What is a Well Regulated Militia?

I have been a member of the National Rifle Association off and on for about 40 years. I would let my membership expire periodically because of philosophical differences, then I would renew my membership for the same reasons. While I do like my handguns and do support the 2ndAmendment, I am by no means a fanatic. I like to shoot and have shot for a long time. I do carry a concealed weapon as per the Law Enforcement Officer’s Safety Act. I carry it for my protection.  There has been a lot of discussionregarding the 2ndAmendment, particularly when there is an event that focuses on guns: owning guns and using guns. Hopefully, I can add to the discussion in a meaningful way.

It has never been the government’s responsibility to protect the citizenry. As a matter of fact, it is the citizenry’s responsibility to protect themselves, primarily from an oppressive government. This was a founding premise of the 2ndAmendment. The 2ndAmendment to the United States Constitution reads: “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.”Second Amendment discussions seem to focus on the definition of the term, “well regulated.”Well regulated by whom or what seems to be the crux of any 2ndAmendment conversation.

To get a clear understanding of what the Founding Fathers intended when the Constitution, including the Bill of Rights, was ratified,we need to re-examine the political climate of the time. The colonies ended an armed revolution from a tyrannical English government in 1776. England attempted to impose the Crown will by using the most powerful and highly trained standing army of the time. The Founding Fathers did not want the centralized power to lie with theFederal Government. The Founding Fathers constructed a Constitution that guaranteed the right of the citizenry to “keep and bear arms” as a check and balance on the standing army which the Constitution gave the Congress the power to “raise and support.” In addition, the Bill of Rights (the first ten amendments to the Constitution) was included as an additional level of protection for individual private rights. These Amendments were designed to be a series of “shall nots,” telling the government again, in no uncertain terms, where it could not tread.  “In keeping with the intent and purpose of the Bill of Rights, both of declaring individual rights and proscribing the powers of the national government, the use and meaning of the term ‘Militia’ in the Second Amendment, which needs to be ‘well Regulated,’ helps explain what ‘well regulated’ meant.  When the Constitution was ratified, the Framers unanimously believed that the ‘militia’ included all of the peoplecapable of bearing arms” (Emphasis added). A “well regulated” militia was a check and balance against a tyrannical government seeking to use the military to keep the populace oppressed.1

So let’s fast forward to today. We, as a society, have put the burden for our existence onthe government in an increasing fashion. We continue, in an ever increasing amount, to expect the government to provide for us. The government has attempted to accept this increased burden. My question is this: What is the government’s level of success?

The War on Drugs clearly has been an epic failure. The results of the War on Drugs is eerily similar to the results of Prohibition. Prohibition imbedded organized crime intothis country and the War on Drugs, likewise, has embedded drug cartels and gangs into our nation. Neither the Volstead Act nor the plethora of legislations enacted to control drugs has had the desired effect. One unintended consequence of these two epic failures has been the demonstrated propensity for the use of violence. The police, clearly, have not been able effectively to address these issues and the military is expressly prohibited from being used in these circumstances.  The Posse Comitatus Act clearly stipulates that, “it shall not be lawful to employ any part of the Army of the United States, as a posse comitatus, or otherwise, for the purpose of executing the laws, except in such cases and under such circumstances as such employment of said force may be expressly authorized by the Constitution or by act of Congress.”2

A recent phenomenon is the increased number of mass shootings. We have experienced mass shootings in our schools, our churches, our theaters, and at concerts. Our police officers have been targeted for murder just for wearing the uniform. These brave defenders of “We the People” are themselves becoming targets and victims.

Let’s get one thing straight: it is not the job of the police to protect you. I know that on the side of some cruisers it says, “To protect and serve!”, but the reality is, if the police cannot protect themselves, how do you expect them to protect you? If the police were effective at protecting the people they serve, the murder rate would be zero because the police would be there to stop such crimes! There would be no traffic accidents because the police would be there to intervene prior. There would be no “drunk drivers” because the police would be there to keep make sure the intoxicated individualsdid not get behind the wheels of their respective vehicles. Policing has always been and always will be reactive–something happens, and the police respond. So where does that leave us: the citizenry who are unintended victims (or maybe intended victims) of random and not-so-random violence; the silent majority who go about their everyday existence, but due to being in the wrong place at the wrong time, don’t get to go home; the victimized citizenry, who, if they are lucky enough to survive a violent encounter, must wait for the police to respond? This leaves us exactly where it always leaves us, being responsible for our own protection and our own survival.

The 2ndAmendment stipulates that “We the People” must provide for our own protection. Again, when the Constitution was ratified, the Framers unanimously believed that the “militia” included all of the peoplecapable of bearing arms” (Emphasis added). We all are capable of bearing arms, with limited exception. We all are members of the militia as designed and incorporated in the 2ndAmendment. Maybe what we need is less legislation attempting to skew the language of the Constitution and more enforcement of the Constitution as written.

As Mr. Schultz so eloquently stated, “It is an absolute truism that law-abiding, armed citizens pose no threat to other law-abiding citizens. The Framers’ writings show they also believed this. As we have seen, the Framers understood that ‘well regulated’ militias, that is, armed citizens, ready to form militias that would be well trained, self-regulated and disciplined, would pose no threat to their fellow citizens, but would, indeed, help to ‘insure domestic Tranquility’ and ‘provide for the common defense.’”1

1 Daniel J. Schultz, The Second Amendment: The Framer’s Intentions. (www.lectlaw.com/files/gun01.htm).

2 The Posse Comitatus Act. (18 U.S.C. § 1385).

 

 

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