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Looking at the feedback we get here at TTAG, it’s hard not to notice how passionate the discussion has become regarding the Constitutionally-protected right of individuals to bear arms. Even the previous sentence is enough to get the blood boiling of any card-carrying Progressive on the issue – because the left and right fundamentally disagree on the very meaning of the words of the Second Amendment. It’s that troublesome subordinate clause at the beginning that has triggered the same kind of furor that Christians and Jews find when arguing about the true meaning of the Sixth Commandment (Thou Shalt Not Murder vs. Thou Shalt Not Kill). For the record, here’s the complete, verbatim record of the 2nd Amendment:

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.

27 words that might as well be carved out of a tablet made from C4 when it comes to soothing the troubled waters of political discourse. But never having been one to run away from a fight, nor avoid using a can of gasoline to put out a blaze, I have a modest proposal that I think might change the entire landscape vis a vis gun issues. We should consider passing a law that requires each citizen to own – and be trained in the safe operation of – a firearm. Are them’s fightin’ words? Hear me out…

So I’m thinking the other day, how much better would the world be if we were free of violence and crime? Never gonna happen. But along the same vein, I couldn’t help but ponder the fact that the countries that are the safest and free from attacks by their neighbors are the ones that have defensive weapons. Come to think about it, the people that generally don’t get the crap beat out of them and their stuff stolen are the ones that can defend themselves. I wonder if there’s a connection?”

I’m not being facetious. Much. You see, the Founding Fathers recognized something that had been a part of American life before there even WAS an America. Ultimately, we must each take personal responsibility for our own safety.

This takes many forms. We don’t blow dry our hair in the bathtub. We don’t leave our doors unlocked at night. We don’t drive through bad neighborhoods at night in expensive convertibles, wearing a lot of bling, and expect to get outta there alive. That sort of thing.

But we also have to realize that, despite the fact that we have entrusted our various governments with the task of “keeping us safe,” the us we refer to is the “general” us. Not the “royal us. In other words, the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few. Or to be more blunt – the police and military have a job to protect “the People” – not individual people.

The Colonists knew this. They realized the cannon of personal responsibility. Everybody was expected to be responsible for defending their own property and person. If you didn’t take responsibility for yourself, you’d have a hard time laying the blame on “society” or “the government” if something bad went down.

This ‘tude was formalized in several seminal documents that had a huge influence upon the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights. Essentially, this doctrine required every citizen to own a gun, know how to use it, practice shooting regularly, and be ready to defend his property – as well as his village, hamlet, town, or city, should the need arise.

Back then, they called this a “militia.” Essentially, the term referred to all able-bodied citizens, who would report for duty should it be deemed necessary to defend life and limb.

Individually, each citizen was expected to defend their own turf. Common sense was the rule of the day. If somebody tried to steal your horse, you could shoot them. On the other hand, if you went around shooting people that walked across your property for no better reason than they were trampling your grass, you’d get arrested and tried for murder.

The founders recognized that if there was a police force, constable, sheriff or other law enforcement dude around, they likely wouldn’t be able to get to you in time, should the need for self-defense arise.

They also realized (having just come out from under the thumb of an oppressive government – see: England), that governments are not to be trusted. The only way to trust a government and ensure that they have your best interests at heart – and not their own – is to be able to defend yourself against their wretched excesses.

And so, we have the 2nd Amendment, that reserves for us the right to own weapons with which we can choose to defend ourselves, our property, and our Earthly goods.

Now, stay with me for a second. What if that was not just a right, but a responsibility?

In the Nation of Israel, every citizen must serve a hitch in the military, to do their part to defend their country. Seems perfectly reasonable to me. I mean, if I lived in a country the size of Rhode Island, surrounded on all sides by countries and nation-states that wanted to erase me and mine from the face of the Earth, I think mandatory military service would be a peachy idea.

Everybody in that tiny nation presumably knows how to handle a gun. They’re ready, willing and able to do so, to defend themselves against all enemies, foreign and domestic. Cool idea. And I think we’d be better off if we adapted their attitudes over here, at least from the standpoint of self-defense.

Think about this . . .

If everybody were required by law to undergo gun training, we’d likely reduce accidents caused by stupidity with guns. I don’t have any hard data on that, but it’s a theory and I’m gonna go with it for now. I acknowledge that, as Ron White says, “You can’t fix stupid.” But you can at least give the people with working brains the skill set to avoid doing stupid things through ignorance.

If everyone over the age of 18 knew how to handle a gun, own one, and regularly practiced with one, I’m betting we’d reduce the number of people who are afraid of guns and find them revolting to a statistical insignificant factor. Fundamentally, a gun is just a tool. A machine. No more, no less. How many people do you know that are afraid of hammers or monkey wrenches? Yet both have been used to kill people.

If every citizen was required to own a gun and defend their own property (and had the prerequisite training/regular practice to do so), I suspect many crime stats would g fall precipitously. Sure, you can argue that domestic violence might go up (I disagree). But we’re looking at big picture things here.

Arm a community and fewer bad guys are gonna wanna run the risk of a home invasion, burglary, or carjacking. Famed bank robber Willie Sutton, when asked “why do you rob banks,” replied “because that’s where the money is.” I’d bet most criminals would avoid armed communities because “that’s where I’m more likely to get a cap in my ass and be forced to take a premature dirt nap.”

Now, of course, there would be people that, by their actions, would lose the right to own/operate firearms. Criminals. Mentally unstable people. NBA thugs. That would be prudent. And enforceable under the law. Commit a crime (or get yourself committed) and you lose the right to own a gun. And under this plan, you could put some real teeth into those prohibitions, with mandatory sentences for illegal possession.

So what if we passed a Federal law (or Constitutional Amendment) that required citizens to be proficient with guns and to be ready, willing and able to defend themselves? You can no longer argue it’s unconstitutional for the government to force citizens to buy something, now that Obamacare is the law of the land. And a self-protection doctrine would likely result in a reduced need for a visible police presence in neighborhoods, which, in turn, reduces the strain on municipal budgets.

I realize that this sounds like a radical plan, but I’m wondering if “radical” wouldn’t just be the best solution here. Instead of disarming the good guys and allowing the bad guys to own guns. I think it’s worth debating. I’d love to see a test case – say try it on a statewide basis. I have the perfect state where we can start: Texas. The home of personal responsibility, can-do attitudes, and self-reliance. And then maybe, just maybe, we could life in a slightly safer world.

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  1. My entire philosophy boils down to something you touched on: we must each take personal responsibility for our own safety. Except I take it a step further. "We must each take personal responsibility." Cut it off there. There is too much dependence in America currently. People always looking for a hand-out or a short-cut or an assist from The Nanny. If more people just took responsibility for themselves (and saved money, evaluated decisions, got health care, learned to use a gun) instead of waiting for something bad to happen then crying about it, we'd be in a better place.

    More specifically to this article, I like where you're coming from, but was feeling that I don't like any law that allows the Government to tell you what to own, et al. Then you brought up Health Care and reminded me we're already walking down that road. Hell, why not then?

  2. Couldn't agree with you more, Robert. Personal responsibility (we used to call it "Puritan Work Ethic," I think) was the key to building America in the first place. And I'm against the government telling me what to do, Period. But if I had to choose, I'd rather mandatory self-defense, than mandatory health care.

  3. Wow. I love arguing with Liberals.

    First of all, you, like many Progressives, have taken the introductory subordinate clause and presumed that it somehow limits the amendment – or changes it's intent. As I explained in my original article, the 2nd Amendment sprung from what was the 18th Century version of a Castle Doctrine. After the Revolutionary War THERE WAS NO STANDING ARMY. In fact, it was the War of 1812 that put the nail in the coffin of the idea that America could live without one. The Founders had hoped that a standing army would not be needed. They soon saw that was not to be the case.

    Your comments in your last paragraph betray your bias – and your ignorance. While we haven't had a draft since Vietnam, perhaps you might want to look at the stats on volunteer vs. draft in that war. You'll soon learn that less than 20% of our military that served in Vietnam were draftees. We have ALWAYS relied on a volunteer military. My stepson is a United States Marine. He served – and came under fire – in Iraq. He saw Marines in his unit get blown up by I.E.D.s. So your crap about "Bravado is pretty easy in the 21st century when there is no price to pay for it" is simply ignorant.

    I love how Liberals seem to turn away from arguing the central point of any Conservative thesis, and drift over to their own, favorite leitmotifs. You know…"Bush lied, Kids died," and that sort of thing. I made a very simple, very clear, and dare I say, very compelling argument about the second amendment and self-defense. I did not speak of wars, foreign policy, or the draft. But I appreciate the fact that you have to have something to talk about here, if you're not willing to address the issues head on.

  4. First of all, you, like many Progressives, have taken the introductory subordinate clause and presumed that it somehow limits the amendment – or changes it’s intent

    I get it – you want to ignore the first half of the Second Amendment, as if the language is superfluous or meaningless. So much for the right-wing fixation on original intent — you don't even want to read the bits that you don't like.

    If the ability to read all of the words of the Second Amendment is "progressive", then yes, you can call me a progressive. I hadn't realized that reading comprehension was based on a left-right spectrum, but if you're trying to argue that literacy is a uniquely liberal trait, then I won't argue with you.

  5. Does literacy include learning not just to read, but read for intent?

    I would hope so. Which makes it tough to understand why your approach to dealing with the Second Amendment is to ignore the entire first half of it.

    Of the original Bill of Rights, the Second Amendment is the only amendment that includes a dependent clause. Just some fluke, I guess.

  6. Robert Fure:

    There was never talk about the militia, the honest to goodness every single person who can hold a gun militia, being deployed on maneuvers.

    Robert, my references are at home but the fact is that in pre-revolutionary times, the Colonial militia was indeed deployed on expeditionary missions by the Crown. For example, a number of Colonial militias accompanied Wolfe to Quebec in his ultimately victorious campaign of 1758-1759 that wrested Canada from the French for good. In post-Revolutionary America, some militias deployed with the US regulars for the Mexican War of 1846-1848.

    See: The Army of Manifest Destiny by McCaffrey (about the US-Mexican war)

    And Brad, for the real (as opposed to fictionalized/idealistic) view of the militia, I would recommend checking out the following books:

    For the Common Defense by Millett and Maslowski

    A People's Army by Anderson

    and finally, Bayonets in the Streets by Higham (Out of print but may be at your local library.)

    All of these books (and many others) paint a less-than-rosy picture of the militia in US history. Consider that none other than the original George W. himself raised a professional army because he knew the militia could never achieve the goal of driving the British out of the 13 colonies.

    Militias in colonial times were generally pretty ineffective and militia "musters" (the once-a-year assembly that militiamen were required to attend, and show up with their arms and equipment to show that they were prepared for battle) were frequently poorly attended. In the case of many cities and towns, the practice of mustering was abandoned altogether once the threat of hostile Indians had vanished (the Indians having been pushed West of the Appalachians by colonial expansion.)

    • I don't think it matters that the militia may be ineffective or that people didn't show up for muster or Washington raising a professional army has any bearing on whether or not the militia exists as defined. Obviously untrained civilians who are farmers/bankers/whatever 364 days out of the year aren't going to outfight a standing army.

      But the issue is this – the militia is real. It exists to this day, ineffective are not. The militia is those ready and able to defend their country if called upon. Even if you read the 2nd Amendment to say that only militia members can have guns (which the SCOTUS said is not true), it wouldn't matter, because all legal adults (aged 18 or more) are by default members of the militia, and thus must be allowed to keep and bear arms.

      As for your instances of the militia being called out, militias in the past have definitely answered the call. But I am unaware of them being able to be forced to go anywhere. If the militia is as defined, every able bodied person, then the President could order every farmer off his land into a military venture. However, what is more accurate is that when the call goes out, some of the more dedicated and organized militia members answer the call and go.

      Today, for example, if there was a natural disaster and a call went out for citizens to help defend neighborhoods (unlikely, but we're talking theoretically) I would answer the call, though if my neighbor didn't, he wouldn't face reprimand, despite us both being in the broad-sense militia.

  7. Do you contest the definition of the militia as every able bodied person capable of bearing arms?

    Of course I contest it. Your claims are false.

    The militia is supposed to be "well regulated". Not "unregulated" or "kinda sorta maybe gee whiz regulated," but "well regulated." There is even a Federalist paper that focuses on this very point, including the need for it being "well regulated", including management at the federal level.

    At this point, we do not have a militia in the sense that was described in the Constitution. Its closest cousin is the National Guard, and most of us don't belong to it.

    My point is that we should seriously consider having a well-regulated militia, as it could make Americans more serious about their participation in government. But they aren't in well regulated militias now, despite your inaccurate claims to the contrary.

    • We've already had a half dozen arguments over the definition of militia and/or regulated. Clearly no one is changing anyone's mind. That in mind, here is my last hurrah. Replace the opening of the second amendment with wording of the militia act. You would basically get this:

      "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, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed."

      Now even with all that there, the 2nd Amendment says "the right of the people." Not the right of the militia, not the right of white males aged 18-45. All the people.

      Everywhere else in the Constitution "the people" means all the citizens. Not just a select few.

      I don't agree that the right to keep and bear arms is only meant for militia members. Keeping with the language and idealogy of the times, look at state constitutions. For example, this is from Pennsylvania's:

      "The right of the citizens to bear arms in defense of themselves and the State shall not be questioned." That is the modern language.

      The PA Constitution of 1776 reads:

      XIII. That the people have a right to bear arms for the defence of themselves and the state; and as standing armies in the time of peace are dangerous to liberty, they ought not to be kept up; And that the military should be kept under strict subordination to, and governed by, the civil power.

      Also clearly showing the distrust of the government and military, but in no way saying that civilians must be part of a militia in any sense of the word to own them.

  8. The point YOU'RE ignoring is the one that I made in my initial article – that we would be better off as a country, if we each were required to know how to handle firearms. I'm all for taking an approach similar to the Israelis, and making every citizen a member of a militia. Regardless of the need for a militia to repel invaders, I think we'd all be better off if the entire populace was comfortable around guns, situationally aware, and responsible for their own safety. If that includes membership in a militia, all the better. It could be something akin to the Peace Corps original concept…call it the "Keeping the Peace Corps."

    All this discussion of the intent of the 2nd Amendment regarding militias, while fascinating, is irrelevant. The Supremes have spoken. Get over it.

  9. The point YOU’RE ignoring is the one that I made in my initial article

    Your opening paragraph is devoted to blowing off the first half of the Second Amendment. I responded to that point.

    Call me crazy, but I would assert that the entire amendment matters. Understanding "original intent" requires that one read the entire thing with an open mind, rather than walking into it with a pre-conceived bias.

    I am actually gun neutral. I don't particularly or oppose favor gun control on constitutional grounds. Of the two of us, you are clearly the only one with a rigid position vis-a-vis gun ownership; you clearly love it.

    My point is fairly simple; the Founders didn't use the Second Amendment to address the issue of gun control; gun control is a 20th century topic, and they didn't think about it in those terms. I know that you are eager to believe otherwise, but you don't get to just pick and choose your favorite parts of the Constitution as you see fit.

  10. The irony is that you right-wingers, who normally bang on about “state’s rights” when it suits you, don’t seem to understand that the federal government simply didn’t deal with gun control at all.

    The purpose of the Second Amendment was to ensure that there was a citizen’s military arm to support the (then new) Constitutional government, just as the Third Amendment was meant to keep federal troops from taking over your house. It’s pretty straightforward to anyone who doesn’t have a dog in the fight.

    Like just about everything else from traffic tickets to marriage to property taxes, most matters were left to the state and local level to deal with, notwithstanding their need to comply with the Constitution. If Congress can pass a law that complies with the militia clause, then it can do that, but it can’t bar the People from participating in organized militias.

    The question is not whether we have unfettered gun rights — despite the assertions of the right, we don’t. The question is not whether the Second Amendment is obsolete tossed because there is no longer much of a militia in the truest sense, despite the assertions of the left, is also wrong — there was no edict that banned the existence of the militia.

    The question that we should be asking is more line with the Constitution: Where in the hell is our militia, and what aren’t we participating in it?

    If we had a true citizen’s militia that required everyone’s participation, then we might end up with a more responsible government with a more reasonable foreign policy. If every able bodied young and middle-aged male (and most of the females) had to put their monies where their mouths were by going to fight in the wars that they claim to support, then we might think a lot harder about when we send troops into harm’s way.

    Instead of a bunch of yahoos on the internet talking about kicking dark-colored asses, imagine if tens of millions of Americans were forced to drop their lives and put their own asses on the line every time our government finds a new foreign adventure, not just talking about combat but also being directly in the line of fire. At the very least, policy questions would become a lot less abstract and require a lot more deliberation on the part of the voters. Bravado is pretty easy in the 21st century when there is no price to pay for it.

    • The militia does exist today, by law, and you're probably in it. Are you an able bodied citizen over the age of 17? Welcome to the militia!

      What you seem to struggle with in your argument is the idea of how a militia operates. In your mind, the militia is always the army. Not so.

      Even in the earliest days of the militia, they were not considered active duty troops. They were the people and they were armed for times of emergency. The militia acts merely stated that, when things got bad, the Government could call on able bodied citizens to help.

      It says nothing about forcing them to help, or deploying them. We have a standing army now. It's large. But not every single soldier is in Iraq. You don't deploy the entire army. You would never deploy the militia, who are comparatively untrained, overseas.

      We're nowhere even close to needing to call up a militia force – but it's there. And it always will be.

      But, if you'll allow a flight of fancy that is based in historical fact – imagine if America was invaded, Red Dawn style. Somehow, we're over-run. Russians, Chinese, Mexcians, doesn't matter. Somehow, America is at war, in the homeland, and losing.

      The President could then call on all able bodied people to take arms. They would fight in their own units (regulating themselves, hey there's that word, regulate).

      You assume that because the militia takes orders from the President that they become a standard military unit, standing in line with tanks. Doubtful. Their orders would be to defend themselves and their homes and others.

      The militia act specifically states that the militia be allowed to be called forth to "repel an invasion." Later it is clarified as being either other nations or Indians.

      There was never talk about the militia, the honest to goodness every single person who can hold a gun militia, being deployed on maneuvers.

      Is the Second Amendment outdated? Sure. But it's still in there. The only way to make it irrelevant would be to repeal it. Otherwise, it stays and is law.

  11. Hmm. Does literacy include learning not just to read, but read for intent? A subordinate clause is just that – SUBORDINATE. As in “not as important as.” If you actually take off your rose-colored glasses and read the amendment, it boils down to “because we’re all about making sure the People stay secure, and the way to insure that is to preserve what they need to defend themselves (that’s the militia part), THEN, the right of citizens to keep and use firearms shall not be in any way prevented by the government.”

    I know you’d like to believe that this is somehow intended to limit firearms to those that have enlisted in the National Guard, but that is factually incorrect. Don’t believe me? Find somewhere – anywhere in the writings of Madison, Jefferson, Jay, Hamilton, Adams, or Washington (start with the Federalist Papers) where anybody says something akin to “oh, yeah…we’re against private ownership of guns…that second amendment thing was just to make sure we made having an army constitutional.”

    “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.”

    Seems pretty straightforward to me. Because X is necessary, Y shall not be infringed.

    They could have said “the right of People to keep and bear arms within a militia shall not be infringed.” They could have written “Until such time as we have a standing army, it’s okay for people to keep guns in case the government needs a little help defending everybody.” But they didn’t. Subordinate clauses are used in language to bolster an argument – not make the argument dependent upon them. Sub-ordinate = less important. Duh.

    I seem to have a lot of company on my side of the argument. The Supreme Court ruled in favor (Heller) that individuals do indeed have a right to own firearms. And I hear tell that they are about to rule on the Chicago Gun Ban law, too. So let’s see…it’s part of the Constitution. The Supreme Court recently interpreted the amendment to agree with what I’m saying. And somehow you argue that I’M the one who’s not paying attention? I think it’s time for a telethon for Liberal Derangement Syndrome.

    Sorry to get snarky (not really, but the head honcho prefers we play nice), but you really hurt your case when you make sweeping statements, unsupported claims, and specious arguments that are, at best, half-baked. Not to make a bad pun (but I can’t resist) – I’d suggest that before you attempt to argue your side, you come back with bullets in your gun.

  12. What you seem to struggle with in your argument is the idea of how a militia operates. In your mind, the militia is always the army.

    Actually, I’ve said exactly the opposite; the militia is a supplement and counterweight to the standing army. You clearly don’t understand the argument at all.

    • You clearly ignore every salient point after that statement in my argument. The militia is a supplement and counterweight to the standing army – but a supplement only in times of emergencies or when called upon. A counterweight only in times of tyranny.

      Do you contest the definition of the militia as every able bodied person capable of bearing arms? If you do, you can still argue the 2nd Amendment. If you don't, even by the strictest of readings, the second amendment would still guarantee arms to everyone over the age of 17.

    • I dunno. I'd rather spend my money on some Winchester White Box roundball ammo than dog food. With care (and a beavertail grip safety) my 1911 will never bite me. Can't say the same for a dog.

  13. Surprisingly (for me, anyway) I think there are a couple of points we can agree on. You’re right, the entire amendment matters. Where we disagree is that you seem to be hung up on the definition of a militia (a point which Robert covered above as eloquently as I could dream of). My point is that while we may disagree on the definition of a milita (and do) it’s not germaine to the discussion at hand. You’re also right in that the Founders would have scratched their heads over the issue of “gun control.” To them, I’m sure “gun control” meant hitting where they aimed. What they DID understand, however, is how a government – any government – can go from beneficial and benign to belligerent and bellicose in a remarkably short period of time. The only way that The People can protect themselves from a government run amok, is to possess weapons. Outlaw that, and we go from We the People to Pity the Sheeple in nothing flat.

    I am not cherry-picking the Constitution. I’m afraid you are misinterpreting the subordinate clause in the the 2nd Amendment and are twisting it’s meaning to try and justify a narrow and exclusionist view of the law. Our Founding Fathers had direct experience with tyranny. They knew better. And they added protections in our Constitution so that the kind of governmental wretched excess they saw from England would never be a reality in Washington.

  14. My point is that while we may disagree on the definition of a milita (and do) it’s not germaine to the discussion at hand.

    The point about the militia, specifically the fact that it is to be a "well regulated" one, is absolutely relevant, as it provides context for the entire amendment and its purpose. You can't claim to care about "original intent" if you want to ignore half of the Amendment.

    If the Second Amendment was an absolute, context-free right, then the militia clause wouldn't be there at all. It's fairly clear from the Federalist papers that a "well regulated militia" was a big deal to Hamilton and directly impacted the content of the Constitution, so it is not a fluke or irrelevant point that can be easily blown off.

  15. You can no longer argue it’s unconstitutional for the government to force citizens to buy something, now that Obamacare is the law of the land.

    Interesting point Brad, but I don't think you've quite followed this logic to its logical conclusion.

    A well educated friend of mine told me recently that he supported ObamaCare because he believed that healthcare was an American right. Of course, my friend was confusing the "right" with "entitlement," but then most Americans apparently do.

    But consider this, if an unenumerated right such as the right to healthcare is so important that the government will pay for it if we the people can't afford to buy it for ourselves, then how much more important is it for the government to do the same for an enumerated right.

    As such, I want Obama to buy me a gun! And not some assault rifle warehoused in a national guard armory, but a trim but powerful sidearm that would fit nicely in a holster on my belt in the small of my back. I don't want to be greedy, but a shotgun would be nice, too.

    For that matter, I want congress to pay for a thirty second TV advertisement so I can make a tastefully short political speech to the country. Damn it, it's my right! And I want them to build me a church of my choosing on the playground of the grade school that is a couple of blocks from my house. Right now I have to drive fifteen minutes to get to church. Education isn't an enumerated right but that grade school is practically in my back yard and they have plenty of room on their property for a modest church for me.

    • William, your logic is, as usual, impeccable. This is why I believe strongly, that our country is waaaay off-course, and we need to return to the fundamental principles outlined in the Constitution. The Federal government has assumed/co-opted/taken by force way too much power, from We the People and from the States. The populace has gone from a self-reliant, can-do attitude to one of entitlement and sloth. This will not – and can not stand. It will be the death of America. That's why I'm so encouraged by the Tea Parties. It seems that they are intent on getting government to rein itself in, replace the current bunch of crooks with a truly representative government, and stop listening to the parties (who aren't that different anyway) and start adhering to the Constitution.

  16. Oh, and by way of making a constructive comment, it's worth pointing out that the countries that have mandatory military service and send their trained citizens home with assault rifles and ammunition, such as Switzerland, have the lowest rates of murder and accidental firearms deaths in the world.

  17. I hate to "pull a Clinton" on you, but that really depends on how you define "well regulated," now, doesn't it? The word "regulated" means something different today than it did in 1789. Back then "regulate" meant "to make regular," in other words, to make it commonplace and somewhat standardized. The misinterpretation of "regular" is what got us in this mess vis-a-vis the commerce clause in the first place. If you accept that argument (you won't, I know, but I'm on a roll), then it's easy to see that what the Founders were talking about was ENCOURAGING people to band together to defend their own property, persons, and neighborhood for the "common good."

    As long as you're hung up on the definition of "militia" (not to mention "well-regulated"), we're not gonna get very far. In my interpretation (shared by a huge number of Constitutional scholars, by the by), the clause is not irrelevant at all – in fact it supports my argument that the Framers wanted individuals to own guns to keep the government honest, and to provide for the common defense. In your world, you've narrowly defined Militia so as to contradict the original intent of the Amendment.

    Having said that, it's the Supreme Court that has the final say. And until the court swings to the Liberal left, you're gonna have to live with the Heller decision (and the upcoming one on the Chicago gun ban) as the interpretation of the Law of the Land.

    One more point – The Constitution as well as the Federalist Papers were written, not by one man, but my several. Hamilton had a point of view that was a little outside of what most of the Framers did. He believed we needed a Federal government who's power was unchecked, no States rights, and was willing to put the country in debt – permanently – because he saw the value of forcing the citizenry into involuntary servitude to the government as a means of controlling them. Hamilton is NOT my favorite founding father. He was also a vain jackass that got himself shot for shooting off his mouth and impugning the honor of Aaron Burr. He could have avoided the duel if he'd simply apologized. He was, in my book, something of a pinhead, although his contributions to our nation cannot be denied. Which just goes to show you, even somebody that's wrong a good bit of the time can still say something right every now and then. (Which should make every blogger in the world breathe a sigh of relief.)

  18. I hate to “pull a Clinton” on you, but that really depends on how you define “well regulated,” now, doesn’t it?

    No, it really doesn't, and it's frankly disingenuous to claim otherwise.

    Just read the Federalist papers, which serve as the basis for the Constitution and the formation of the federal government, as well as Article 1 Section 8 and Article 2 Section 2. It's pretty obvious from those what "well regulated" means, as Hamilton describes it at length.

    It involves management by the Congress and with the president serving as its commander in chief when it is called up for duty. It isn't just a bunch of guys with guns and attitudes, not by a long shot.

  19. Not disingenuous. Well informed.

    As I pointed out, Hamilton was on the fringe of what the other Framers/Founders believed in many cases. The Federalist Papers were NOT, as you claim, "the basis for the Constitution." They were, in fact, impassioned arguments, in the form of essays originally published in newspapers across the nation, designed to win over the hearts and minds of the populace, so that they would support the Constitution. Get your history straight.

    I have never characterized a milita as "a bunch of guys with guns and attitudes." Nor have I implied, stated, or otherwise claimed that this is what the meaning of the word is within the context of the Constitution. To make this claim on your part is…what's the word I'm looking for…oh, yeah…disingenuous, and a cheap trick when it comes to the debate process.

    We can both agree that every word in the Amendment counts. We can both agree that the first part of the Amendment is not to be overlooked. Where we diverge is both in the meaning of "well-regulated militia" and in the concept that I believe (again, along with a majority of Constitutional scholars) that they were citing A supporting argument (but not necessarily ALL the supporting arguments) for the right to bear arms. You believe in a narrow definition of militia and that the subordinate clause (there's that word again) was the only justification for the Amendment.

    On this, I'm afraid we're going to have to disagree. You're not gonna change my mind. And I'm not gonna change yours. So…how 'bout those _____________? (insert the name of your favorite NFL, MLB, NHL, or NBA team here)

  20. The Federalist Papers were NOT, as you claim, “the basis for the Constitution.” They were, in fact, impassioned arguments, in the form of essays originally published in newspapers across the nation, designed to win over the hearts and minds of the populace, so that they would support the Constitution.

    Spare me. The linkage between Federalist 29 and what ended up in the final Constitution is absolutely unmistakable. The only way to miss it is if you deliberately want to miss it.

    It's simply absurd to claim that the Federalist Papers had no bearing on the content of the Constitution, and I frankly can't take anyone seriously who would make such a claim. That's our legacy, whether you like it or not.

  21. I think it is very reasonable to conclude that Hamilton had quite different plans for the use of American military might. Before Burr finally put a permanent end to his shenanigans, it was becoming quite apparent that Hamilton was a budding megalomaniac who wanted to turn the new country into an old world imperialist power. His critics feared that he wanted to become the American Napoleon or Emperor of America.

    While a member of Washington’s cabinet, Hamilton lobbied incessantly for the creation of a federal army that would be placed under his control. During the Adams administration he achieves his goal of being appointed Major General of the Army, but fortunately there was no army for him to command. So he tried to provoke strained relations with France to the point at which congress would authorize the formation of an army, but President Adams foiled his ambitions by smoothing things out with France through diplomacy.

    Certainly, Hamilton’s public writings reflected thoughts that many of his peers held. As such, they are important documents and cannot be dismissed completely. But privately, he was scheming for a power grab. If Hamilton had lived, America might be a very different place.

  22. Show me in the Constitution where the definition of a “well-regulated militia” is spelled out.

    I don't know how many times that I'm supposed to reference the Federalist No. 29, and its direct connection to Articles 1 and 2. Seriously.

    They're bedrocks of our national heritage. Go ahead and read them.

  23. And I don't know how many times I have to tell you that Hamilton was a megalomaniacal, power-hungry pinhead when it came to military power. Here, again, is something you seem to gloss over at will: THE FEDERALIST PAPERS WERE WRITTEN AS EDITORIALS TO SPUR GRASS-ROOTS SUPPORT FOR RATIFICATION OF THE CONSTITUTION. Yes they are important papers, as they give insight into many principles the founders held dear. No, they are not what the Constitution is based on, nor can they be relied upon as a sort of "Cliff Notes" for the Constitution.

    And lest you think I do not hold the Federalist Papers in high regard, I happen to keep them on me, pretty much all the time. I found a very nice little iPhone app called "USA Manual" that includes texts of the Declaration, Constitution, all the Amendments, Federalist Papers, key Supreme Court decisions, and a lot more.

    My dad used to tell me you can argue with an ideologue, but it's a losing proposition – they'll never understand, nor will they ever give up. As fascinating as it is to try and educate you regarding the finer points of language, syntax, Constitutional law, and the greater scheme of things, you're taking away what little time I have to devote to writing posts for this blog (not to mention my day job). I would strongly urge that if you want to persist in tilting at windmills, you submit an article to RF. I doubt you'll find many in the audience that will agree with you, but at least you be paid (but not much) for your efforts. TTAG is dedicated to offering a forum for all points of view. I sugest that, rather than argue with me in the comments, that you write an impassioned screed as a post for the blog itself. As for these comments, I'll leave you to dribble in solitude.

  24. I think Pch101 reads “well regulated” and interprets that to mean “federal government regulated.” Certainly, the constitution is clear that during times of invasion congress has the right to call upon the services of militias to serve under the direction of the president. Otherwise, it’s clear in Federalist Paper #46 that Madison envisioned the militias being self regulated. He talks of the federal government in fact being subordinate to the will of the power of the people (meaning militias). How could the federal government be subordinate to militia might if the feds have the power to control the militias via regulatory fiat?

  25. I think Pch101 reads “well regulated” and interprets that to mean “federal government regulated.”

    I’m not “interpreting” that — that’s exactly what it says, verbatim. You’d have to “interpret” to find it having a different conclusion.

    The US Constitution is a somewhat unique document, as it is constructed as a framework, not as a series of statutes. Some very basic legal issues, such as the specifics of criminal law, are not addressed there at all — that isn’t its purpose.

    The Constitution addresses the centralization of certain powers, and the various powers and responsibilities of the three branches of government (executive, legislature, judiciary.) The document doesn’t provide many details about the day-to-day operations of the country; that is left to other bodies and to specific laws to sort out.

    The Bill of Rights addresses the relationship between the citizens and this government. The methodology is clear:

    Amendment 1: Expression

    Amendments 2: Relationship between the armed forces and the people

    Amendments 4-8: Jurisprudence

    Amendments 9-10: Rights of the people and the states

    The Constitution doesn’t prohibit many crimes such as murder, but that doesn’t make murder either legal or illegal. That sort of issue isn’t addressed not because they liked murder, but because that topic lies outside of the scope of the Constitution. The Constitution is focused on the allocation of and restraint on authority, not specific law, and we are left with some ability to create laws to deal with such things.

    The Founders didn’t contemplate gun control or the lack thereof; that wasn’t the purpose of the Constitution. They specifically addressed “bearing arms”, i.e. using military weapons within the context of a well-regulated Militia, which is defined in the Constitution and its supporting documents.

    It’s pretty obvious that we have the right to serve in a well-regulated Militia; they can’t bar us from joining one if we are so inclined. Whatever else we have comes from statute, as is the case with 99% of the laws that we have. Turning to the Constitution for such things doesn’t make such sense, any more than we would use the Constitution to determine the fine for parking in front of a fire hydrant or the speed limit in a school zone.

    • PCH101

      "Well regulated" does NOT mean "federally-regulated" or "government-controlled." Show me in the Constitution where the definition of a "well-regulated militia" is spelled out. For that matter, show me in the Federalist Papers. Keep in mind, the Hamilton angle does not carry water – it's well-documented regarding his feelings about the military, and they were decidedly NOT shared by the other founders.

      You are factually correct about the function, design, and purpose of the Constitution, however you persist in drawing the wrong conclusions. The Constitution was written by men that wanted to limit the reach of government. As such, the Constitution did not originally include the rights enumerated within the Bill of Rights, because Madison and the other framers DID NOT SEE THE NEED TO STATE THE OBVIOUS. In fact, the only reason that the Bill of Rights exists, was that Hugh Williamson of S. Carolina cut a deal with Madison that would have blocked the Constitution from confirmation, had he not agreed to create the Bill of Rights as his first action after the Constitution took effect and Congress was seated. Madison believed (to borrow a phrase) these truths to be self-evident. He didn't mind adding the Bill of Rights, but he didn't see the need to do so, because he couldn't imagine anyone believing that this new government would impinge upon them.

      Fast-forward 200 plus years, and the greatest document created by men to govern men is under a full-scale attack. Revisionists and Progressives insist that the Constitution is a "living document" and is something that offers no absolutes – it should be "reinterpreted" to suit changing times. (For that matter, they try this with the Bible, too.) Still, I fall back on what the Supreme Court has ruled. Regardless of your love of parsing words and twisting their meaning to arrive at a conclusion that suits you, the Supreme Court has ruled that citizens do indeed have the right to private ownership of firearms under the 2nd Amendment. What part of that can't you understand?

    • "Amendments 2: Relationship between the armed forces and the people"

      You're the only person I've ever heard interpret it that way. How is it defining a relationship between the armed forces and the people?

  26. And I don’t know how many times I have to tell you that Hamilton was a megalomaniacal, power-hungry pinhead when it came to military power.

    Your personal opinions about Hamilton frankly don't concern me and add nothing to this discussion.

    The issue here isn't whether you or anyone else likes or dislikes Hamilton, but whether the document that he penned tells us something about the meaning of the Constitution. And as it turns out, it does, as what he wrote about these matters ended up in the Constitution.

    No, they are not what the Constitution is based on

    The references in the Constitution regarding the militia come straight out of the Federalist. The lineage is unmistakable.

    If you want to understand the intent of the Constitution, then you must read the Federalist Papers. To deny that, or to reinvent their content because you dislike what they say, is pure revisionism.

    • But opinions counter to Hamilton's were presented in The Federalist Papers too. It just seems to me you lost the Constitutional argument and are now trying to argue on the Federalist Papers.

      If you want to talk about other relevant documents, look at all the State Constitutions, some even penned by founding fathers, and you'll find the right to bear arms means guns for all civilians, no questions.

  27. But opinions counter to Hamilton’s were presented in The Federalist Papers

    You really don't follow the point.

    The content of Federalist 29 is pretty much identical to what ended up in the Constitution. It is very obvious that the position expressed in that paper went directly into the Constitution.

    Obviously, you can use Federalist 29 to understand the definition of the "well regulated" militia discussed the Constitution, because the two documents say the same thing. There is no contradiction between the two documents.

    I know that you don't like the definition very much, as it is awfully inconvenient and runs counters to your hopes, but it is what it is.

    Now, if the Constitution and Federalist 29 contradicted each other, then you might have a point. But they do the opposite, so you don't.

    • 1. Federalist 29 is not the Constitution. Federalist 29 is no more or less relevant to the constitution than any other document of the time.

      2. Your reading of the 2nd Amendment is that it is similar to Federalist 29 and, somehow, grants power of the militia to the Federal Government. Many other people read the 2nd Amendment as having no relationship to F29, as it is interpreted as an individual right. People on this side of the argument include 5 Supreme Court Justices and the majority of Constitutional Scholars.

      3. In Federalist 46, James Madison talks about the benefits of an armed society.

      4. In Federalist 28, Hamilton talks about the benefits of an armed society, saying that they must take arms against a tyrannical government. He also mentions the "original right to self defense" that is more important than all governments.

      When viewed as a whole, taking into account all the Federalist Papers, all the state Constitutions, all the quotes from the founding fathers, and all the evidence from the time, the support for individuals keeping and bearing arms is overwhelming.

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