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The Second Amendment, Part 2

“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.” – 2nd Amendment, Bill of Rights, United States Constitution.

A pretty clear statement isn’t it? Unfortunately, to a variety of people, it is not, specially so, if your particular political persuasion determines all of your perspectives or, you have an inherent bias towards firearms. Here is a little history for you. The Second Amendment was rooted in the English “Declaration of Rights,” which came a century before the Constitution’s “Bill of Rights.” The 2nd, as it is often called, was readily ratified, because of the sensical understanding that the written words clearly stated that NO ENTITY would have the power to infringe on the right of the people to keep and bear arms, any more than it should have the power to abridge the freedom of speech or prohibit the free exercise of religion. Much has changed since 1791, hasn’t it? Today, the anti-gun movement cringes at this undeniable truth but, possession of firearms was very important to the Founders, particularly so since, second only to the suppression of free speech, was the British Crown’s attempts at confiscating firearms.

The terms “Militia” and “Regulated" are also often misunderstood or in some cases, intentionally misrepresented. One of the biggest challenges in interpreting a centuries-old document is that, the meanings of words, change, or diverge over time. The “Militia” was the collective organizing of all able-bodied, fighting-age, adult males of a city, town, village or territory, willing, at their own expense, to provide their own weapons, allocate time to train as a unit, and come under the command of a designated leader, often a local military officer. Not the National Guard as we know it today. More on that later.

The meaning of “regulated,” in 18th Century English, was very different from our use of the word regulation. In the old application, it meant “competent and proficient” in the use of. It didn't mean 'regulation' in the sense that we use it now, in that it's not about the regulatory state. There's been nuance there. The intended meaning is that a militia–competent in the use of weapons and tactics of war-was to be ready to fight to protect against threats or preserve liberty. It didn't mean the state was to regulate firearms in a certain way, but rather that the militia was “prepared and competent” to do its duty in the use of their privately owned firearms as trained to proficiency, in applicable military tactics.

Militias, however, did eventually become the genesis of the national guard when in 1903, the “Dick Act” was passed which required states, which still had militias, to divide them into two sections. The title "National Guard" for the first section and "Reserve" for the second section. Then, in 1916, Congress passed the “National Defense Act,” which required the use of the term "National Guard" for all state militias. In 1933, with passage of the “National Guard Mobilization Act, Congress finalized the split between the National Guard and the traditional state militias by mandating that all federally-funded military forces take a dual enlistment-commission, and thus enter both the state National Guard and the National Guard of the United States, a newly created federal reserve force. Militias, at this point, mostly disappeared, but not all particularly in states like Tennessee.

The first muster of militia forces, in what is today the United States, took place on September, 1565, in the newly established Spanish military town of St. Augustine. The militia men were assigned to guard the expedition's supplies of their leader, Pedro Menéndez de Avilés, when he took the regular soldiers north to attack the French settlement on the St. John’s River. This Spanish militia tradition and the English tradition that would be established in the colonies, would provide the basic nucleus for Colonial defense in the New World.

The original militias were never conscripted into the Continental Army but were used in an strategic supplemental application. In fact, the Founders so feared a standing Army, that they clearly addressed it in the Third Amendment. Their revolutionary experience had forged a deep mistrust of standing armies. They viewed them as a pernicious threat to liberty.

Alexander Hamilton, expressed the following words in the Federalist Papers, #29: “If circumstances should at any time oblige the government to form an army of any magnitude, that army can never be formidable to the liberties of the people while there is a large body of citizens, little, if at all, inferior to them in discipline and the use of arms, who stand ready to defend their own rights and those of their fellow-citizens. This appears to me the only substitute that can be devised for a standing army, and the best possible security against it, if it should exist.”

In sum, no professional army, but if one was necessary, no greater in the sense of armaments nor capabilities that the armed citizenry, which brings me to another point, weaponry. We will address that on part 3.

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