Pell Center

The Pell Center for International Relations and Public Policy at Salve Regina is a multidisciplinary research center focused at the intersection of politics, policies and ideas.

A Well-Regulated Militia

When I worked on the Hill, I was initially amused when Senators would submit a statement to the record about a bill that would pass overwhelmingly.  “Why were they spiking the ball?” I wondered to myself.  I eventually asked a more seasoned colleague who explained it wasn’t about vanity, rather it was about documenting legislative intent.  If there was ever a court challenge or controversy about the bill, the legislative intent could be understood by the statements members made at the time of passage.

I’ve been thinking about that in the context of the second amendment—the right to bear arms—so I went back to read the intent of the founders.  I found the answer in Federalist #29 in which Alexander Hamilton explained the meaning of the phrase “a well-regulated militia.” To understand, however, it helps to put yourself in the context of 1789 America.

The War of Independence was still a fresh memory—closer in time to 1776 than we are today to 9/11.  The memory of that experience included a well-developed suspicion of standing armies as a tool of tyranny.  Just look at the Declaration of Independence.  Its 27 grievances against King George III included protests over:

  • stationing a standing army among the population in times of peace;
  • rendering military authority superior to civilian authority;
  • seizing private property to house troops;
  • protecting soldiers accused of crimes from trial; and
  • the crown’s prosecution of war, encouragement of insurrection against local authorities, and support for native nations’ attacks on the colonies. 

There are at least a half-dozen specific examples in our Declaration that warned about the threat to liberty of a standing army.

So the founders, suspicious that a standing army could become a tool of some future tyrant, created a system of checks and balances to thwart a federal army ever threatening the liberties of American citizens.  Their solution was a well-regulated militia. 

In 1789, a militia was not a self-appointed force of citizens in camo running around in the woods by themselves.  Militias would be raised by each state government, their loyalty and devotion to the new American republic was assured by the fact that they would be defending their families, their neighbors, and their homes.  Because they might someday have to operate as a combined force, the militias were to be “well-regulated”—meaning trained to standards set by the federal government. 

There is a myth—or misconception—that the right to bear arms was a guarantee of individual gun ownership.  The Supreme Court didn’t adopt that interpretation until a 5-4 opinion in 2008—219 years after the adoption of the Constitution!

Again put yourself in the mind of a founder in 1789.  This was a great experiment in liberal democracy and republican government.  As a “republic,” everything the state did was a public thing—including defense.  Liberal democracies rely on free institutions to protect rights.  So you have to see the potential power of the federal government—including a standing army—as offset by the power of a militia under the authority of the states that made up the union.  It wasn’t that one man with a gun would stop tyranny: it was that the free association of citizens organized in state governments would act as a bulwark against the power of the central government.

In that context, the second amendment wasn’t about an individual’s right to bear arms: it was about preventing the federal government from interfering in the ability of the individual states to establish “well regulated militias” and thereby protect liberty.  Just as the founders created a constitutional system with three co-equal branches of government in opposition and balance with one another, they believed the militia would meet the needs of national defense while also balancing the potential tyrannical power of a standing army.

The American republic was created to be a deliberative republic.  Reason and debate are supposed to prevail over emotion and cynical assertions of power.  Among the industrialized nations of the world, only the United States tolerates mass violence with guns like we’ve seen this week.  Where others have seen spasms of gun violence in recent decades—as in the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, and elsewhere—governments have acted to protect their citizens by restricting access to automatic and semi-automatic weapons.  In the United States, today, we remain paralyzed—not by fear, not by Constitutional parameters, and not by the intent of the founders.  No, we are paralyzed right now by a Senate leadership that simply refuses to even consider legislation to address this crisis.  It is a willful dereliction of duty, and it must end.

25 thoughts on “A Well-Regulated Militia

  • December 4, 2022 at 7:36 pm
    Permalink

    Except, without an individual right to bear arms, what you’re saying is nonsense. The Founders understood that an individual right to bear arms was necessary for a well-regulated State militia. Ownership of arms is from where the arms would come – NOT from the State. Without a right to bear arms, the argument is nonsense.

    “There are instruments so dangerous to the rights of the nation and which place them so totally at the mercy of their governors that those governors, whether legislative or executive, should be restrained from keeping such instruments on foot but in well-defined cases. Such an instrument is a standing army.” (Washington, H.A., ed., The Writings of Thomas Jefferson, volume III, Washington: Taylor & Maury, 1853. 13. Print.)

    The States, in the change from the Articles of Confederation, added the phrase “a well-regulated militia” – to emphasize this point from a State perspective, and to clarify that their militias were not going away.

    Immediately prior to the Constitution, the Articles of Confederation provided that “every state shall always keep up a well regulated and disciplined militia, sufficiently armed and accoutered”

    If it was meant as a state right, the amendment would be something like: “A well-regulated militia being necessary for a free state, Congress shall not infringe the right of the states to arm the militia.”

    Instead, if we consider that its an individual right, we see that view is consistent with the wording of the operative clause, “the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.” The amendment thus ensured that there could be a body of the people armed and available to serve in the militia.

    When Madison introduced the various proposed amendments that would later become the Bill of Rights, he proposed to insert the bulk of them, including what would later become amendments one through five, part of the sixth amendment, and amendments eight and nine, into Article I, Section 9, between Clauses 3 and 4. His speech to Congress can be found here: https://www.usconstitution.net/madisonbor.html

    This is the portion of the Constitution which limits Congressional power over individuals. Clause 3 is the prohibition on Bills of Attainder and ex post facto laws. Clause 4 is the limitation on the imposition of taxes directly on individuals as oppose to excise taxes on economic transactions. This clause has been substantially abrogated by the sixteenth amendment, authorizing the federal government to tax incomes.

    In other words, Madison proposed to put these amendments into that part of the Constitution that protected individual rights of the people from the federal government. This makes no sense unless he intended 2A to represent Individual rights.

  • December 8, 2022 at 11:24 am
    Permalink

    Is there any well-regulated Militia in or around Fort Worth Texas

  • December 14, 2022 at 9:06 pm
    Permalink

    Now that we have a standing army, navy, Air Force, and marine corps, and state militias in the form of the National Guard, the phrases “well-regulated militia being necessary”, etc. has become archaic to the point of nonsense, and thus so has the 2nd amendment as the basis for all gun laws. I think the courts should figure out how to deal with that irrelevance. Originalism requires an admission that parts of the original intent are obsolete. In a sense it is the courts’ job to keep the constitution right, in its original spirit, not to keep it original no matter what.

  • December 24, 2022 at 10:24 pm
    Permalink

    An amendment that was written in the late 1700’s. When firearms expelled on shot at a time. Today a one second shot will shot many single humans dead. Still know laws to govern this equipment.
    In the early 1990’s we found the automobile. Today one auto can kill many dead. The difference is that there are many laws governing its use. Also the ownership has to meet requirements.
    There should be a right to own a firearm. This right needs laws to protect the innocent.
    Hand firearms (pistol) and “hunting rifles” with a maximum capacity of 10 rounds non cartridge type be allowed for unconcealed use. ALL magazine, clip type firearms may be in possession inside a premise only for use in the need of a militia. Testing and practice of these firearms to be commissioned only in a licensed, regulated shooting range.
    Stiff penalties and loss of firearms.
    If you want to own a firearm there you go.

  • December 29, 2022 at 5:06 pm
    Permalink

    The right for individuals to bear arms was enshrined in the constitution as a necessity, because to provide a well trained and “well regulated” militia to defend against a possible tyrannical government, it was “necessary” for individuals to purchase, own and use their own guns (as there was no standing army). This is no longer the case, the US of A now has a well trained standing army and state troopers. Today any militias made up of disorganised, disgruntled, patriotic, gun loving, cos play Rittenhouse toy soldiers are a danger to life and democracy. The reasoning behind the 2nd amendment has been made redundant. Even if this was not the case it was never about an individuals right to own a gun for personal SELF defence anyway, not ever. Individual rights to own a gun were in the service of the state, forming a well ordered well armed militia. So today “the right” to own a gun is no longer necessary and even when it was, it was a right granted to allow individuals to defend their state not for their private use and as an accessory to go shopping in Walmart.

  • January 4, 2023 at 10:25 am
    Permalink

    It’s interesting that the author cites Alexander Hamilton as a representative of what the founders meant. Like today, the founders were far from unified in agreement, and Hamilton’s federalists were quite extreme. Hamilton even died in a duel with the sitting vice president, Aaron Burr (over both political and personal conflict). Also, Hamilton opposed the addition of the bill of rights, so it’s interesting to rely on his take on it.

  • January 13, 2023 at 1:50 pm
    Permalink

    Many people place the Constitution on the same level as the Bible as though God was the inspiration for both. As such, the original meaning or intention must not be violated. But, it is valuable to know what the intent was. As others have pointed out, the well regulated militias were for the defense of each state or collectively for the defense of the whole nation. The government we need to protect ourselves from is the government of a foreign power occupying our nation. Our government was never set up to be our enemy, we have checks and balances for that protection.

    The problems with militias was they tended to go back home when the crisis passed. The crisis passing usually meant it moved to another location. If there were any strengths to a militia it was they would fight for their homes but, it also engendered a weakness, they often were not willing to defend another states’s homes. They had a poor record for fighting against a professional army. In the war of 1812 the Maryland militia was given the job of protecting Washington DC. They fled after the first volley of British fire. They needed professional army training. None the less, the militias were to be organized in the various states as an ancillary force under the command of the national army in times of war. The militias were never meant to fight the national government they were a complement to the national military.

  • January 22, 2023 at 4:12 pm
    Permalink

    So, alot of things here. First, I saw a comment along lines of “at the time of the drafting of the 2nd Amendment firearms were only single shot instruments, thus it was never intended to apply to semiautomatic instruments or any instrument that is capable of firing multiple rounds”. This is actually not accurate, at the time the 2nd Amendment was drafted and enacted there did exist firearms with multishot capability and seeing as how the 2nd amendment did not specifically exclude these existing firearms from the right to keep and bear this argument is invalid.

    Next, “the 2nd Amendment applies to the states right to maintain a militia” well that is nonsense. It is universally understood that Amendments 1,3,4 5,6,7,8,9 and 10 are inarguably applied to individual rights.

    – 1A- INDIVIDUALs right to expression
    – 3A- INDIVIDUALs right to not be forced to quater soldiers in peacetime
    – 4A- INDIVIDUALs right against illegal search and siezure
    5A- INDIVDUALs rights in criminal cases
    6A- INDIVIDUALs right to fair trial
    -7A- INDIVIDUALs rights in civil cases
    -8A- INDIVIDUALs right to not be subject to cruel and unusual punishment
    9A- INDIVIDUALs right to not have other rights construed to deny rights to the INDIVIDUAL
    10A- Rights not expressly granted to the government to be this granted to the States and INDIVIDUAL.

    the argument against Individual right to keep and bear arms is based on an understanding that the 2nd Amendment is the one and only right indentified in the Bill of Rights that is not applied to the INDIVIDUAL

    This understanding of the application of the 2nd Amendment is illogical. The Bill of Rights is clearly intended to outline the rights of the INDIVIDUAL that are to be protected against infingement from the governing entity.

    The Bill of Rights, to include the 2nd Amendment, were drafted and implemented to apply to the Individual Citizen. The “Well Regulated Militia” is comprised of any and all INDIVIDUAL Citizens that are capable of providing defense against ANY entity that would threaten the rights of the Free Citizen and as such is dependent upon those INDIVIDUAL citizens providing their own arms capable of being used for such a task. At the time of the drafting of the 2nd Amendment, there did in fact exist firearms capable of firing multiple successive shots and since the 2nd Amendment did not expressly exclude these existing firearms it is clear the individual right identified is not pursuant to any specific class of capacity of firearm.

  • January 24, 2023 at 7:40 pm
    Permalink

    I’m seeing lots of thoughts that I express the constitution is obsolete. A lot of attacks on the 2nd amendment specifically with arguments like ‘back in the day they could only shoot once.’ Should we take the same logic to the 1st amendment? Or the other amendments for that matter? Why would any of you trust your protections to anyone else other than your very own selves? If this is what you believe then you are merely a subject. You have no rights to speak with authority on the matter of liberty. Subjects are cowards that won’t stand for what is right. They will hide to survive.

  • February 16, 2023 at 12:10 am
    Permalink

    Nunn vs Georgia 1846 was the first ruling regarding the second amendment post its ratification in 1791….DC v Heller 2008, McDonald v Chicago 2010, Caetano v Mass 2016, NYSRPA v Bruen 2022 ALL consistent with the TEXT, HISTORY and TRADITION of the second amendment.

    The Second Amendment in the Bill of Rights within The United States Constitution reads:

    “A well regulated Militia, being neccesary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

    The 2nd Amendment in The Bill of Rights to our US Constitution, GUARANTEES every person has a RIGHT TO KEEP (have) AND BEAR (carry) ARMS.

    Other wording in 2A “Militia” any able bodied male, service in a Militia is NOT a requirement, it is an Individual right (not collective), “Regulated” means equipped, in proper working order NOT gov rules “Shall not be infringed” means what it says.

    14th Amendment guarantees equality!

    The right to keep and bear arms was not given to us by the government, rather it is a pre-existing right of “the people” affirmed in The Bill of Rights.

    See Heller v DC, McDonald v Chicago, Caetano v Mass, NYSRPA v Bruen

  • March 17, 2023 at 7:27 pm
    Permalink

    I’m very befuddled by many of these arguments against the 2nd amendment being a individual right. Every single amendment that mentions “the people” means exactly that and wouldn’t be argued on. So these arguments against the 2nd amendment these people are saying it’s the only amendment that says the people but doesnt apply to them. That’s absolutely absurd. Then there are people saying it was meant as service to the government which again is absolutely absurd. Why would they founding fathers give the government control of the very thing the were fighting against. Please go back and read tbe writings of Hamilton and many others who have written very clearly that the 2nd amendment was a individual right to self defense. Stop trying to turn this into want you want it to be over what the actual meaning is. Just because you dont like the 2nd amendment doesn’t mean you can deny it. It basically comes down to your own fears of firearms because of a lack of knowledge and understanding and the fact you don’t trust anyone other then yourself to possess firearms. The person who said there are no laws governing firearms like there is in the automobile industry. That’s probably the worst argument ever. Driving is not a right and the 2nd amendment has more then 20,000 laws on the federal and state making it by far the most legislated industry by far.

  • March 29, 2023 at 1:28 am
    Permalink

    Ppl defending this amendment saying like they would defend their homes with an ar 15 against a drone dropping package in their heads that would make their house seem like it was never there to begin with is funny to me. This was written in 1700’s, the militias were ineffective back then, imagine now. This ammendment does give ppl the right to bear arms, and if you follow what Hamilton said, you have to congregate for training once or twice a year to train, which let’s be honest, it’s simply not a thing.

    I think the constitution would be really different if Hamilton saw an F-16 firepower and how powerless he would be to defend himself together with a “well organized militia” that could simply be turned to red dust in the blink of an eye.

    There’s no point in civilians carrying weapons, there hasn’t been a point for a while now actually.

  • April 4, 2023 at 6:30 pm
    Permalink

    @John Murphy

    “If it was meant as a state right, the amendment would be something like: “A well-regulated militia being necessary for a free state, Congress shall not infringe the right of the states to arm the militia.””

    That is how the amendment reads. That’s what they wrote. “The people” = “the state.” If it was meant as an individual right, they would have written “a person” or “persons,” as they explicitly do in any other reference to individuals.

    “A person(s)” = An individual or individuals
    “The people” = The state

  • April 10, 2023 at 11:50 am
    Permalink

    @Taylor

    In your interpretation then the 1st and 4th Amendments would only apply to ‘the state’ as they also say people. Are you saying only ‘the state’ has the right to free speech, press, or to assemble?

    That only ‘the state’ has the right be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures?

    If ‘the people’ = ‘the state’ in the 2nd then it has to in the 1st and 4th.

  • May 5, 2023 at 7:45 pm
    Permalink

    **“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.”

    The many interpretations and contradictions of 2a that can be seen on this site clearly show that it is clearly outdated and needs to be clarified for the 21st century. Many of the underlying assumptions and reasons for 2a are gone or unrecognizable. Maybe it was absolutely clear with no room for interpretation and made sense in the 18th century. I don’t know. But this is not the case now. To wit:

    The contemporary, so called “unorganized” civilian militia is unlisted, unorganized, never meets, never trains, and has no leaders, It does not meet the requirements of “well regulated” nor can it guarantee the “security of a free State.” It is a relic. It is a fantasy. So is it reasonable to pretend that is why we need the people to have the right to keep and bear Arms? I say no. Others, disagree vehemently.

    People. Well people means everybody. Criminals, children, crazies, murderers, incompetents. What a silly thing to write, even in the 18th century. You can’t let all people have Arms “without infringement”. You need infringements. And indeed, the US imposes infringements on gun rights, which to me appear completely against the words written in 2a. Looks to me this should clarified and sorted out.

    Arms. The word “Arms” in contemporary parlance includes jet fighters, rockets, RPGs, ICBMs, chemical weapons, nukes….you get my point. Maybe I’m a nit picker but shouldn’t this be spelled out exactly in 2a? Figure it out, and write it down in plain words, that are not open to interpretation. Once.

  • May 10, 2023 at 7:50 am
    Permalink

    The Constitution uses the word “militia” 4x and every single one of those times, it places them under government control (Congress, for example, has the power to call forth, organize, arm, and discipline the militia, states have the power to appoint officers and teach them). There is not one word of militia run by private citizens. This, I believe, presents an insurmountable hurdle for the individual rightist: if the Founding Fathers went to such great lengths to place the militia under government control in the Constitution, why would they abandon it in 2A?

  • May 13, 2023 at 9:14 pm
    Permalink

    For those who do not understand the meaning of “Rights” We need to make it clear once and for all: The 2nd Amendment does not apply to full-auto, belt-fed, semi-auto, nor does it apply to bolt action rifles, pistols, or revolvers. The 2nd Amendment RESTRICTS GOVERNMENT. The technology of the firearm is irrelevant. The restrictions on the government remain the same, regardless of the firearm. The Second Amendment was not written to grant permission for citizens to own and bear firearms. It forbids government interference in the “right” to keep and Bear Arms, Period. The “Right” of the People to Keep and Bear Arms, Shall Not Be ‘Infringed. ” This also applies to the other “Rights”. They are not granted they stipulate “Inherent” “Rights” that the government may not prohibit.” Every time a government official even talks about gun’s, they are in direct “Violation of Oath of Office.

  • July 28, 2023 at 1:24 pm
    Permalink

    Damn, so many grammatical errors. Whoever wrote this can’t be a natural born citizens should not be talking about what they think the second amendment means.

  • August 25, 2023 at 10:42 pm
    Permalink

    Everyone who thinks that the second amendment only applies to those actually acting in a militia-and not to private citizens can never explain where the federal government was PROPERLY given any power to restrict private arms in Article One Section Eight. The Second amendment is not about what the citizens can do but what the government cannot do-and the government can certainly not do what it was never given any power in Article One Section Eight to exercise.

  • August 31, 2023 at 1:23 pm
    Permalink

    It seems most conversations about the 2A are like a test of one’s biases. For the record I am not trying to take anyone’s guns from them, but I am heartbroken at how sloppy our ” well regulated Militia” has become with the prevalence of gun suicide and homicide. People’s right to life, liberty and happiness have been interrupted by the 2A.
    A big problem is that many people are insisting that an able bodied male= militia.
    This is from Article 1 section 8 of the Constitution.
    Clause 15. To provide for calling forth the Militia to execute the Laws of the Union, suppress Insurrections and repel Invasions;

    Congress has the power to call out the militia—organized units of citizen soldiers—to defend the nation from attack or armed rebellion. In modern times, the militia has been replaced by the National Guard.

    Clause 16. 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;
    The Militia is a collection of people NOT an individual. Clause 16 says the government will organize and ARM the militia.
    If the Founder’s were so brilliant why did they leave such a murky half-mooned explanation of the right to bear arms? We will spend the rest of our days having this argument in some form or another. Congress needs to clean up the language much like the Congress could have with respect to abortion rights or restrictions.

  • September 7, 2023 at 4:52 pm
    Permalink

    To an outsider this discussion seems to describe one of those sugar-glazed donuts with a hole in the middle, when the reality is that this is a whole donut stuffed plentifully with jam. (Jelly to you in the USA, I believe). I do not fault your “the second amendment wasn’t about an individual’s right to bear arms” but the trouble is that it wasn’t only about this.
    The Second Amendment was crafted in 1789 and ratified between then and 1791. If you know even the bare outline of the history of this period it is not so hard to understand what these words meant to the drafters in 1789.
    The word Arms is used rather than weapons, because the term weapons already embraced naval cannon, field artillery and Congreve rockets, as well as grenades. So the framers of this amendment were deliberately blocking the unfettered and uninfringed keeping and bearing of any of these heavier and more indiscriminate weapons as a right of the people. The word Arms here also did not refer to the bony protuberances attached to human shoulders but was deliberately chosen to limit the scope of the Amendment to personal arms, the types of weapon that a person could use and drill with individually.
    There are four basic types of personal arm: clubs (many variations), edged weapons (swords, cutlasses), pole weapons (spears, pikes) and projectile weapons (bows, crossbows and firearms). Having imported or captured tens of thousands of muskets during the Revolutionary war and put under arms some 80,000 men, it’s a pretty safe statement that in the context of 1789, the framers’ use of the word arm indicated only a personal firearm, which for most at that time meant a smoothbore musket.
    As every military quartermaster will tell you, just as everyone who has ever undergone organized military training has had drilled into them, there are arms and there is ammunition. Every soldier who might see combat is assigned and is responsible for the care of a personal arm, but the issue of ammunition is made separately and as required, the quantity being determined by the mission and sometimes also availability.
    In short, arms are issued but ammunition is supplied. These are two completely separate acts, usually also well separated in time. Translating this into business terms, the personal weapon is a fixed asset and the ammunition is a consumable.
    The American Revolutionary War had only ended six years before, consequently the framers of this Amendment could hardly have been unaware of such a basic distinction, even though only the fixed asset element receives any mention in this Amendment.
    Should anyone doubt the statement that ammunition is not of itself an arm, here are three contemporary quotations making the distinction and taken from The Founders Early Access web site (where about 120 separate references to ammunition can be found in the period between the start of 1775 and the end of 1789):
    From George Washington to Benjamin Harrison, Sr., 27 March 1781
    “I very early saw the difficulties and dangers to which the southern States would be exposed for want of resources of Cloathing Arms – and Ammunition, and recommended Magazines to be established as ample as their circumstances would admit”
    General Orders, 13 May 1781
    “The party going to Kings ferry will take the necessary tools from West Point the other will receive them at New Windsor or Newburgh.
    The above parties to carry their arms and forty rounds of ammunition.”
    Estimate of Expenses of the National Debt, 2 January 1781
    “5 The Supplies of Cloathing Artillery Arms & ammunition by France & Spain – and the commercial transactions form another capitol article of National Debt which I have not Materials at hand to ascertain. …
    Cloathing, Arms Ammunition and other Supplies – pr estimate, and they are to be procured from France & Spain £353.088 2s.7d. Sterg besides Medicine”
    This 1789 background evidence suggests that an integral part of what was indicated by the framers in the words “A well regulated Militia” was that the issue of ammunition would be controlled and this constraint would play a key role in determining how the individual’s personal firearm was to be used.
    In sum, however many personal firearms might be in the possession of an individual, without ammunition they would in principle only be used constitutionally as either a club (which was usually how you used your 1789 pistols once fired) or a pike (when a bayonet was attached to your musket).
    Crystal clear though is that the Amendment did not not give to the people the right to an unfettered and uninfringed supply of ammunition. It would be logical to conclude that this omission on the part of the framers of this Amendment was conscious and deliberate. They did not want to open the door to chaos, nor did they want their reputations to be in any way associated with any such possibility. This seems like a statement of the super-obvious, but it appears that along the way since, a distinction that was clear and self-evident at the time has somehow become invisible.
    As to the consumables aspect left outside the wording of the Amendment, there is solid contemporary evidence that at least some of the framers of this Amendment did expect individuals to have access to ammunition sufficient for personal self defence. (That circumstance has been documented convincingly by Stephen Falbrook: “The Founding Fathers in general strongly endorsed the right to bear arms for self-defense; they gave written expression to their views through the second amendment and personally exercised the right by owning and possessing arms.”) However, there is absolutely no contemporary historical evidence that the framers were in favour of allowing individuals with firearms sufficient ammunition to enable them to oppress and kill en masse their neighbours (or even total strangers) to whom they now happened to have developed a disliking. In sum, although the Amendment allowed an uninfringed right to personal arms, including firearms, never expressed and never granted was an equivalent uninfringed access to all the ammunition for a firearm or firearms that a body might ever desire.
    With that as a start it is straight forward to construct a precise standard for what was in the minds of the framers of this Amendment regarding both the quantity and the lethality of the ammunition acceptable to them in personal self-defence. For quantity the ‘new constructed’ cartridge box issued to the Continental Army later in the Revolutionary War held 29 cartridges. That was larger than most such containers of the time but was reckoned by even military professionals to provide an adequate supply. As to the expectation of lethality, that was the impact of a contemporary musket or pistol ball fired with a normal charge from a single-shot smoothbore firearm of the time. (Successful self-defence only requires that an attacker be sufficiently incapacitated to be forced to break off the assault, not that the attacker be bodily dismembered by automated fire.) In short, even if they had been minded to imagine the case, there is no evidence to support the idea that the framers of this Amendment would be anything other than utterly appalled by the idea that self-defence might extend to include automatic fire of weapons using large supplies of ammunition with high lethality even at a considerable distance.
    Measuring this 1789 lethality standard for personal self-defence is straight forward. Sufficient original weapons survive, musket and pistol balls are easy to cast and paper cartridges are easy to make, plus we have the contemporary recipes for gunpowder. Since it is also necessary to consider every other type of personal firearm that might ever be developed, the 1789 standard for lethality in self defence also needs to include the chemical, nuclear and full electromagnetic spectrum impacts (light, laser and electrical effects) of any type of ammunition or any type of consumable projected from a personal Arm. Any ammunition or consumable with any impact greater than is contained within the measurements of this definable lethality profile shall by definition be subject to laws set by Congress.
    There is one place this basis of measurement still falls short of the 1789 reality and that is in the reliability of the firing mechanism. Perhaps one in five shots at this time were misfires, hence the need for soldiers to fire from massed lines, but then there are practical limits to the granularity of every reconstruction.
    The Second Amendment can only be read as a direct reflection of the world the framers inhabited, not an open-ended portal to whatever technical monstrosities might be developed in the future. Indeed, if a practicable personal weapon firing nuclear-tipped projectiles was ever to become available, because of the lack of discrimination in its effects, it is utterly inconceivable that its use would be acceptable on any principle whatsoever even for purposes of personal self-defence. (Mr Falbrook has nailed his argument firmly and effectively to what was known to the framers at the time, and has documented excellently and convincingly what the framers of these words had in mind regarding the use of arms for personal defence, but then, it has to be said, has with equal excellence – and most ahistorically – completely ignored what these same framers also knew about the capabilities of contemporary firearms and the methods prevailing for the provision of ammunition for firearms.)
    At base, the Constitution of the USA is a legal basis for people with often very different ideas to find a way of living together relatively peaceably and productively, not a charter document for people to find more ingenious ways to be vile to one another. Or such might be the conclusions of an outsider.
    To quote John Adams:”Every Act of Authority, of one Man over another for which there is not an absolute Necessity, is tyrannical.” That seems a most fitting description of the current situation in the USA where apparently almost anyone with one or more personal arms and all the ammunition they can carry is able to exercise their own little local tyranny over all others not also having a loaded weapon in their hands.

  • December 20, 2023 at 8:53 pm
    Permalink

    the right of the people to keep and bear arms has been regarded an individual right since 1875 US V Cruikshank, followed up in 1886 Presser V Illinois all before Heller V DC in 2008. this article needs to make a correction and state the facts accurately. its been ruled an individual right of the people for 148 years now.

  • January 6, 2024 at 6:54 pm
    Permalink

    I see nobody arguing here for the primary use of state militias. Indian warfare. Not defensive warfare, but aggressive land grabbing offensive warfare. Yes, after the offended Indians were on the rampage, especially after some of their land had been encroached upon, they attacked individuals settlers. Look back at history however shows us that most malicious acted not as defensive organizations against other military powers, but as policing forces, used to maintain control of Indian populations and black populations, capturing escaped slaves and preventing slave revolts.
    What’s up guns and rifles, America would not be such a white place.

  • February 2, 2024 at 2:37 pm
    Permalink

    There are three clauses in the Second Amendment – the first, MAIN clause: ” The right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed, the second supporting clause: ” a well armed and well regulated militia being the best security of a free country:” and the third tertiary clause: ” but no person religiously scrupulous of bearing arms shall be compelled to render military service in person.” THAT is why the right to bear arms means we have the RIGHT to own them.

  • May 14, 2024 at 2:59 pm
    Permalink

    Sounds sound , if you put all trust and faith in leaders in the United States government. But as we / history shows people / leaders are flawed and have ruined counties. So my short is any government or country is to serve and be accountable to its people. Also we the people watch and hold its government to accountability for false or corrupt leadership. My father fought in u.s. army in ww2 France . He was aware of the strengths and weaknesses of government leaders, and how fragile. Government is voted in by the people and works to serve the people only. I never would put full trust in government. It would be only be true responsibility and duty to watch and be aware of governmental behavior and actions. There is already to much covert activity in these governmental seats. So response is the people must stay aware and demand our voted officials be accountable of there truth in serving the people of the United States. So the people have , and still have 2024 the responsibility and right to bear arms.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *