What Is This ‘Well Regulated Militia’ Business, Anyway?

The Question:

The Second Amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America, 1789: “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.”

We talk about the “right of the people” to “bear arms” all the time. But we don’t often talk about the “well regulated militia” part that precedes it. So, what is it about? Is this militia still relevant to us today? Can we just ignore it? If unnecessary, does the lack of a need for the militia make the whole Second Amendment null and void?


Our founders had just fought a war with one of the greatest powers in the world. In the mid 1780s, British forces were considered the best of the best. But our founders hadn’t joined a war with a “foreign power.” They had fought a war with their own government in order to separate from it and start anew. This was because we Americans felt England had violated our very rights as Englishmen.

As our Declaration of Independence notes:

“Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.”

As far as we were concerned, our English governors had begun a systematic attempt to change our rules for “light and transient causes.” That same British government was also using the force of arms to compel us to observe her wicked rule.

The founders also were experts on history and in their deliberations let history be their guide. By their reading of history governments used the force of arms held by their standing armies to oppress the people far more often than they ever did for benevolent ends.

To prevent that penchant for tyranny the founders came up with a novel idea. Instead of having a large, standing army, they’d rely on an armed populace organized in para-military organizations generally under the auspices of the state governments and not the federal. That way, the federal government can’t usurp undue power as the states and the people themselves would be able to stop such a thing.

But, the Second Amendment was also written to prevent the states from turning tyrannical. After all, the amendment centers its attention on both “the militia” and “the people” not the state or government. The rights are conferred on the individual militia members (not the state) and the people (again, not the state).

So, who is the “militia”? None other than we, the people.

That was later codified under the Militia Act of 1792 which holds in part that the militia is made up of “each and every free able-bodied white male citizen of the respective States” who “shall severally and respectively be enrolled in the militia.” Naturally once the Thirteenth Amendment made African Americans free and equal citizens, the “white” part was made invalid.

What the Left Says:

When the left tries to address the clause at all–and they don’t often bother with it–they find the whole idea of a militia to be a useless artifact.

The left scoffs at the idea that our current standing army might be turned against us. The militia is now unnecessary and that, they say, makes the whole Second Amendment null and void. As a writer on Alternet says, “the entire legitimate rationale for the 2nd Amendment has been obliterated.”

So, the left claims that a well regulated militia is no longer necessary for “the security of a free state.”

Another argument the left pursues is that the founders just couldn’t understand that technology would advance until we’d have machine guns that can cut down dozens of men in seconds. The founders only had muskets that took “twenty minutes to load.” This technological blindness also makes the Second Amendment null and void.

There is also some focus on the “regulated” part. The left expects that “regulated” is a means to impose regulations (i.e. rules, laws) on the militia.

Some want to use the “well regulated” part of the Amendment to serve their gun-banning ways, as well. One argument goes that until there is a properly, “regulated” militia created, then guns can obviously be taken away from people until and if said militia is organized and put into operation. In fact, this argument goes that if there is a militia that isn’t “regulated,” then it is actually a threat to the nation. Once again, they say this is proof that guns must be taken away from Americans.

For decades, the left has argued that if guns are at all guaranteed for Americans it is a “collective right” not an individual right. They maintain that the “well regulated militia” clause pertains to a group of men, not the individuals. Without the “well regulated militia” the individual citizen has no use for the firearm under the Second Amendment. The first precedes the latter and without the first the latter is null.

Lastly, many on the left just dismiss the whole argument. The Constitution isn’t a fixed thing, after all. It is a “living document.” The Constitution is “a work in progress” and we can change it any time we want. So, why bother getting into the tall weeds on this? It’s outdated, we don’t have to be held to it, let’s just eliminate it. We should abandon that old White men’s document and make our own rules whenever we want to.

What the Right Says:

The right doesn’t often discuss the militia aspect of the Amendment, either, to be sure. But a proper refutation of the left’s points above is generally made when they do.

The right notes that the idea that we can just accept our military as forever harmless to we, the people, is absurd. Ben Shapiro made the argument perfectly on CNN saying, “They may not turn on me. They may not turn on my children. But the fact is this, history is replete with democracies going tyrannical. It has happened. It happened in France in the 19th century. It happened in Spain in the last century. It happened in Germany. It happened in Italy. It happened in Japan.”

The left says that the founders weren’t smart enough to understand technology would change and science would create better and more lethal ways to kill. This is, of course, nonsense. Our founders were men of science and even in their day scientific discoveries were mounting. This line of reasoning holding that the founders were not smart enough to know technology would advance is a red herring, not an argument.

But let’s think of this a second way. The Second Amendment affirms a right that exists for the people. If we are to say, however, that changing technology materially alters the meaning of the right, then we are necessarily saying that advances in technology supersedes our rights! This would be a dangerous contention.

The left says the “regulated” part pertains to laws and, therefore, we can nearly regulate guns out of existence using this power. This, of course, obviates usage of the English language of the period.

The Federalist Papers (Number 29, Alexander Hamilton) gives us our clue as to what “well regulated meant.”

“The project of disciplining all the militia of the United States is as futile as it would be injurious if it were capable of being carried into execution. A tolerable expertness in military movements is a business that requires time and practice. It is not a day, nor a week nor even a month, that will suffice for the attainment of it. To oblige the great body of the yeomanry and of the other classes of the citizens to be under arms for the purpose of going through military exercises and evolutions, as often as might be necessary to acquire the degree of perfection which would entitle them to the character of a well regulated militia, would be a real grievance to the people and a serious public inconvenience and loss.”

So, “well regulated” really meant “properly functioning.” It didn’t have anything to do with setting rules and laws for the militia. They also commonly imagine that doing the “regulation” should be done on a federal level where the founders expected the militias to be organized at the state level and not under federal control.

As to the individual vs collective right claim, libertarians and conservatives both say that the Constitution obviously confers the right to own a gun on the individual. Lately, the U.S. Supreme Court has agreed with this individual right.

Lastly, we all know that those of the right of center generally assume the Constitution to be the law of the land, a fixed document that only has to be read, not constantly “interpreted” in new and unusual ways.

The Future:

The recent decisions by the U.S. Supreme Court (Heller and McDonald) have thrown a bone in the left’s argument that the Second Amendment is only a “collective right.” From these two momentous decisions, courts are revisiting strict gun laws across the country. This will continue and many more cases will likely head toward the SCOTUS for debate. We will also see states and federal laws written to push the envelope.


Several things need to be pointed out. Firstly the founders did not want to exclude any standing, national army. After all, the army is taken care of elsewhere in the Constitution. The militia was supposed to exist concurrently with the standing army but operate separately.

Secondly, the founders expected that the right to self-protection was an inalienable right given to us by God. After all, without the power to protect ourselves and our property–and the sanctity of personal property is key, here–we were not free men. Those that must look to others for protection of life, liberty, and property are beholden to someone else and, therefore, not free men.

In this light, Thomas Jefferson was adamant in his drafts of the Virginia Constitution of 1776: “No freeman shall ever be debarred the use of arms.”

You see, the founders based a lot of their ideas of the law on the ideas of an English lawyer named William Blackstone whose works were widely reprinted in the colonies.

Here is what Blackstone said about being armed in his Commentaries on the Laws of England, Vol. 2, 1765: “…since it is impossible to say, to what wanton lengths of rapine or cruelty outrages of this sort might be carried, unless it were permitted a man immediately to oppose one violence with another. Self-defence therefore, as it is justly called the primary law of nature, so it is not, neither can it be in fact, taken away by the law of society…”

I mention this to explain why the founders did not include in the Constitution any language that specifically notes the individual’s rights. It was taken as granted and therefore unnecessary to reiterate in a document they were trying to make as concise as possible.

So, in modern terms, you cannot take away from a man the right to self-defense on either the micro or macro level. This hardbound natural right codified by Blackstone led Supreme Court Justice Joseph story to put it in clearer terms where it concerns the purpose of the militia: “The right of the citizens to keep and bear arms,” Story wrote, “has justly been considered, as the palladium of the liberties of a republic; since it offers a strong moral check against the usurpation and arbitrary power of rulers; and will generally, even if these are successful in the first instance, enable the people to resist and triumph over them.”

Thirdly, the founders also located power over the military/militias in four places to further prevent its tyrannical use. Congress regulated all branches of the military, but the president was the ultimate commander of that military, yet the states were placed over the militias when not in federal service. Finally, the individual citizens were in control of their firearms never to be disarmed.

As founding father Samuel Adams said during Massachusetts’s convention to Ratify the Constitution: “That the said Constitution shall never be construed to authorize Congress to infringe the just liberty of the press or the rights of conscience; or to prevent the people of the United States who are peaceable citizens from keeping their own arms.”

One last point needs clarification and that is the discussion of muskets vs today’s arsenal.

The word “bear” meant to be able to carry or hold. In some parlance of the time “bear” even meant to be able place in one’s coat. This necessarily restricts the sort of arms we are talking about as it means we are talking about an arm that is operated by one person, not a team of men.

Certainly the founders meant Americans to “bear” military grade arms. One cannot be a member of a para-military group using small caliber plinkers and varmint guns. In their day arms meant military weapons. Muskets, pistols, even swords were “arms.” Cannons, land mines, and ships of war, however, were the “weapons of mass destruction” of the founder’s era. They never expected that the people had any right to those weapons of war. Such weapons of mass destruction are more properly, then and now, called ordnance as opposed to arms. It is also why the Navy is dealt with elsewhere in the Constitution.

This means that when the left taunts you by saying, “what, did the founders think you should have a rocket launcher, a jet fighter plane or a nuclear weapon?,” they are revealing their ignorance, not making a valid argument. The founders meant for the people to have military grade rifles and pistols. They excluded ships of war and cannons so by logical extension modern ordnance would similarly fall outside the rights of the Second Amendment.

So, no, the founders would NOT have thought we had a right to a nuclear weapon.

In conclusion, the Second Amendment clearly gives an individual a right to firearms, those firearms can be military grade, they can and should be expected to be used for both personal protection and to prevent government from become tyrannical by arranging themselves into para-military groups, and the government has no right whatever to take your firearms away from you.

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  • cirby

    “The left scoffs at the idea that our current standing army might be turned against us. ”

    Oddly enough, in most of the gun arguments I get into with lefties, they tend to go for the “if the government comes after you with tanks and planes, what good would your puny rifles and pistols do?”

    Of course, they’re the same people who think large groups of unarmed people can change the world, so…

    • jim_m

      they’re the same people who think large groups of unarmed people can change the world

      Because they know that no matter how repulsive, violent and criminally they behave we won’t kill them for their beliefs.

      “if the government comes after you with tanks and planes, what good would your puny rifles and pistols do?”

      And they say that because they know that if they had the power they would not hesitate even a moment to use that power to murder us for our beliefs..

      • herddog505

        No, no, NO! Lefties don’t commit “murder”; they are too tolerant for that. It would be a (very) late-term abortion of the sort performed by their patron saint, Kermit of the Bloody Scissors.

      • Darknut

        We think that because it’s an undisputable FACT. There was a group of people who had piles of fully automatic weapons in WACO Texas… how’d that turn out?

        MLK and the civil rights movement changed our country… the suffragettes changed our country… real positive change happens without firing a shot. So yes, we DO think that.

        At no time did our founding fathers indicate any intention for “armed citizens” to overthrow or subvert their elected government. They gave us ONE mechanism for overthrowing our government… it’s called voting.

        They DID however explicitly put in the constitution the power and duty of congress to “suppress insurrections.”

        Any time Thomas Jefferson or James Madison talked about the right of citizens to keep and bear arms it was in the context of repelling a foreign invasion. Period. We didn’t have a standing army when the 2nd Amendment was written. Now we do and any able bodied person can sign up if they want to “keep and bear arms” as part of a “well regulated militia.”

        • Guess you missed this:

          …That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.


          • Darknut

            Guess you missed the fact that that’s
            not in the Constitution. QED.

            What IS in the Constitution is the power of congress to specifically “Suppress insurrections.” Why would the founding fathers include that if they were OK with insurrections? Makes no sense.

        • jim_m

          So according to you when the declaration states…

          But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new guards for their future security.

          …That was all just a bunch of bullshit and Jefferson never meant a word of it. You’re an ahistorical moron. The founding fathers never intended that the government they created would be one that would need to be disposed of, but they were not such fools as to think that there was no such risk and that those that followed them should be utterly barred from doing what they had done.

          • Darknut

            He didn’t put it in the Constitution did he? This was a very specific message about cutting off ties with King George, not an invitation for any group of nutbags to overthrow the elected Democratic government he worked so hard to build.

            Why did the founding fathers put a specific duty of congress to “suppress insurrections” if they were OK with insurrections? Was the constitution just bullshit and he didn’t mean a word of it?

            Make a little sense… that’s all I’m saying.

          • jim_m

            Your comment was that they didn’t believe In it. They clearly believed that it was justifiable. Of course the Constitution doesn’t provide or armed insurrection. You’re a moron.

    • Brucehenry

      Large groups of unarmed people drove the British out of India. Large groups of unarmed people ended apartheid in the American South. Large groups of unarmed people had a great deal to do with ending the Vietnam War.

      So yeah, sometimes large groups of unarmed people CAN change the world.

      • cirby

        Actually, the British leaving India was not the completely nonviolent movement that many modern leftists believe. There were many violent factions on the local side, and the British chose to negotiate with Gandhi as a “reasonable” figurehead.

        There there’s this quote: “Among the many misdeeds of British rule in India, history will look upon the Act depriving a whole nation of arms as the blackest.” – Gandhi

        The Civil Rights Movement in the South (and the North – they were just as bad or worse) relied on peaceful resistance, true. But they also relied on strength – and violence by others. Martin Luther King, on more than one occasion, pointed to people like Malcolm X and said “deal with me or deal with them.” King was also known for having a small arsenal of guns in his house.

        The Vietnam War wasn’t ended by nonviolence. It was ended by a lot of people who protested – and not always nonviolently. Many protests were nonviolent, but many were just plain riots. The biggest drive for many of those wasn’t a position against violence itself – they just didn’t want to be drafted.

        Does the name Bill Ayers ring a bell? There’s your “peaceful” protest. Peaceful movements don’t set off bombs and kill people.

        • Brucehenry

          Yes you are mostly correct on all three counts. A nonviolent movement such as Gandhi’s or King’s serves to “shame” the powerful into doing the right thing — but it also relies on the fact that it is an alternative, and the authorities KNOW it’s an alternative, to a more violent option.

          I should have said large groups of people HELPED drive out the British and end American apartheid. I did qualify my assertion about Vietnam for exactly the reason you articulate.

          EDITED TO ADD: So maybe large groups of unarmed people can’t change the world all by themselves, but they can help.

          • cirby

            Large groups of kittens and puppy dogs could help, too, but the way to bet is with the guys holding guns.

            The one thing that will allow a nonviolent movement to succeed is having a group in power who doesn’t want to use violence in the first place – or can’t afford to, like the British at the end of World War Two, who didn’t have the resources (mental or physical) to hold on to India.

            Nonviolent protest movements failed miserably in China and Russia in recent decades.

            The other thing to realize is that, even when a nonviolent movement ends up “winning,” they soon become something else. Either the nonviolent leaders are killed (Gandhi, MLK), or they’re edged off to one side (the 60s protest movements).

          • Brucehenry

            All very good points. I’m not debating the relative ,merits of the various tactics, though. Just pointing out that “large groups of unarmed people” have indeed played a big part in some pretty heavy world-changin’ in the fairly recent past, is all.

          • Rdmurphy42

            Mainly because the people in charge knows they could turn into large groups of violent people, with the key factor in inducing change being ‘large’. its sort of like brandishing your weapon without using it.

        • therza82

          The British left India because of Economic reasons, along with fear of the ever spreading and powerful Soviets. They were in debt to India by $3 billion and had the massive undertaking of rebuilding much of the post WW2 wrecked country. In exchange for independence, India forgave almost the entirity of Britain’s debt.

          Plus, communism was quickly spreading across Eastern Europe and managed to reach as far as Germany. With France even in worse shape from the war, England was all alone on a continent where the Soviet Machine was growing, expanding, and becoming more powerful. They could no longer afford the costs of the occupation of India, in both economic and strategic terms. They needed money to rebuild the Homeland and they no longer had the luxury of diverting such a large amount of their military forces in India, which they could hardly control from waring rival factions in India.

          Plus, FDR greatly disagreed with the occupation of India…The last thing Great Britian needed at the time was strained or complicated relations with the U.S.

          But, go ahead, keep thinking Ghandi was running around with dual-wielding machine guns to fight Great Britian.

      • puhiawa

        The Vietnam war was ended by a full successful invasion by the North and the imprisonment and death of 2 million people. Not by a march.

  • If you can afford it, store it securely, and use it responsibly (as the US and the USSR did in the Cold War) then I’ve got no problems with you owning a nuclear weapon.

    If you explode it, and you survive the usage thereof, I fully support slow flensing and frequent applications of fine salt – with appropriate medical support to make sure you live a long and painful time.

    • herddog505

      To me, this is the proper attitude to take to ANY right:

      “You, John Q. Public, as a citizen of the United States of America, have the right to do anything that you want SO LONG as you don’t harm somebody else. If you do, then may God have mercy upon you, because the rest of us won’t.”

      The attitude of too many people (left and right) is that we can AND SHOULD exercize prior restraint: “Oh, we won’t allow you to do this or that because you MIGHT hurt yourself or others.”

      By this logic, we oughtn’t be allowed to own kitchen knives, cars, matches, pressure cookers, or any other thing with which we MIGHT, if we go mad, hurt somebody.

      It’s not a question of being a nation of free men vs. a nation of slaves; it’s a question of being a nation of free men vs. being a nation of imbecile children.

      • “By this logic, we oughtn’t be allowed to own kitchen knives, cars,
        matches, pressure cookers, or any other thing with which we MIGHT, if we go mad, hurt somebody.”

        There’s already a push in the UK to ban kitchen knives.


        William-Sonoma pulled pressure cookers temporarily – but they’re back. Oh, the horrors! What about the children?!11!

        Pretty soon we’re going to get to a point where everything not mandatory (read, allowed by the government) is prohibited.

  • Pretty much the same thing as:

    We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

  • Hawk_TX

    The word “bear” meant to carry or convey, it did not exclusively mean to be able to hold. You can confirm this definition by consulting any dictionary. Here are some definitions showing the continuity of the definition over time.

    Here is a definition from an 1768 dictionary: ” To convey or carry”.

    Here is a definition from an 1828 dictionary: To carry; to convey; to support and remove from place to place; as, “they bear him upon the shoulder;”, “the eagle beareth them on her wings.”

    Or you could consult the Merriam-Webster website which defines to “bear arms” as 1: to carry or possess arms 2: to serve as a soldier.

    These definitions make it clear that to bear does not exclusively mean to carry or hold, whether in a coat or not. You make the claim that the founders never expected people to have a right to weapons such as cannons or ships of war, But neither were banned from private hands then.

    Ordinance are a class of arms as was shown in my previous comment here.

    If you have any research to contradict these points now would be the time to back up your assertions.

    Edit: added word exclusively to first sentence for clarification.

    • warnertoddhuston

      Um, just because cannons weren’t “banned” doesn’t really mean anything. Cannons were not really something the average person could afford. Just as today, tanks aren’t completely outlawed, yet few people can afford one. There isn’t much reason to ban them. As to your definition, that is also a rather meaningless distinction. To “carry” IS to hold.

      • herddog505

        I think Hawk_TX has a point: making the assumption that people WOULDN’T own something because it is too expensive is not the same as forbidding them to own it.

        When I was a boy, my father moonlighted as the mechanic for a fellow who owned a World War II-era fighter plane. Obviously, this is a very expensive thing to own. But should the owner have been forbidden to own this because it was (potentially, if he’d decided to spend a bit more money on 20mm cannon, ammunition, rockets and bombs) a deadly weapon?

      • Hawk_TX

        You said “They never expected that the people had any right to those weapons of war.” But the founders never attempted to deny citizens there use. The constitution specifically gives congress the power to “grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal”, they obviously expected citizens to be able to exercise this authority. In fact the use of privateers or private warships was common then. These ships were equipped with all the weapons appropriate for naval combat. Here is a list of over 2200 Revolutionary era privateers. In a nation with less than four million residents these clearly were not rare.


        The founders not only expected citizens to own such weapons they relied on it.

        As to the definition of the word “bear” you conveniently ignored the parts about “To convey” or “possess arms”. Any weapon from a rifle to a battleship can be conveyed or possessed. Including this part of the definition destroys any distinction you have tried to make.

        • jim_m

          Sorry, but your original comment comes across as saying that people have the right to transport guns but not to possess them. It sounds like you are arguing that the people can transport guns around the country but cannot keep them in their homes.

          • Hawk_TX

            I see what you mean. I should of included the word exclusively to make it clear that I did not mean to exclude holding arms. However, I did say both possess and carry which is the same thing as hold. I was trying to say that whether you could hold an arm was not the standard as Warner seems to think. Thank you for the catch. I have corrected it now.

        • warnertoddhuston

          I just find your word definition as a meaningless distinction. But, as to your claim that the founders wanted everyone to have a cannon or a ship of war, the fact that they felt they had to issue a letter of Marque proves you wrong. If the right to have a ship of war was already covered under 2A no more legal efforts would be needed. Also, in context to all historical discussions in Congress as well as the states, the terminology was applied to military long arms. Never cannons and ships of war. The fact that they didn’t specifically outlaw owning cannons and ships of war is not proof of much. As they say, absence of evidence (or a mention in this case) is not in itself evidence. After all, there are a LOT of things the founders didn’t say directly in the Constitution and even they fought over it in the years after its adoption.

          • Letter’s of Marque and Reprisal were required to keep privateers who had the misfortune of being captured by the enemy from being hanged as pirates.

          • herddog505


          • Hawk_TX

            It’s not my word definition it is the dictionary’s. As a writer you should familiarize yourself with it. I merely demonstrated that to “bear” did not and does not mean what you wrote.

            A letter of Marque only authorized private parties or privateers to attack enemy vessels. Without the documentation, these same activities were considered acts of piracy and subject to prosecution.

            The fact that they didn’t specifically outlaw owning cannons is proof that they disagreed with your claim that “they never expected that the people had any right to those weapons of war.” There are a lot of things the founders didn’t say in the constitution, but they did say this ” 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”. Meaning that the federal government lacks the enumerated power to ban cannons, ships of war, or any arms. Or as Tench Coxe a delegate to the Continental Congress said ” Congress have no power to disarm the militia. Their swords, and every other terrible implement of the soldier, are the birth-right 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. “

          • Hawk_TX

            The term bear referred to arms in the Constitution. The term arms encompasses all weapons both offensive and defensive. That includes long arms, cannons (ordnance), and ships of war. I will show that in the context of the historical discussion “arms” included ordnance by again using a 1768 English dictionary.

            Ordnance: cannon; great guns.
            Cannon: A gun larger than can be managed by hand.
            Gun: The general name for fire-arms; the instrument from which shot is discharged by fire.
            Firearms: Arms which owe there efficacy to fire; guns.

            Clearly ordnance are a type of arms and are entitled to 2nd amendment protection.

            Again I invite you to back up your assertions as I have done.

            “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

    • Darknut

      Then lets look at some weapons of war that ARE banned. Weapons grade Anthrax or Uranium. Nuclear devices. Fully automatic weapons. Do you think the right to bear arms means any nutbag can buy weapons grade Anthrax, a predator drone or a dirty bomb no questions asked at 7-11?

      If not, then we agree that like all rights, there are restrictions that make sense.

      Since we didn’t have a standing army at the time the 2nd Amendment was written, it was clearly there so armed citizens could defend our borders from foreign invasion. In fact all talk of the right to bear arms was in the context of national defense and in the context of a “well regulated militia.” Like it says right there in the amendment itself. Now anyone who wants to and is able can sign up for one of the many well regulated militias we have, and defend our country and bear arms.

      Gun nuts now want to ignore the first half of that amendment, and have convinced themselves that any douchebag who wants to stock up on weapons is a “well regulated militia.” which makes no sense at all. It’s a very selective reading.

      • Hawk_TX

        At the time the Constitution was written the term regulated had a very different meaning than it does now. As explained by Brian T. Halonen “The phrase “well-regulated” was in common use long before 1789, and remained so for a century thereafter. It referred to the property of something being in proper working order. Something that was well-regulated was calibrated correctly, functioning as expected. Establishing government oversight of the people’s arms was not only not the intent in using the phrase in the 2nd amendment, it was precisely to render the government powerless to do so that the founders wrote it.”

        Here are several examples taken from the Oxford English Dictionary that demonstrate its meaning at that time.

        1709: “If a liberal Education has formed in us well-regulated Appetites and worthy Inclinations.”

        1714: “The practice of all well-regulated courts of justice in the world.”

        1812: “The equation of time … is the adjustment of the difference of time as shown by a well-regulated clock and a true sun dial.”

        1848: “A remissness for which I am sure every well-regulated person will blame the Mayor.”

        1862: “It appeared to her well-regulated mind, like a clandestine proceeding.”

        1894: “The newspaper, a never wanting adjunct to every well-regulated American embryo city.”

        And here is what Alexander Hamilton wrote in the Federalist Papers.

        The project of disciplining all the militia of the United States is as futile as it would be injurious if it were capable of being carried into execution. A tolerable expertness in military movements is a business that requires time and practice. It is not a day, nor a week nor even a month, that will suffice for the attainment of it. To oblige the great body of the yeomanry and of the other classes of the citizens to be under arms for the purpose of going through military exercises and evolutions, as often as might be necessary to acquire the degree of perfection which would entitle them to the character of a well regulated militia, would be a real grievance to the people and a serious public inconvenience and loss.
        — The Federalist Papers, No. 29.

        Well regulated simply meant a well disciplined, trained, and functioning militia.This meaning of regulated is still in common use when referring to mechanical function. Some examples of this would be regulating the ignition timing, fuel flow of a engine, or a oxygen regulator used in scuba diving. With this meaning in mind the 2nd amendment would read in modern terms. [A well functioning militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.]

        • Darknut

          You’re right well regulated meant stocked organized etc. Regulated also meant controlled by rules or laws often used like the opposite of “savage.” Much like its used today.
          Whatever it means, we should agree that it means *something. The current gun-nut would have us believe i means “any random duchebag under any circumstances” which renders it meaningless. Jefferson also said it made as much sense to wear your childhood coat, as to follow the same exact rules as your barbarous ancestors. Warning us against the straight jacket the gun lobby has made of the 2nd Amendment.

  • Commander_Chico

    Lefties are fools for opposing gun rights. Sinclair Lewis was right – “When fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying a cross.”

    • cirby

      …except Lewis, as it so often turns out, didn’t say that. He probably would have agreed with the sentiment, though – he was very anti-capitalist and had little patience for evangelicals.

      A better quote comes from Tom Wolfe: “The dark night of fascism is always descending in the United States and yet lands only in Europe.”

      • Commander_Chico

        Yeah, but history is long and as the wheel of time turns, all possibilities can happen.

      • The United States already had it’s flirtation with fascism under the Woodrow Wilson Admininistration.

    • jim_m

      More likely calling himself Chico and claiming to be a patriot.

      • Commander_Chico

        I accept the implicit compliment – – that Chico has the power to impose fascism in the USA.

        El Commandante!!

        • LiberalNightmare

          I dont believe that chico can impose socialism.

          I do believe that when socialism comes, chico will be seen pointing off into the distance shouting “Bush did it tooooooo!”

          • Shouldn’t that be:

            I dont believe that chico can impose socialism.

        • jim_m

          I see you more likely as the type that stands on the shoulders of those who really do impose it and taking credit for their actions but having none of the power or authority.

          Basically, you are a sycophant that deeply desires to attach himself to a fascist authority and bask in the afterglow of their power. More El Creepy than El Commandante.

        • EricSteel

          Just tell me where I can get a Chico shirt.

    • Fascism has already been here, see also Woodrow Wilson.

      • Commander_Chico

        Yeah that’s when they even put the fasces on the Mercury dime and all over federal buildings. Don’t know when they put them in the House of Representatives chamber.

        • We believe that you believe that is a telling and on point argument.

          Ha ha!

          • Commander_Chico

            What’s it like, stewing in your own bile all of the time?

            That’s just a fact. the use of the fasces on a US coin. Must have been put there for a reason.

          • Symbolic decoration? Nah, can’t be that!

          • Commander_Chico

            Yeah, symbol of what?

          • You’re the soi disant cognoscenti, provide your own answers.

          • Commander_Chico

            Again, the singular form is cognoscente.

            At least the fasces are a symbol of Italian heritage going back the to the Etruscans.


            Lots of uses in the USA, whether it’s a symbol of “magisterial power” or “unity through strength,” make up your own mind:


          • “Weinman is believed to have used Elsie Stevens, the wife of lawyer and poet Wallace Stevens, as a model (for the face of the coin.). The coin’s reverse depicts a fasces, symbolizing unity and strength, and an olive branch, signifying peace.”

            You’d prefer jackboots, perhaps?

          • What’s it like waking up stupid and ignorant every morning?

            I’d explain it to you, but spreading pearls of knowledge before swines of willful ignorance is a poor use of my time.

          • Rdmurphy42

            Since it was adopted in 1915, I rather doubt it had anything to do with Benito Mussolini or his fascist party …

        • retired.military

          That was right after Nancy Pelosi was sworn in.

          • Ah, come on, that’d make her about 150. She can’t be a day over 100!

  • herddog505

    Well said!

  • John

    The left would also scoff at the Teach A Teen To Shoot event.

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  • Russ

    Superb writeup! Bravo!
    I have often tried to explain the “regulated” meaning to folks. It usually ends up in a blank stare, and a scoff… As if words actually had different meanings back in the 1700’s.

    When I was in the military, we discussed on occasion the idea of what we would do if we were ordered to fire on/attack/etc. US Citizens on US soil. The result of those discussions was plain and simple. We would not follow that order.
    Granted this discussion was based on things we knew as fact. Leaving out all sorts of “spin doctoring” of information that could carry on and possibly convince a soldier/sailor/marine/airmen that a specific group of citizens is, in effect, an enemy of the state.

    I’m not saying it couldn’t or won’t happen. I’m just thinking at this time it is highly unlikely that the troops would go along with an order of that nature. The free flow of information these days may be too much to be able to convince them that an attack on their own countrymen is the right thing to do.

  • Rico Penguin

    “Certainly the founders meant Americans to “bear” military grade arms.
    One cannot be a member of a para-military group using small caliber
    plinkers and varmint guns. In their day arms meant military weapons.
    Muskets, pistols, even swords were “arms.” Cannons, land mines, and
    ships of war, however, were the “weapons of mass destruction” of the
    founder’s era. They never expected that the people had any right to
    those weapons of war. Such weapons of mass destruction are more
    properly, then and now, called ordnance as opposed to arms. It is also
    why the Navy is dealt with elsewhere in the Constitution.”

    I find it interesting that you mention this and then don’t wonder what their feelings about modern firearms would be. The average pistol today is more powerful than the best weapon of their era. It can fire quickly, be reloaded >extremely>>literally<<< believe they were medicinally good for us and lapped up any evidence that supported it.

    • Colonial Militias did indeed have artillery.

      • Rico Penguin

        But the original post establishes that these are not protected under the implied meaning of the 2nd amendment. So my question would be do folks think that the founding fathers would be so gungho about it if they saw modern firearms.

        The constitution changes. That’s the whole point of amendments, they are meant to be living things that evolve with time.

        I’m certainly not calling for a blanket ban, I don’t think that worked for drugs and it wouldn’t work for guns. But being reasonable about it is more my interest. If we don’t think that all these straw men weapons like miniguns and cannons are covered, do we really think that just about any modern weapon would be seen as a reasonable thing to be manufacturing en masse?

        I probably wouldn’t be so uncomfortable if I wasn’t driving all the time. I’ve seen how folks handle something as dangerous as a car, there is very little respect for the true danger of these kind of tools in the states (and frankly my time abroad didn’t paint a picture for safe driving anywhere). Guns are something that I think people treat very sensitively when they first get them but like cars they become desensitized to the sheer power that lies in those little tools.

        Regulation, education, and respect I suspect are some of the things that the US needs the most right now for guns. The problem is I genuinely can empathize with people who don’t trust the modern government to regulate them properly. It’s not a left or a right issue, there are some endemic problems that need solving.

        BUT presuming you had intelligent people in congress then I would say those three things are the most important. (Big presumption I know)

  • therza82

    I love how you really tried to be serious, objective, and non partisan…. And totally failed at it.

    Its not just the left, it Is s large majority of America that wants reasonable and common sense gun safety laws….I would hardly eqaute that to lighting our constution on fire. Universal and expanded nationwide background checks isn’t an extreme proposal. Thats why the Right had no good reason on why they objected to it, other than “It probably won’t work” and “It is all an Obama trick that will eventually lead to a federal gun registry and then the Guberment taking our guns… With Obama personally coming to every raid and kicking the door down for the SWAT team.

    I mean, why would anyone need an extended clip which contains 60 or even 100 rounds? In hunting, you’re lucky if you even get one shot off. If you’re defending your home or yourself then it only takes one shot to bring a person down or kill them.

    Limiting how many guns you can buy in a month or year? Oh, the humanity!

    By the way, the Guberment doesn’t need a federal registry to know who owns guns or not. They can easily tell by your mail or internet history… The type of invasion of privacy you didn’t care about under Bush but now all of a sudden abhore under Obama.

    The founders were all men of science? I seriously doubt that. Plus, the ones that were scientists were more concerned with more basic matters like lighting our homes. The first repeating rifles didn’t even come around until 1860, well after the death of all our founders, and their children.

    Also….You point to scientific knowledge of our founders to justify current modern guns, yet you also come from the same ideology which denies current day Science for unanimous belief in Global Warming and Evolution.. So, the Scientists of today are idiots, yet the “Founder-Scientists” of the 1770s were the shit? Come on, man…Admit it, you totally pulled that one out of your ass.

    Lastly, do you really think that you and your buds from the gun range would make ANY DIFFERENCE AT ALL if our Government decided to unleash the might of our military on us? We have satellites in friggin Space which can literally see a needle in a haystack. We have undetectable and silent Drones with bunker-busting missiles that would blow that little UHaul trailer you buried under ground into nothing. We have successfully equiped a navy ship with friggin acutal laser beams…not to mention a huge nuclear arsenal that could destroy the entire world over multiple times and special ops teams of the most well trained and badasses in the world. The armed “resistance” of your gun buddies wouldn’t amount to nothing. All of those bullets filled with gunpowder would just lead to a bigger explosion when they send the Drones to take out your “base” AKA, your tool shed.

  • taxpay28

    maybe the founders thought of civic responsibility to defend freedom required citizens to be armed and trained as though they were infantry. They would not have been military per say. (like the minute men of the revolution perhaps?)

  • Libereightme

    “So, “well regulated” really meant “properly functioning.” It didn’t have anything to do with setting rules and laws for the militia.”

    If you don’t set rules and laws, how can anything properly function?

  • Darknut

    The right of the people to keep and bear arms has nothing to do with keeping “tyrannical states” or the federal government “in check.” It has to do with not having a standing army in peace time to keep a “tyrannical standing army” in check.

    “Standing armies are inconsistent with a people’s freedom and subversive of their quiet.” –Thomas Jefferson: Reply to Lord North’s Proposition, 1775. Papers 1:231

    “There shall be no standing army but in time of actual war.” –Thomas Jefferson: Draft Virginia Constitution, 1776. Papers 1:363

    “The Greeks and Romans had no standing armies, yet they defended themselves. … Their system was to make every man a soldier and oblige him to repair to the standard of his country whenever that was reared. This made them invincible; and the same remedy will make us so.” –Thomas Jefferson to Thomas Cooper, 1814. ME 14:184

    The most telling of Jefferson’s quotes about the right to bear arms is this one from 1808 where he clearly defines the role of a militia.

    “For a people who are free and who mean to remain so, a well-organized and armed militia is their best security. It is, therefore, incumbent on us at every meeting [of Congress] to revise the condition of the militia and to ask ourselves if it is prepared to repel a powerful enemy at every point of our territories exposed to invasion…” –Thomas Jefferson: 8th Annual Message, 1808. ME 3:482

    The reason: “To repel foreign invasion” Period. End of list. Not so Bubba and Skeeter can plink Bud Light cans off a fence. Not for hunters, sportsman or collectors. To repel foreign invaders while being in a well organized militia. That’s it. Not saying they had anything against target practice or hunting –but there’s no evidence they considered those things a fundamental right for everyone who feels like it on a whim with no restrictions or regulations.

    The idea that the founders intended for us to “vote with bullets” and overthrow our elected government is a sick and ridiculous fantasy –it’s nowhere in the writings of the founders (often the Declaration is twisted to this end –but they were talking about an unelected king not the elected representatives of their own democracy).

    What they DID write explicitly however is the power of congress to “suppress insurrections.” It’s one of their enumerated powers and solemn duties laid down by the founders to squash any attempt to subvert the federal government by force. Why would they include this as an explicit duty, then hint somewhere else the opposite? It’s not about left or right, it’s about making some Goddamn sense.

    The good news is they gave us a way to overthrow our government should it become “tyrannical.” –which by the way it’s been called by one politcal party or other since it’s beginning.

    It’s called an “election.” No guns required.

  • Darknut

    And I don’t see any examples of “The left” “scoffing at our own army being turned against us…”

    “The Left” didn’t write, pass, and sign the Patriot Act or create the NSA or give us the War on Drugs. That’s all Pubs. Thanks pubs.

    • The history of the Debates at the Constitutional Convention and during ratification does not agree with your summary.

  • Kernighan

    This is a good discussion. I’d also point out that the 10 “Bill of Rights” amendments all act as a constraint upon excesses of the government. The various parties agreeing upon, and contemplating ratification of, the nascent Constitution insisted upon limited government, and they saw these as good CONSTRAINTS, not as enumerated powers. Those who focus upon the concept of whether this bit of text requires or limits the firearm handling only to a situation of organized para-military action, or only when the militia is “called up”, are missing the point. The 2nd is an obvious control, whereby any citizen desiring a “common” weapon (not a nuke, or a tank, I agree with modern progressives on THAT), cannot be denied one. “The People” are also mentioned prominently, and since the government is “by the people” etc. we should know that this is really all citizens, in the very wide sense common to American ways. There is so much written material available, much relating directly to this matter, and certainly pertinent to what the folk of 1790 thought, that it’s inexcusable to have read none.

  • Alton O’Briant

    We should use the power of our miitia to force change. Our constitution is completely under attack from the Patriot act, the Revolving door of Washington and corporations like Monsanto. We should stand up and say we are not going to take this anymore and force change or die trying. I’m not saying we should march armed to Washington yet, but we should first march in serious force of millions to the capitol and demand reform. If that doesnt work after repeated efforts we should bring our guns.