A well regulated 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.” So reads the Second Amendment of the Bill of Rights, one complete sentence expressing a complete thought. Despite grammar and punctuation which clearly creates one complete sentence, both judges and social critics have illogically treated the the opening phrase about “Militia” as a separate thought. Thus the phrase about “the right to bear arms” has illogically been culled from the sentence as a whole, radically changing its meaning, with dire results.

Historically, the amendment in totality makes perfect sense. In 1776 America declared its independence from England and embarked on a socio-political experiment of democracy (limited as it was to white men owning property). The 1791 Second Amendment to the Constitution makes clear that gun ownership at the time was a product social organization, can connects gun ownership to the need for a State to arm a “well regulated Militia.” Lacking a standing federal army, defense department, stockpiles of munitions and other federal activities we take for granted today, the only way a state or the United States could provide a militia with weapons to resist foreign aggression in 1791 was for those weapons to be in the hands of volunteer citizens. Incidentally, the guns of 1791 were breach-loaded arms capable of firing one bullet per load of gunpowder, at a rate of two or perhaps three shots per minute.

The Amendment makes the linkage absolutely clear: the “bearing” of arms is for the purpose of provisioning a “well regulated Militia.” However, in a society obsessed with “individual rights” the Second Amendment has become the justification for individual ownership of the tools of modern warfare, hi-tech weapons specifically engineered to quickly kill as many people as possible. Modern automatic rifles discharge six bullets a second from large clips dispensing lethal ammunition.

People like danger and dangerous things, and guns qualify. To hold a loaded weapon in one’s hands is to embrace danger, and to have control over it. A finger on the trigger radiates that danger to everyone around, and that knowledge produces feelings of power. For those who are unstable or pathological, that power can become irresistible, with disastrous and tragic results.

Global gun-related homicide statistics (2011) tell the story: Japan: 11, Great Britain: 41, Switzerland: 57, Canada: 173, Israel: 6, Sweden: 37, France: 35, Germany: 158, United States: 9,146. Despite the unrelenting and some might say escalating violence perpetrated by high-caliber automatic weapons, the regulation of such firearms in the U.S. is less than it was ten years ago.

Given the estimated at 270 million guns now in circulation in America, it is inevitable that some will fall into the hands of people who should never hold a gun. But even if new regulations are established (though in many states gun ownership is being further deregulated) the firearm genie cannot be put back into the bottle. We have let loose a scourge upon our land, and as if everyday life were not tragic enough, we are adding gun violence to our misery.

There is but one way to escape the tyranny of this man-made nightmare and that is to reaffirm and express our basic goodness, interdependence, compassion and connection to each other. Tighter gun regulation is surely needed, but a lasting solution will only be found in the human heart.

7 thoughts on “A well regulated Militia

  1. You really need to give up on beating that dead horse. The Supreme Court in the Heller case issued the finding that the Second Amendment referred to an individual right separate and above any militia requirement.
    As for Great Britain and their stringent gun bans, not only has gun crime increased since the ban, but according to UN crime statistics their violent crime rate is now five times that of “gun crazy” America. Incidence of rape in GB is twice that here and three times more likely in Australia. Everywhere strict gun control has been imposed the public becomes less safe.

  2. The Preamble to The Bill of Rights
    Excerpt as follows:
    “Congress of the United States
    begun and held at the City of New-York, on
    Wednesday the fourth of March, one thousand seven hundred and eighty nine.
    THE Conventions of a number of the States, having at the time of their adopting the Constitution, expressed a desire, in order to prevent misconstruction or abuse of its powers, that further declaratory and restrictive clauses should be added: And as extending the ground of public confidence in the Government, will best ensure the beneficent ends of its institution.

    Amendment II “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.”

    source: archives.gov/exhibits/charters/bill_of_rights_transcript.

  3. The list of 10 Bill of Rights, is more correctly named The 10 Bill of Prohibitions of the Federal Government. The list enumerates a series of pre-existing Rights of the people, which the Federal Government is PROHIBITED from infringing upon.

    The Rights are pre-existing of the List/Bill. They existed prior to the creation of the Constitution and later the Bill of “Rights”. Repealing any of the Rights referred to in the list, does NOT remove the Rights, but may allow usurpation of those Rights by an out of control government.

  4. Oh, my. The militia refers to the non-select or in today’s language as the un-organized militia as described in Title 10 USC CH 13 Sec 311 (b)(2) .

    Well regulated simply meant well trained. You can check that out.

    Here is some help from the founders:

    “No free man shall ever be debarred the use of arms. 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, 1 Thomas Jefferson Papers, 334

    “The best we can hope for concerning the people at large is that they be properly armed.” — Alexander Hamilton, The Federalist Papers at 184-188

    Who are the militia? Are they not ourselves? Is it feared, then, that we shall turn our arms each man against his own bosom. Congress have no power to disarm the militia. Their swords, and every other terrible implement of the soldier, are the birthright of an American…[T]he unlimited power of the sword is not in the hands of either the federal or state governments, but, where I trust in God it will ever remain, in the hands of the people. “
             —Tenche Coxe, The Pennsylvania Gazette, Feb. 20, 1788.

    SamAdams1776 III
    Molon Labe
    Si Vis Pacem Parabellum

  5. Its not enough to compare GUN homicides between countriez. One also has to compare the OVERALL homicide rate. There is an infamous study that came out of Harvard a few years ago that compared the homicide and suicide rated commited by any means through out the world. The studys synopsis was that although there are more GUN deaths in the US because of the availability of firearms the overall homicide rate is not above average. For instamnce Japan has .ore suicides per 100, 000 but guns are not used becaused there not available in Japan.
    Its also important to rember firearms are used 5 times more often defensivley than than offensivley…

  6. Interesting Larry.
    Since you seem to insist on the collective right of the 2nd Amendment, then the same must be held true for the 1st Amendment, right?
    You are also incorrect in saying “The Amendment makes the linkage absolutely clear: the “bearing” of arms is for the purpose of provisioning a “well regulated Militia.”

    The words “A well regulated Militia” constitutes a present participle, rather than a clause. It is used as an adjective, modifying ‘militia,’ which is followed by the main clause of the sentence; subject ‘the right’, verb ‘shall’
    The sentence does not restrict the right to keep and bear arms, nor does it state or imply possession of the right elsewhere or by others than the people; it simply makes a positive statement with respect to the rights of we the people.
    The right to keep and bear arms is not said by the amendment to depend on the existence of a militia. No condition is stated or implied as to the relation of the right to keep and bear arms and to the necessity of a well-regulated militia as a requisite to the security of a free state. The right to keep and bear arms is deemed unconditional by the entire sentence.

    Then there is this; “Modern automatic rifles discharge six bullets a second from large clips dispensing lethal ammunition.”
    First off, it is called a magazine. Second, the firearms that I believe you are railing against is a “semi-automatic” rifle, which is not capable of automatic or select fire. For each squeeze of the trigger a round is fired, rinse and repeat, vs. a full auto in which the weapon will continue to fire at the squeeze of a trigger until either; A) the trigger is released or B) the ammunition is spent.

    Full automatic firearms are highly regulated and the process to obtain these weapons is a costly and lengthy process. See the following link; http://www.atf.gov/firearms/faq/national-firearms-act-firearms.html#legally-acquire-nfa

    Emotions are running high, and basing laws on raw emotions is not the correct or logical process to take.

  7. Larry:

    You are totally, completely, absolutely WRONG.

    The late Roy Copperud was a professor of journalism at USC, and an acknowledged expert on English grammar and usage. He was interviewed specifically on this subject by J. Neil Schulman, and asked to submit his professional analysis of the Second Amendment. He was also was asked if he would be willing to stand by his professional opinion, and if necessary, testify to same in a court of law.

    The following is the complete interview with background:


    I suggest you read it before writing nonsense like this again.

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