Over the course of the past week, there have been many calls to repeal the Second Amendment: it was not really meant for an American militia outside of a standing military; it has outlived its usefulness; it only covers muskets and/or the Founders never could have imagined the firepower that modern weaponry was capable of; no way could Americans armed with AR-15’s fight off the American military. These critiques of the Second Amendment are each flawed in some way, so there will be an article for each critique.
One needs to look no further than the founding of the United States to see that the people were meant to be the militia. The wording of the Second Amendment is as follows: “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.”
What does well regulated mean? Well, people have different thoughts. Some think it means regulation of the military, but consider this: why would the government have to regulate its own military? Strange question, but worth asking if one were to make this argument. If the government were giving itself the right to bear arms, as Steven Crowder so nicely puts it, “we’ve been doing [war] wrong since the beginning of ever.” Well regulated only means that the militia (not under the government’s control) is organized, plain and simple.
Or consider this: the American colonists had just fought a long war against a tyrannical government who tried to confiscate their arms at the outset of the war. Would the founding fathers really set up a government so their citizenry could petition the government and revolt?
What if we had more supporting documents that could be used to understand the context of what the founding fathers meant? Thankfully, there are plenty.
Thomas Jefferson wrote to James Madison (January 30, 1787): “I prefer dangerous freedom over peaceful slavery.”
Jefferson to Madison (December 20, 1787): “What country can preserve its liberties if their rulers are not warned from time to time that their people preserve the spirit of resistance. Let them take arms.”
George Mason (referencing advice from Pennsylvania governor Sir William Keith) The Debates in the Several State Conventions on the Adoption of the Federal Constitution, June 14, 1788 “To disarm the people…[i]s the most effectual way to enslave them.”
William Pitt, in a speech to the House of Commons, November 18, 1783: “Necessity is the plea for every infringement of human freedom. It is the argument of tyrants; it is the creed of slaves.”
Massachusetts Representative Elbridge Gerry, I Annals of Congress 750, August 17, 1789: “”What, Sir, is the use of a militia? It is to prevent the establishment of a standing army, the bane of liberty …. Whenever Governments mean to invade the rights and liberties of the people, they always attempt to destroy the militia, in order to raise an army upon their ruins.”
Alexander Hamilton wrote in Federalist Paper No. 28 “If the representatives of the people betray their constituents, there is then no resource left but in the exertion of that original right of self-defense…”
There is plenty of other correspondence, legislative drafts, and documented speeches in which the founders not only endorsed the Second Amendment, but endorsed rebellion against the government if/when the government becomes tyrannical.
But if none of this states outright that we, the American people, are the militia, then read George Mason’s address to the Virginia Ratifying Convention: “I ask, sir, what is the militia? It is the whole people, except for a few public officials.” The only exception to the Second Amendment, according to George Mason, is the government.
We, like it or not, are the militia. It’s our job to keep the government in check, not only with ballots, but with arms as well.
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