Tuesday, November 20, 2007

POLITICS - The Right of the People to Keep and Bear Arms

"SCOTUS to Hear Major Second Amendment Case" by Adam B, Daily Kos

The above article deals with the thorny issue of the Second Amendment and....

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 "pro-gun" side says it protects the people's right to "keep and bear Arms."

The opposing side says it only protects "A well regulated Militia" having Arms.

I read the wording and see it as the people's right, and I do not consider myself pro-gun. I cannot phantom how anyone could interpret the phrase any other way, like it or not.

But (there is always a but) you can read up on Militias in general and there is a small but valid reason for taking the stance that Militias are the ones who are protected.

Although Wikipedia is NOT the best authority on this issue, here are excerpts from their "Militia (United States)" page:

A major factor that made universal militia service during this period impossible was the drastic lack of guns. The vast majority of New England men in the late Eighteenth Century did not own a working firearm. A study of probate records from that time found only 7% of white males owned a working gun. The predominate source of meat for food was either by hunting by trapping, not guns, or the slaughter of domesticated pigs and cows. Additionally there was a serious problem mobilizing the militia prior to the Revolutionary war because so few men had any experience shooting a rifle, and so few blacksmith had any experience repairing guns. The predominate source of guns was Europe, a source cut off by the British embargo.

Just prior to the American Revolutionary War, October 26th, 1774, after observing the British military buildup, the Massachusetts Provincial Congress found their militia resources to be short, "...including the sick and absent, amounted to about seventeen thousand men...this was far short of the number wanted, that the council recommended an immediate application to the New England governments to make up the deficiency...", resolving to better organize the militia.

"...they recommended to the militia to form themselves into companies of minute-men, who should be equipped and prepared to march at the shortest notice. These minute-men were to consist of one quarter of the whole militia, to be enlisted under the direction of the field-officers, and divide into companies, consisting of at least fifty men each. The privates were to choose their captains and subalterns, and these officers were to form the companies into battalions, and chose the field-officers to command the same. Hence the minute-men became a body distinct from the rest of the militia, and, by being more devoted to military exercises, they acquired skill in the use of arms. More attention than formerly was likewise bestowed on the training and drilling of militia."

In 1777, the Second Continental Congress adopted the Articles of Confederation to provide for States militia. Militia were only allowed be activated upon ratification of 9 of the 13 States, severely restricting federal power. Article VI of the Articles of Confederation state:

"...every State shall always keep up a well-regulated and disciplined militia, sufficiently armed and accoutered, and shall provide and constantly have ready for use, in public stores, a due number of filed pieces and tents, and a proper quantity of arms, ammunition and camp equipage."

Some militia units appeared without adequate arms, as evidenced in this letter from John Adams to his wife, dated August 26th, 1777:

"The militia are turning out with great alacrity both in Maryland and Pennsylvania. They are distressed for want of arms. Many have none, we shall rake and scrape enough to do Howe's business, by favor of the Heaven."

What we have historically is an argument that the state militias armed the troops, the could not arm themselves for the most part.

I agree the states had to train and drill their Militias, but does that really mean that the people did not have the right to "keep and bear Arms?" I think not, especially when the militias of the time consisted of all able-bodied men 16 to 60.

I expect the the Supreme Court will decide this case narrowly, applying to Washington DC only.

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