I’ve previously written about the debunking of the “Good Guy with a Gun” idea that ammosexuals are constantly advancing. In this article, I’d like to write about the other idea they lean on for their justification, the violent overthrow of the federal government.
I hear this often accompanying the Facebook memes about gun control. There’s this idea that bubbles around with these folks that if they just have enough people with enough guns they can “take back our government.” My big question to them recently has been who and when. I’ll elaborate on that, but first we need to take a look at the Second Amendment.
There are several versions of the text of the Second Amendment, each with capitalization or punctuation differences. Differences exist between the drafted and ratified copies, the signed copies on display, and various published transcriptions. The importance (or lack thereof) of these differences has been the source of debate over the meaning and interpretation of the amendment, particularly regarding the importance of the prefatory clause.
One version was passed by the Congress, and a slightly different version was ratified. As passed by the Congress and preserved in the National Archives, with the rest of the original hand-written copy of the Bill of Rights prepared by scribe William Lambert, the amendment says:
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.
That’s it. That’s all it says. This is the complete language of the 2nd Amendment. However, it talks about a number of things. First, it talks about a well-regulated militia. Then it talks to the security of a free state, and the right of the people to keep and bear arms.
So, The first thing we need to understand is what the founders meant by “a well-regulated militia.” And there is documentation that clarifies their intent in great detail.
Paragraph four of Article 6 of the Articles of Confederation states that:
“No vessel of war shall be kept up in time of peace by any State, except such number only, as shall be deemed necessary by the United States in Congress assembled, for the defense of such State, or its trade; nor shall any body of forces be kept up by any State in time of peace, except such number only, as in the judgment of the United States in Congress assembled, shall be deemed requisite to garrison the forts necessary for the defense of such State; but every State shall always keep up a well-regulated and disciplined militia, sufficiently armed and accoutered, and shall provide and constantly have ready for use, in public stores, a due number of field pieces and tents, and a proper quantity of arms, ammunition and camp equipage.”
Notice the part about how the State is responsible to have “field pieces” (arms) and ammunition ready for use in public stores.
Now take a look at the language used in the Constitution on militias. First, consider the powers of Congress over the Militia:
“To make Rules for the Government and Regulation of the land and naval Forces;
To provide for calling forth the Militia to execute the Laws of the Union, suppress Insurrections and repel Invasions;
To provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining, the Militia, and for governing such Part of them as may be employed in the Service of the United States, reserving to the States respectively, the Appointment of the Officers, and the Authority of training the Militia according to the discipline prescribed by Congress;”
So, here we see the Constitution giving power to the Congress to regulate the militia and Congress providing for their arming.
Next, consider the powers of the President over the Militia:
“The President shall be Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States, and of the Militia of the several States, when called into the actual Service of the United States;”
Therefore, taking everything in the preceding discussion into consideration, that is the role of militias in the early history of the United States, including both before the Revolutionary War as well as the experiences of George Washington et al with the colonial militia during the War. This also the parallels between the Articles of Confederation and the Constitution regarding the definition, role, and functioning of the militia, I think it safe to say that the following interpretation of the 2nd amendment, which is from an Originalist perspective, stands on fairly firm ground:
The term “well regulated” in the 2nd amendment actually encompasses both meanings of the term “well regulated” (i.e., “well regulated” as one might consider a clock to be, and “well regulated” as one might think of in a legal framework)!
“Well regulated” meant that State militias were to be well-trained (i.e., they were to gather together and practice, drill, etc., on a regular basis) and that training was to be supervised by the States (i.e., the States were to appoint officers who were to oversee that training). (This was the clock-like aspect of “well-regulated.”)
But at the same time, “well-regulated” also referred to the lawful power the Congress (which was comprised, after all, of representatives of the States) was to have over the State militias, that is, Congress was to promulgate and enact a system of rules governing the conduct and/or activity of said militias, as well as the legal authority the President would have over them when acting as Commander-in-Chief. (This was the legal aspect of “well-regulated”.)
In other words, the use of the term “well regulated” in the 2nd amendment wasn’t meant to be an ‘either-or’, ‘black-and-white’ proposition, it was meant to be an all-inclusive term that covered all possible aspects of the situation viz a viz militia.
You see, we have separated the Amendments from the Constitution to which they are attached. I believe the founders were pretty smart people. I think they were intentional in their language in something as important as a Constitutional Amendment. If there intent had been to create an unfettered right for all to have guns, why not use the language which the NRA always likes to quote as though they are quoting the Amendment entirely, “The right of the people to keep and bear arms…..” But the founders used the language about a “Well regulated Militia…” and they knew they had enumerated powers to the Congress and Executive Branch to regulate that militia. This should not be a gray area on this issue.
What is clear, is that the majority of Americans favor reasonable gun control, but gun nuts, ammosexuals, and the NRA claim any attempt at reasonable regulation is the first step to banning all guns. That’s just not true. What people want is:
- Universal Background checks with the gun show and private sales loopholes being closed;
- A ban on high-capacity weapons and their magazines (Anyone who needs a 50 shot magazine is going out for hunting or target practice. The purpose of such a clip is to kill as many as possible as fast as possible. There is no other use);
- To include screenings for mental health (We don’t let people with mental impairments drive cars, and there’s less reason they should have access to guns. This should also include a greater emphasis in this country on proper care and diagnosis for mental illness);
- Suspected terrorists should not be allowed to buy guns (Sorry, I know some gun nuts try to even argue this point, but I think this one goes without saying. If the issue is the inconsistency and unfairness of the n0-fly list, then that needs to be fixed anyway.).
Guns are dangerous. The guns we are talking about are not toys, they’re not hobbies; they are dangerous weapons designed solely to kill people. I’m sick of meme about “people use knives to murder people.” Yes, they do, but never has a single person been able to kill 49 people and injure more than 50 with a knife. Never in history have over 20 school children been killed by a knife wielding mentally unstable person.
No one single regulation will fix every issue with the preponderance of guns, but we start somewhere, and pass the regulations we can, to lessen the carnage. I also here the one about cars killing people, so let’s ban cars. Beyond the obvious crap about banning anything, let’s go with that one.
Because yes, cars are dangerous. That is why everyone who drives one must pass a proficiency test, which gets renewed periodically. They have to carry liability insurance, and they have to register them. In addition, they all have keys…smart locks if you will…so that only the owners can operate them. People who operate them while impaired face fines, imprisonment, and loss of their right to operate them. If you are found to be mentally or physically incapable of safely operating that vehicle, you don’t get a license.
There is a whole federal agency dedicated to improving the safety of them, and it works. There are also extensive motor vehicle regulations in every state governing their ownership and use. You don’t get to drive them just anywhere, for example. Furthermore, not every vehicle is allowed on the road. If it is unsafe or too large, sorry, you don’t take it out. For all those reasons, no one is talking about banning cars, just like no one is talking about banning guns.
I’d also to discuss the fact that reasonable regulations work. Yes, not only did Reagan support the 1994 ban, but he was the president who signed off on extremely tight regulations on fully automatic weapons that make them nearly impossible to get. Reagan’s ban on fully automatic weapons actually proves gun regulations do work: If a psychopathic mass murder had their choice between a fully automatic and a semi-automatic, which do you think they’d pick? Most likely the fully automatic. However, you almost never hear about gun-related homicides involving fully automatic weapons. That’s because the tight restrictions we place upon fully automatic weapons made them nearly impossible to get — proving that gun regulations work.
During the years the assault weapons ban was in effect, gun deaths went down, and then there’s Australia, where they have almost no gun deaths after a mandatory buy-back, but here’s what one gun owner had to say when confronted by these facts (posted as written):
“I dont care about fucking statistics about facts. And like I say I dont care about other nation. IF YOU DONT LIKE THE GUN LAWS LEAVE THE US AND DONT COME BACK. I have the right to express my opinion like you do if you dont like what I say then you dont have to read or comment and before you say im rude again like you did before just know im proud and happy to be rude and a ass hole so I dont give two cents about other fucking countries we live in the USA not bfe so if you dont like the laws then move your happy ass out of this country and dont come back.”
Note, that I have stated this is one particular gun owner, but in a conversation with another “guns-for-everyone” advocate, she keeps bringing up the concept that the purpose for everyone having a gun is to overthrow the government when it over-reaches. I like to point out to them that the concept of a bunch of under-trained over-weight yahoos from Yazoo City taking over the government rings as a bit absurd, given the weaponry available to Military. They actually believe they have a constitutional right to the same weapons, including tanks, artillery, missiles, military aircraft, and yes, even nuclear weapons. Now I don’t know about you, but given the record of “responsible gun owners” who shoot themselves or someone else; I’m not sure I want them cleaning their nuke around the house in my neighborhood.
Furthermore, the disturbing part of this is this concept of armed insurrection, or as some like call it, “the 2nd Amendment Solution.” I keep asking these folks, “who gets to decide when, and who gets to decide who’s in charge, and who gets to decide what the new form of government looks like?” They never have a good answer for that, just something vague like, “when the government goes too far.” However, never an explanation of who’s in charge, and how a new government will be established.
I explain that, as best I can tell, no one has given their militia leaders, nor them, the consent to govern me. I don’t elect them, nor are the appointed by anyone I elected, so how do they decide that what they are planning represents the will of the people. This to me is huge issue that we need to start calling these folks out on, but they truly do have the belief that they are destined to save us all from a tyrannical government.
Let me clear, I think the government over-reaches, and unless we change the influence of money in our politics through the peaceful means bequeathed to us by the founders, I do fear for the Republic, but again, I’m also not keen on leaving the founding of a new government to the class of people I’ve seen from the militia movement.
In the meantime, we get to continue killing each other en masse, or we get to decide to rise up and put an end to it, but that will have to include getting money out of the game of politics, and it will mean having to change how we vote.