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It being necessary to cut through the blather about the Second Amendment before we lose our rights…

It being necessary to cut through the blather about the Second Amendment before we lose our rights…

The president has just promised to submit gun-control legislation (though not a budget) to Congress in a matter of weeks.  So now is a good time to point out that our national debate over a citizens’ ownership of guns wouldn’t be necessary—nor would the kinds of laws that the Heller and McDonald SCOTUS decisions upended ever have passed—if our Founding Fathers had confined the Second Amendment to only the second of its two clauses: “the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.”


It’s that pesky subordinate clause, “A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state,” that can be blamed for all the problems.  Gun-control nuts contend that only active militia members are entitled to own guns.

Thanks to the First Amendment, one doesn’t have to be a constitutional scholar or even a lawyer (I’m neither) to opine on the plain meaning—and logic—of the Second Amendment.

Let’s begin by noting that the amendment’s second clause can be preceded by any subordinate clause of your imagination without altering its meaning.  To wit: “A high net worth being necessary to date a supermodel…”  “It being necessary to keep your friends close but your enemies closer…”

If that’s not dispositive enough for your friends and family, the logic inherent in the historical context should be.

In 1791, when the amendment was ratified, the United States of America was only a decade from a war fought to “dissolve the political bands” between the colonists and an “absolute Tyranny,” as the Declaration of Independence put it.

That war’s tactics had relied almost entirely on ballistic weapons.  Which means that if the unregulated colonists hadn’t already owned firearms in 1775, they’d have been slaughtered in minutes by George III’s well-regulated army.  In fact, they’d never have assembled in Lexington and Concord and started a revolution.

So apart from the grammatical fact that that pesky clause about militias isn’t conditional, it’s illogical to conclude that the same men who’d founded the United States and were now amending its historic constitution to guard against governmental tyranny would require that “the people” obtain official permission—or join a government-regulated organization—before they could legally bear arms to take up against that very government.

“Excuse me, sir, but can you direct me to the Revolution Office?  Me and my friends wanna get a permit so we can revolt.”


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Obama: I Will Use Every Power of My Office to Push Gun Control

If he is as successful here as he has been with jobs and economics…

we can all rest assured we will maintain the civil right of self defense with effective means.

    Ragspierre in reply to Ragspierre. | December 19, 2012 at 3:57 pm

    “I’m So Proud Of The NRA.” “West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin, who suggested earlier in the week that the time had come for some gun control restrictions, said on Wednesday that he’s ‘not supporting a ban on anything’ and he repeatedly defended and praised the NRA.” He’s been hearing from a lot of constituents.

    Heh! Walk-back…

Far too many people on the left and some on the right don’t seem to understand the bill of rights lists prohibitions on government actions. Those rights aren’t granted TO us by government, they are not dependent on the whims of any administration.

Mr. Engel, you’re close. The first clause is prescriptive as what is necessary to have the tools for a militia as the requirement for the second clause. What you should observe is that the second US Congress passed the Militia Act of 1792. In that act it specifies the sourcing of the militia — “free able-bodied white male citizen” between the ages of 18 and 45 into a local militia company. Militia members were to arm themselves with a musket, bayonet and belt, two spare flints, a cartridge box with 24 bullets, and a knapsack. Men owning rifles were required to provide a powder horn, 1/4 pound of gun powder, 20 rifle balls, a shooting pouch, and a knapsack.”

What is critical to that act is ‘Militia members were to arm themselves with a musket …’. Neither the Congress or the State was to provide said arms. That clearly indicates a clear understanding for the acquisition and possession of arms by the INDIVIDUAL.

Taken in total the militia acts make clear that the first component of the second amendment is identification of purpose, not a restriction on rights.

This article assumes that the left understands logic. This is the 2nd mistake. The 1st being “Never get involved in a land war in Asia.”

I hope O squanders his post-election capital on this.

Remember…this is Pres. Head-fake. He always has at least two positions on any issue.

Phillep Harding | December 19, 2012 at 2:32 pm

Hey, where are your priorities? It’s much more important to make sure the supporters of “The Light Walker”, “Our Lord and Savior” don’t get shot while “redistributing the wealth” than it is to get a budget done.

I’m sorry…
We are not processing any more Militia applications..

The minute Obama announced another blue ribbon panel to study the ‘gun problem’ and that Joe Biden would lead it, I thought immediately of the Simpson-Bowles Commission and how it was used to lend the appearance of doing something while actually continuing to kick the can down the road.

This faux gun kerfuffle puts Obama in the middle, under attack from his left and from the right. I suspect he’s going to let Biden’s panel putter and sputter until the public moves on and Newtown CT is forgotten.

southcentralpa | December 19, 2012 at 2:41 pm

In as much as leftists are interested in actual argument:

1) Can someone with an OED confirm for me that back then “regulated” meant “equipped”?

2) How is it possible that “the people” refers to individuals everywhere else in the Constituion except in the one amendment? Don’t think so …

    Not quite. Note that the term regulated is also used in the commerce clause. Any old english dictionary translates `regulated` == `to make regular`. That is, uniform in transactions as used in terms of commerce.

    In the sense of the founders, they would use the term regulated, that any militia would have a uniform chain of command. Here’s the interesting bit. Even as recent as the Civil War (relatively speaking) it was quite common that an individual would be offered a commission (where da ya think the DoD came up with the term commissioned officer?) by the war dept to form a company for the war effort. Said individual would then post for bills of enlistment. That officer was required to follow the war depts rules and would fall under the command structure of the general staff. But he alone was responsible for his seconds in command and enlistees. And as an individual again permitted, this time, to form and army to bear arms.

    Its only when we get to the national defense acts that created the national guard system that things get fuzzy. And understand, according to the founders, they would not consider the NG the militia.

Devaluing capital and labor through trillion dollar account deficits (without representation) and leaving law-abiding citizens vulnerable to involuntary exploitation by minority interests.

What a guy!

This man should be elected to an office where he can impose his will and ambitions on the rest of us.

I’m all for Congressmen Control Laws.

Like almost every other headline today, the liberal media OWNS the gun rights conversation. They orchestrate it. They spin it. They get their message out. People believe it. It’s as simple as that. My fellow Republicans are a pack of woefully submissive pantywaists, fearful of speaking out. Until they can figure out how to stand up for themselves, for any issue, fiscal cliff or not banning guns and ammo, they are doomed. I’ll bet my last dollar that there will be new gun laws and Obama will go down in history as the savior of the war on crime.

Of course, any smart person will tell you banning guns will do nothing to prevent mass shootings, but hey, you won’t find that message anywhere except the conservative blogosphere. Where are well-spoken advocates of the Second Amendment? Why aren’t they on TV? I keep hearing that they are asked to appear but refuse. Is that the truth or is that the MSM doing more spin?

Exactly. So much of the rhetoric coming from the gun grabbers is couched in the terms of ‘need.’

“You don’t need a gun like that to hunt.”
“You don’t need a gun like that to fend of a burglar.”
“You don’t need a gun like that to target shoot.”

All of them ignoring that the Second Amendment is not about any sort of sporting use. It is about defending liberty against tyranny.

If you cannot possess such weapons when tyranny is not imminent then by what logic would they ever become more readily available as tyranny approached?

The answer is they would not, which objectively makes the banning of such weapons inherently tyrannical. It may not be a big step, but it assuredly is another step down the road to serfdom.

That bad people do wrong things with their freedom is a fact of life, and the price we all must pay.

    last time (TBH was YEARS ago) someone tried those arguments on me (I am disabled) I said I need that type of gun to kill fast so I don’t have to get in a long battle which I could not win.
    guy actually said maybe you should just let yourself get attacked then so you don’t kill someone.
    the guy however would NOT let me test his theory on him.

    Ragspierre in reply to ThomasD. | December 19, 2012 at 3:19 pm

    It is really about the fundamental, natural right of self defense, and defense of yours. We ONLY delegate PART of that right to our governments, as part of the civic bargain we make. We CAN take it completely back, as Jefferson often said.

    The Framers understood that VERY well. It is well to remember the Constitution was written as ANOTHER experiment in self-government, and these people were not about to disarm themselves as part of the trial.

    But one does “need” such weapons to repel invaders. What, there aren’t any invaders? Yeah, today. But some say China is already softening up the battlefield.

KM from Detroit | December 19, 2012 at 3:15 pm

Penn & Teller (sometimes too libertarian for me) rebut the control arguments beautifully herein:

Easy rejoinder to the argument that the Founders could not possibly have contemplated “assault” weapons: They also could not have contemplated the telegraph, radio, telegrams, TV, internet, etc., so the First Amendment must be limited to word of mouth and maybe also hand printed newspapers.

    drdog09 in reply to Hucklebuck. | December 19, 2012 at 5:54 pm

    I would observe that in the tradition of the Founders day, 100 men, two columns abreast would be classified as an assault weapon. Each column fired in volley, alternating as each column reloaded. Fact they were MORE than an assault rifle today — each volley represented 50 rounds instantly rather than repeatedly from a modern weapon. (tho the modern AF weapon can do so much faster.)

I too grow tired of the “why do you need…” argument, which is a strawman argument.

I am guaranteed the right to bear arms by natural law that is recognized by, not instituted by, the Bill of Rights my right precedes.

I reject the notion that I am required to prove I ‘need’ a right in order to keep it.

“A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state,”

To those who have access, how does the Constitution spell “state” in the balance of the document? I believe the writers were NOT indicating a specific or collective state (like Texas, Pennsylvania, and etc.), but were indicating “a state of freedom”. I would love to see that “State” meant Texas, Pennsylvania and the like, while “state” meant “the condition of a person or thing, as with respect to circumstances or attributes: a state of health.”

    Yes, had they meant the States, or the collected union of them, they would have said State.

    And well regulated simply means ‘functioning as intended.’ A meaning something much closer to the effects of a high fiber diet, rather than the effects of the Code of Federal Regulations.


Why does anyone *need* water? It causes rust. It shorts electrical equipment. It chokes the air during hot summer days. It freezes and causes roadway catastrophes. It boils and causes severe burns. People *die* by drowning in it!

The 1000 paper cuts will be slow and costly for O.

Just ONE store in Charlotte NC sold over $1,000,000 worth of firearms in one day (Tue 12/18/12), by far their biggest day since opening in 1959.

Methinks the reported groundswell for gun control is a media myth.

The Heller court in fact explicitly rejected the argument that “A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state,” in any restricts the right to bear arms. The court in essence said that the phrase only announces the purpose of enshrining the right in the Constitution. In discussing what it referred to as the “prefatory clause”, the court also said that it does not limit the extent of government regulation of weapons either. The court did say that restrictions on the types of firearms citizens may possess and how and where they use them are permissible. The touchstone seems to be a historical one, based on the nature of the weapons commonly in private hands at the founding of the Republic. The “prefatory clause”, however, says the SCOTUS, does not tell us what can be banned/regulated and what cannot.

    Radegunda in reply to PlainTalk. | December 19, 2012 at 11:11 pm

    Anyone who claims that the first clause is restrictive (i.e. “If and only if you belong to a well-regulated militia, you may own a gun”) has a poor comprehension of the English language. And the historical argument is so obvious that failing to grasp it suggests willful disregard.

It’s that pesky subordinate clause

Doesn’t that just limit the definition of “the people” in the Constitution?

Only members of the militia are protected by the 4th Amendment… only members of the milita are guaranteed the right to vote for the House or Senate…

Does “a well-regulated mind” mean government mind control?


Then why would ” a well- regulated militia” mean government gun control?

The Bill of Rights is about personal freedom. Every amendment.

From freedom of speech and assembly, right to a speedy trial, quartering troops in your home only with your permission — every amendment is about a personal freedom — except, the liberals would have you believe, the Second Amendment.

They don’t like that amendment so they want us to believe that it’s not about a personal freedom.

The Bill of Rights was added to the Constitution for the purpose of guaranteeing personal rights.

If it’s in the Bill of rights, it’s a personal right. It’s that simple.

[…] in your guns now. For a bit of a palate cleanser, you’ll want to check out Joel Engel, who touches on some of the topics we’ll cover […]