The Gun Thing, Part I: The Militia
I’ve warned my fellow conservatives in America that over the next few months we’re going to be hearing a lot of exquisitely ignorant nonsense regarding private gun ownership and the Second Amendment.
I’ve broken the nonsense down into easily-digestible bits and will be posting them here over the next several days.
The first one concerns the matter of the word “militia” in the wording of the Second Amendment. It states:
“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.”
First, what is a militia? It is *not* the same as the army of the government. A militia is composed of armed citizens; not draftees, not soldiers fighting under orders from the state.
Militias are ad-hoc by definition: They are formed at a particular time, to do a particular task. Militias have been mustered at various times throughout American history to meet a number of threats and pursue a number of missions.
The wording of 2A in no way requires every person who owns a gun to be part of a militia. Indeed, the very notion makes no sense, because again, militias are not standing armies. You can’t wake up any day of the year and just go sign up for a militia, like you can go volunteer for the US Army. Militias are mustered in response to specific threats or needs, and they disperse once the threat or need is gone.
Do not confuse “militia” as intended by 2A, with the scattered bands of armed wackos who call themselves “militias” but are really just scattered bands of armed wackos. Just because there are outlaw motorcycle gangs doesn’t mean you’re an outlaw simply because you ride a motorcycle.
Also, the phrase “well-regulated” has nothing to do with “government supervision.”
The first thing to remember is that liberals love them some government supervision of everything, down to how much soda you can buy and what kind of light bulbs you can put in your lamps, so it should come as no surprise that they read “well-regulated” and think, “Aha! This means your little militia has to be overseen and approved of by the state!”
It’s not used in this context that often nowadays, but at the time the Bill of Rights was written, “well-regulated” was used to describe something that was “functioning smoothly” or “properly functioning.” If you know what a regulator in a car engine does… that’s what they meant.
Now, read the amendment again with synonymous, modern language in place, and its meaning becomes perfectly clear to our modern ears:
“A [properly functioning] militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.”
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