A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state…
For some reason, the debate over the Second Amendment seems to hinge on the later half of the 27 words ratified by Congress that focus on the unalienable and pre-existing individual right to own arms for self defense. There is a Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep And Bear Arms, for example, but no corresponding Citizens Committee for a Necessary and Well Regulated Militia.
That’s a rather absurd picking and choosing of which part of the Second Amendment to emphasis, almost in exclusion of the equally important proceeding clause. If we are to value the Second Amendment, we must value it in its entirety as the Founders constructed it, and with their explicit original intent.
While the Founders recognized a pre-existing individual right to arms, the Founders yoked that right to service of the community and the nation.
I keep falling back to the words of Tenche Cox, Pennsylvania delegate to the Continental Congress, first writing in The Pennsylvania Gazette, on Feb. 20, 1788.
The militia of these free commonwealths, entitled and accustomed to their arms, when compared with any possible army, must be tremendous and irresistible. Who are the militia? Are they not ourselves? Is it feared, then, that we shall turn our arms each man against his own bosom. Congress have no power to disarm the militia. Their swords, and every other terrible implement of the soldier, are the birth-right of an American … the unlimited power of the sword is not in the hands of either the federal or state governments, but, where I trust in God it will ever remain, in the hands of the people.
Coxe commented on the purpose of the Second Amendment again in “Remarks On The First Part Of The Amendments To The Federal Constitution,” in the Philadelphia Federal Gazette, June 18, 1789.
As civil rulers, not having their duty to the people duly before them, may attempt to tyrannize, and as the military forces which must be occasionally raised to defend our country, might pervert their power to the injury of their fellow-citizens, the people are confirmed by the next article in their right to keep and bear their private arms.
Our private arms protect our individual homes and lives, but are to also serve a public purpose.
When you carry a concealed weapon, you are protecting your own life, but you also serve the public good by acting as a deterrent to violent crime. As concealed carry has been adopted across these United States, violent crime has declined. Career criminals prefer to live, and as a result have turned from violent crime to property crimes because they would prefer not to become a feature story in Guns Saving Lives.
In the same vein that handguns serve a role in ensuring our domestic tranquility, so do long arms in the hands of the militia.
According to 10 USC § 311 – Militia: composition and classes, there are two forms of recognized militia under federal law:
(a) The militia of the United States consists of all able-bodied males at least 17 years of age and, except as provided in section 313 of title 32, under 45 years of age who are, or who have made a declaration of intention to become, citizens of the United States and of female citizens of the United States who are members of the National Guard.
(b) The classes of the militia are—
(1) the organized militia, which consists of the National Guard and the Naval Militia; and
(2) the unorganized militia, which consists of the members of the militia who are not members of the National Guard or the Naval Militia.
Many Americans would be shocked to learn that they do, in fact, belong to the unorganized militia, and are both legally and morally required to serve the Republic in times of peril.
At this moment, in the early part of the 21st Century, no long-arm exists that better serves the Founder’s concept of long arms for contemporary militia service by the unorganized militia than the AR-15 platform chambered in 5.56 NATO.
All branches of the United States Arms Forces use a variant of the M4/M16 platform, which are selective-fire assault rifles (and yes, by definition for a rifle to be an “assault rifle” in military terms it must be selective fire).
The cyclic rate of fire for these assault rifles is 700–950 round/min when fired in burst-fire mode.
The most popular centerfire rifle sold in the United States today is AR-15, which was once a brand (“AR” stood for Armalite which was the company that designer Eugene Stoner worked for when he created the rifle), but which now is used as a generic term for the family of rifles, in much the same way we use “Kleenex” when talking about tissues, or “Jell-O” when talking about gelatin-based desserts.
There are now an estimated 5 million AR-15 self-loading rifles in the United States today, making it the single most important and ubiquitous rifle in the Republic (There are twice as many AR-15s in civilian hands than there are active-duty service members). The AR-15 has 80-percent parts commonality with the military M4/M16 family of weapons, but is not capable of being fired as a machine gun.
In addition to sharing many of the same parts, an AR-15 chambered in 5.56 NATO can use the same ammunition as that used by the military, the same magazines, and same accouterments, such as cleaning kits, magazine loaders, magazine pouches, sights, etc.
If we are the unorganized militia (and we are) and we serve a role in the defense of the Republic (and we do), doesn’t every citizen that is part of the militia have an obligation, if we are financially able, to purchase AR-15 carbines, ammunition, and accouterments to serve our roles in the militia?
Further, since the most important role of government is to provide security, shouldn’t federal and state governments set aside part of the annual budget to train and equip the unorganized militia with AR-15 rifles, magazines, ammunition, and accouterments?
This could come in the form of direct supply, financial aid (grants) to those who qualify as part of the unorganized militia, and as tax credits to those who have purchased their own firearms, ammunition, and accouterments with their own funds. Government land should be set aside in each community, in order to develop firing ranges on which the unorganized militia would be expected to practice, with ammunition and training provided once again by taxpayer dollars.
All of this is in keeping with both the spirit of the Second Amendment, and will the letter of the law which insists that “a well regulated militia” (well regulated meaning in proper working order) is necessary to the security of the free state.
From where should such funding come?
Obviously, as the current government “shutdown” has shown, there are many non-essential programs and personnel within the federal government that could easily be done away with entirely. There is no constitutional mandate for government-provided cell phone service, medical care, housing, or education.
There is, however, a constitutional mandate for the security of the Republic, and I look forward to seeing you at the range.