We’ve all seen the headlines. After every act of gun violence our representatives cry out for increased gun control with a chorus of claims about the Second Amendment and the so-called “gun culture” of the United States. But are these calls for reform rooted in rational, well-reasoned analyses or are they an emotional reaction to tragedy? I can think of no better place to begin this assessment than with the legal foundation upon which gun ownership is based which is, of course, the Second Amendment to the Constitution of the United States.
The amendment itself 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.”
The amendment has its roots in the very forging of the American colonies where settlers in Colonial America viewed the right to arms as a foundational element for colonists to organize militias, repel invasions, oppose tyrannical governments, suppress insurrections, participate in law enforcement and to facilitate the inherent right of self-defense. Though well established in history, the purpose of the Second Amendment has been obscured over the years by oft-repeated myths and rhetoric intended to erode this civil liberty’s protection against the encroachment of the federal government. Let’s dive into some of these myths:
1. Militias have been replaced by the National Guard
First, what is the purpose of a militia? Is the primary function of the militia to provide additional troops and arms to a federal, standing army? The answer, of course, is “no.” This nation was founded by those who defied the greatest military power on earth for many reasons, chief among them was governmental tyranny. Such was the support for the Second Amendment that even those arguing for greater federal powers recognized the need for the civilian population to be able to fend off an oppressive regime. The original Constitution moved the power to arm the state militias from the states to the federal government who, by neglecting the militia, could achieve overwhelming military force. This reality established a unity of purpose among the framers to draft the Second Amendment as a safeguard against just such action.
While state National Guards may point to the militias as their forebears, they do not form anything akin to self-funded, independent fighting forces autonomous of the federal government. Indeed, the Guard cannot refuse orders from the President to mobilize when the mobilization is in accordance with federal law. Neither does the property of the National Guard belong exclusively to the states, but to the federal government. How then can forces whose arms and equipment belong to the federal government and who are unable to deny orders from the federal government serve as a bulwark against federal tyranny and oppression? The more we recognize the level of control the federal government wields over the Guard, the less able we are to make the claim the Guard fulfills the role of the Militia as described in the Second Amendment.
2. Nobody needs an “assault rifle”
How many times have we heard this argument in recent years? Though “assault rifle” is largely undefined, proponents of this myth obscure the true purpose of the Second Amendment. Perhaps you’ve heard the President’s recent claim: “From the very beginning, you couldn’t own any weapon you wanted to own.” Is this true? Were certain arms forbidden to American citizens? It seems odd to think the early government of the United States would allow private citizens to own weapons of war that were comparable to those possessed by the federal government’s own standing army, but that is exactly what happened.
Look no further than the case of the USS Alliance, a frigate of the Continental Navy. The Alliance was armed with 28x 18-pounder long guns and 12x 9-pounder guns. Possessed by the wrong person, the Alliance could wreak devastation on coastal towns with impunity. However, this threat of misuse did not deter the US government from selling the frigate in 1785 to John Coburn, a private citizen. There were no muskets, cannons, or vessels of war the government denied to its citizens. This further reinforces the notion the Second Amendment was truly meant to allow the populace to maintain very real, military opposition to the federal government’s own standing forces.
3. The framers never could have known what future weapons would look like
Often considered the strongest argument against the Second Amendment, proponents argue the development of weapons has advanced so far that the context with which the framers wrote the Second Amendment is no longer relevant. After all, who could have foreseen the advent of machine guns, plastic explosives, or tanks? Would the framers really be comfortable with citizens owning such weapons? As a matter of fact, the framers showed incredible wisdom in forecasting such developments. The framers created a method by which the Constitution could be amended. So, why do government officials keep pushing gun control laws rather than amending the Constitution to remove the Second Amendment altogether?
As it turns out, amending the Constitution is quite difficult. Either two-thirds of state legislatures or two-thirds of the House of Representatives and the Senate must first vote to propose the amendment. Then, to ratify the amendment, three-fourths of the state legislatures must approve them. Why did they make it so difficult to amend the Constitution? Because the framers knew the shortfalls of strict democracies, where a small majority could impose their will against the consent of the governed. The Constitution was meant to be a bulwark against just such governmental tyranny, and the nation was formed as a representative republic where even those in the minority have a say in how they are governed. If gun control is as “common sense” as we are told, why are the politicians unwilling to attempt to change the amendment itself?
The tenants of civic duty enshrined in the Second Amendment resonate with millions of Americans. Many of you choose to concealed carry. We understand the right to gun ownership is a civil liberty worth preserving. After all, the federal government is not known for returning rights to the people once they’ve been stripped away. As much as ever, reasonable Americans fear the growing, coercive power of an increasingly belligerent federal government. We can disagree on what the best future for this nation might be, but it is preeminently important how we arrive at our conclusions. Insisting the Second Amendment was not intended to provide citizens with the means to militarily oppose a tyrannical government is fundamentally incorrect.
We know all too well how important this issue is to friends of RangeTime, who trust us to provide the highest quality AR500 steel targets. We are committed to keeping you well-equipped and hope you will continue to stand with us in our commitment to preserve the rights and freedoms of all Americans through the civic duty of self-defense and the defense of our communities. Consider carrying or supporting the rights to concealed carry in your state. If you have served in the Armed Forces, law enforcement or as a 1st responder, please let us honor your service with a discount. Stay safe, alert, and proficient.