The Second Amendment and the Militia

 

 

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

 

When it was written in the late 18th Century the Second Amendment was contemporaneous, clear, and concise; easy to understand by all who read it. It was very short, because it was meant to be all-encompassing in its application.

But language usage evolves with time, and in the intervening two+ centuries the language of that amendment has become archaic, making it vulnerable to misinterpretation. Unfortunately, every time gun control becomes a hot political issue, such as now in light of the recent Parkland school tragedy, we see the hoplophobes (anti-gun faction) attempt to exploit that vulnerability by trying – either through ignorance or cynical manipulation – to advance the claim that the gun rights protected by the Second Amendment only apply to uniformed militia organizations such as the National Guard.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

The United States Code is the body of the permanent general federal statutes of the country. According to “10 U.S. Code § 246 – Militia: composition and classes” the militia is defined as:

“(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.”

In other words, all law-abiding citizens, and those who have applied for citizenship, are members of either the organized (uniformed, such as the National Guard) or unorganized militia if they’re of military age.

Further, the right isn’t limited just to those of military age. The reference to the “militia” is simply recognition of the fact that a militia might at times be necessary and it would be drawn from the at-large citizenry. That is why the amendment protects “the right of the people”, and not just “the right of militia members”. The right isn’t restricted to only those in one of the militias.

For those extremist hoplophobes who make the absurd claim that the word “militia” refers to the active-duty military: why would the Founders need the Second Amendment at all when the Constitution itself, in Section 8, gives the federal government the power to “raise and support Armies” and “maintain a Navy”. In fact, that same section also states that the government may “provide for calling forth the Militia”, clearly distinguishing the Militia as being a separate entity from the regular armed forces.

I believe that if the exact same amendment were to be written today in modern language, it would go something like this:

“Recognizing that the protection of a free State may require the activation of a civilian militia in addition to the standing military, and that the militia is composed of the citizenry at large, the right of those citizens to keep and carry arms in order to be proficient with their use shall not be infringed.”

The words “free State” are also crucial to understand. The Founders were engaged in a revolution against what was the legitimate government of which they were citizens. As described in the Declaration of Independence, their grievances justified that revolt, and they were very aware that any government has the potential to become tyrannical.

That potential included the government they were forming. They wanted to make sure that the citizenry had the ability to remove that government should it become another tyranny, no longer a “free state”, and the way to do that was to ensure that the citizenry had the means to do so: arms. Guns. The same guns as the rest of the military, which they are expected to provide at their own expense.

Many people today scoff at the idea of average Americans rising up and overthrowing the government, saying that the idea of civilians standing up against American military might is ridiculous. I guess the Taliban haven’t yet gotten that memo.

The ragtag Minutemen started such a revolution against the single most powerful military on the planet… and won.

And what was it that caused that “Shot Heard ‘Round the World”? The Redcoats were marching on Lexington and Concord to confiscate the colonists’ guns.

That’s right. The precipitating event of the American Revolution was an attempt at gun control.

So, as we can see, the real purpose of the Second Amendment is to protect the right of law-abiding civilians to possess and use the same personal weapons as the rest of the military in order to assure a defense against enemies both foreign and domestic.

 

 

©Brian Baker 2018

 

(Also published today in my local newspaper, The Signal)

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17 comments on “The Second Amendment and the Militia

  1. Hardnox says:

    Good post as always.

    Another shot will be heard if our government ever attempts confiscation. FACT.

    The 2nd Amendment was about the RIGHT of citizens to kill tyrants and elimination of a tyrannical government.

  2. captbogus2 says:

    And for a footnote when the Second Amendment was written civilians possessed the exact same guns as the military. Some even had much better rifled guns which the military still did not have to any amount.

  3. Virginia Patriot says:

    Words mean whatever liberals want them to mean.
    Homosexuals become gay.
    Illegal aliens become undocumented immigrants.
    Look what has been done to natural born citizen, Anwar Al-Awlaki’s kids born in Yemen to one citizen parent are considered eligible to be President.
    If liberals ever get a majority on the Supreme Court, the 2nd Amendment will be interpreted out of existence.

    • BrianR says:

      Got that right, VPat. It’s a time-honored strategy: redefine the language, rob the original words of their meaning, change the basis of the argument.

    • captbogus2 says:

      “Words mean exactly what I want them to mean. No more, no less.”
      The Queen of Hears, Lewis Carrolls “Through The Looking Glass”

  4. garnet92 says:

    And now the left has populated our schools and the minds of mush therein being indoctrinated with the idea that guns in general, and AR’s and the NRA, in particular, are all evil tools of the devil and must be abolished – “for the good of the children.” How disgusting is that? Our own children protesting against our Constitutional rights – both to bear arms and to free speech as well. I hope we can shake some sense into our young people before it’s too late.

    • BrianR says:

      Well, yeah, but I think it’s even worse than that.

      What do a bunch of elementary school kids actually know — or even care — about politics and guns? Nothing. To them it’s just a fun day doing something different.

      It’s meaningless Kabuki.

  5. Rick Irving says:

    Brian, Your explanation is well thought out, exceptionally concise, beautifully written, historically accurate, and of course pretty much legally moot given that the Supreme Court disposed of the “militia” anti-gun argument in the “Heller” decision. Of course what the courts, the law, or the Constitution actually say means nothing to those on the Left if it disagrees their narrative.

    Kudos too for restricting your contemporary update to “citizens.”

    • BrianR says:

      Rick, thank you very much for those kind words. I truly appreciate them.

      I agree that my argument may, sadly, be moot given the circumstances you so accurately described. But the main reason I write is so that down the road, when my grandkids are grown and I’m long-gone, they’ll have a way to know me as a man, and not just “Papa” as they know me now. They can know what I stood for, and hopefully I’ll have been able to pass my principles down to them in a way they can understand and, hopefully, respect.

  6. CW says:

    Excellent post, Brian.

    If only facts, logic, history and the realities of human nature held any sway with the Left. (Of course, if it did we’d ALL be conservatives). No matter what argument you make, the leftists will rewrite history and the dictionary to justify their own self-serving interpretation, because the bottom line here is that they don’t respect the Constitution or our rights thereunder. Therefore, as satisfying as it is to know that our side is on solid footing from a logical and constitutional perspective, given the nature of the people that we’re dealing with I suggest we need to abridge the argument so as to leave less room for argument. How about this: NO.

    No, you cannot deprive us of our guns. Not unless you change the Constitution. Good luck with that. And if you do manage to legally change the Constitution and come for our guns, good luck living to tell about it.

    • BrianR says:

      Thanks, CW. Obviously, we agree.

      I’m struck by the opening sentence of your second paragraph: “If only facts, logic, history and the realities of human nature held any sway with the Left.”

      Was that a reference to my earlier essay? “FLHHC”? Because of it wasn’t, we have an eerily similar view of things, even more so than with other conservatives. Here’s the link:

      https://theviewfromtheisland.wordpress.com/2017/03/09/flhhc/

      As to this: “And if you do manage to legally change the Constitution and come for our guns, good luck living to tell about it.”

      Yes. Absolutely. The EXACT SAME THING that triggered the Revolution.

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