhetoric: There is a militia, here’s my draft card from when I signed up.

    Or, and perhaps this is heretical, revise the 4473 to not show US citizenship, but instead show proof that you signed up with the selective service. Hence “militia” connected service for arms.

    For ladies, perhaps the selective service rules need to be updated to reflect female sailors, soldiers, and marines, requiring them to sign up also. Then ladies can also show proof of “militia” connected service.

    just a thought.

  46. avatar Kyle says:

    “A well-educated electorate being necessary to the preservation of a free society, the right of the people to read and compose books shall not be infringed.”

    Clearly the prefatory clause here is just stating the importance of the right. It is not saying that only those who meet some government-defined standard of being “well-educated” have the right to read and write books.

    Alexander Hamilton in Federalist Paper #29 also talks about how to have the militia have the same level of proficiency as professional soldiers would be impossible.

  47. avatar PavePusher says:

    Even if the author is correct in his claim, the fact that the government has neglected to provide training and equipment to The People does not restrict the Right of The People to train and equip themselves. Rather the contrary, I’d hazard, as it then remains their duty and obligation to do so.

  48. avatar TT says:

    You can’t even start to peel this onion without getting into the divide between federal and state powers and the role of a standing federal army circa 1800. The Bill of Rights did not restrict the actions of state and local governments when it was ratified (I know there are folks on this board that refuse to believe that, but it’s true). At ratification through at least 1865, the second amendment was saying that the federal government could not infringe the right to keep and bear arms. Today, our worst infringements come from state and local governments. For the most part, the feds are not infringing the right to keep and bear arms. The extent to which state and local governments can infringe the right has only begun to be explored in the last few years. Applying the the Bill of Rights to the authority of state and local governments is a sticky wicket that only gets sorted out through the court system. What the founders thought is largely beside the point in the courts.

    As it pertains to state and local governments where most gun control laws originate, the question will (hopefully) be whether the law uses the least restrictive means necessary to advance a compelling state interest. Militias won’t have anything to do with it.

  49. avatar Anonymous says:

    Nice vintage picture. Open Carry + trigger finger discipline.

  50. avatar KCK says:

    Is that a picture of Pat’s Grandparent?

  51. avatar Anonymous says:

    Reading the entire article – it’s not that bad:
    Liberals declare that if only we regulated and banned guns like Europe does, there wouldn’t be any more gun violence. Conservatives insist that the solution to gun violence is more guns, and just more guns.

    I don’t know about the rest of you, but I, personally, never said the solution was more and more guns. I certainly however don’t think that elimination of guns is a solution to the problem – or any further regulations. The problem in my opinion, does not lie on the plane that guns lie. The solution and problem are not related to guns at all.

    I did disagree with this:
    Imagine a situation more like Switzerland — the other rich country with widespread private gun ownership but where, because everyone is required to undergo regular training and secure their weapons and so on, gun violence is very low.

    Training and securing of weapons has nothing to do with “gun violence” or “violence.” A criminal can easily open his own safe and reach past his training certificate to pull out a gun and go perform some “violence.” Again, violence and guns do not lie on the same axis. Guns do not inspire or cause violence and not all violence is performed with guns. The root problem here is violence – not guns.

  52. avatar Mark Nighswonger says:

    During the Reformation the Roman Catholic Pope/Emperor persecuted the protestants in Switzerland. They were murdered and imprisoned, but my family left disinherited and came to Philadelphia in 1710. We were in the initial settlement in Winchester, VA the birthplace of the Virginia Militia where a young George Washington honed his skills as a frontier soldier. My family fought in the French and Indian War and the Revolution. You were required to have a rifle and the necessary skills to defend your family and the settlement. These skills were handed down from father to son and they still are. I am proud to continue a tradition of military service and will continue to defend my family and the Constitution of my country to my last drop of blood. If my family could have defended their lands and possessions they would have lived peacefully in the Canton of Bern. Their loss!

  53. avatar 2hotel9 says:

    It is the whole of the people, sir.

  54. avatar John in Ohio says:

    I thought this was interesting. It’s from the Ohio Revised Code. (Emphasis mine) http://codes.ohio.gov/orc/5923

    Chapter 5923: ORGANIZED MILITIA
    5923.01 State militia membership – limitation of troops.

    (A) The Ohio organized militia consist of all citizens of the state who are not permanently handicapped, as handicapped is defined in section 4112.01 of the Revised Code, who are more than seventeen years, and not more than sixty-seven years, of age unless exempted as provided in section 5923.02 of the Revised Code, and who are members of one of the following:

    (1) The Ohio national guard;

    (2) The Ohio naval militia;

    (3) The Ohio military reserve.

    (B) The Ohio national guard, including both the Ohio air national guard and the Ohio army national guard, the Ohio naval militia, and the Ohio military reserve are known collectively as the Ohio organized militia.

    (C) The Ohio naval militia and the Ohio military reserve are known collectively as the state defense forces.

    (D) The unorganized militia consists of those citizens of the state as described in division (A) of this section who are not members of the Ohio organized militia.

    (E) No troops shall be maintained in time of peace other than as authorized and prescribed under the “Act of August 10, 1956,” 70A Stat. 596, 32 U.S.C.A. 101 to 716 . This limitation does not affect the right of the state to the use of its organized militia within its borders in time of peace as prescribed by the laws of this state. This section does not prevent the organization and maintenance of police.

    Effective Date: 09-18-1997

    Surely I’m missing something because I don’t see where former felons are excluded from the unorganized militia in Ohio.

    5923.02 Persons exempt from military service.

    (A) The following persons, if subject to duty in the Ohio organized militia, may be exempted by the adjutant general from duty on request:

    (1) The vice-president of the United States;

    (2) The officers, judicial and executive, of the departments of the state and of the United States, and the members of the general assembly, without regard to age;

    (3) Members of the armed forces of the United States or their reserve components;

    (4) Customhouse clerks;

    (5) Employees of the United States postal service;

    (6) Workers employed in armories, arsenals, or naval shipyards of the United States;

    (7) Pilots on the navigable waters of the United States;

    (8) Mariners licensed by the United States.

    (B) Any person because of religious belief or other moral conviction held as a matter of conscience may claim exemption from Ohio organized militia service.

    Effective Date: 09-18-1997

    1. avatar last marine out says:

      before the 1900’s the term that was used : outlaw: that term meaning you were out side the laws of the states, You no longer was under the Bill of Rights, you could not vote , and a bounty hunter could kill and bring you in for a REWARD… You stayed a OUTLAW (outside the rights ) until you can to COURT and was CLEARED of any wrong doings ….this was the current understanding everyone , same as the term militia was all males in good health and able to bear ARMS , all ARMS…also the Militia did go and fight in China in the BOXER REVOLS….(state militia units)and not to forget the Rough Riders under T.R. went to Cuba to fight in the Spanish American war…They were armed by T.R. with his own money….

      1. avatar John in Ohio says:

        Yep. Good info.

        Since this section of the ORC was updated and effective 1997, I was surprised to not see any disqualifies for those who were under federal prohibition from possession of a firearm. I’m not complaining and am glad that there is nothing like that in there.

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