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Gender: Male
Hometown: North Carolina
Member since: Wed Aug 11, 2004, 06:57 PM
Number of posts: 3,813

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The "Well Regulated Militia" clause in plain English and other liberal Constitutional musings

Anyone paying attention to the discussion of guns and the Right to Keep & Bear Arms here at DU since the Aurora, Colorado shooting tragedy (the "really big news" that has caused discussions of firearms to move here to General Discussion for the past few days) has surely seen the Second Amendment's text, in whole or in part, posted for discussion. For those of you who need a reminder, the Second Amendment of the US Constitution, which serves as the supreme law of this land reads as follows:

Amendment II
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.

Many who wish to see greater regulation of guns seize upon the prefatory clause, "A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state," as their excuse to claim that further bans of certain firearms, magazines, ammunition quantities, or other materials would be Constitutional and/or just good policy. Those posting such sentiments here generally ignore that we already have thousands (some sources say tens of thousands) of gun laws, including virtual bans (i.e- hefty ATF reg's & taxes) on rounds larger than fifty-caliber, fully-automatic weapons, and explosives. We also have a Democratic Party platform that states that "We recognize that the right to bear arms is an important part of the American tradition, and we will preserve Americans' Second Amendment right to own and use firearms." While the platform goes on to say that "We believe that the right to own firearms is subject to reasonable regulation," including a call for a renewed Assault Weapons Ban (Read more: http://wiki.answers.com/Q/What_is_the_position_of_the_Democratic_Party_on_gun_control#ixzz21aIgbHpS), Democratic leaders such as Bill Clinton generally credit the last AWB as a primary reason why the Democrats lost Congress in 1994. Does anyone here really want a repeat of that? If the Democrats lose the Senate in 2012, what kind of Supreme Court Justices will Obama get to seat? If the Democrats lose the Presidency in 2012, what the fuck will happen to this country?

But the point of this OP is to deconstruct the "well regulated militia" clause. I believe that gun-control advocates who rest their arguments here are mistaken for at least two further reasons:

1. Regulated may not mean what you think it means:

I'm no historian, but I have read that "well regulated" in Eighteenth Century parlance meant well-equipped and well-trained. Rather than reiterate all the history here, I recommend DU'er Francis Marion's response on the topic:


In fact, that whole thread is worth a look. On to the second reason, and the core of this post:

2. It's the militia that is to be regulated, not the arms:

"Fine," you might say; well regulated might have meant something different then, but it means regulated now. Even if I concede this point, that is no rationale for further gun control. The Second Amendment states that the militia is to be "well regulated," but that the "the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed." To my 21st Century mind, this allows extensive government regulation of how and where I might assemble with others and train for military purposes. This makes sense, especially just following the First Amendment which in part explicitly protects, "the right of the people peaceably to assemble." So, peaceful gatherings should be sacrosanct and free from government intrusion, but once arms come out and militias start marching, the state might get a say in the matter. Reasonable enough for any state, no matter how much a bastion of liberty. However, within the Bill of Rights, my individual right to "keep and bear arms" is at least as strongly enshrined as people's rights to free speech, to freedom of religion, to "be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures," etc.

I'll conclude that the immediate wake of a tragedy can be a terrible time to hastily write new policy, particularly policy that further abridges our rights. The PATRIOT Act was passed only 45 days after the 9/11 attacks, with regrettable and extensive Democratic complicity (John Edwards was a co-sponsor - yet another reason he is an asshole): what did that gain us?

I am a Democrat, a progressive, and liberal. I stand for all our rights, including the right to keep and bear arms. I call on Democratic Underground to recognize and celebrate this vein of Democratic thought.


Well, that's a problem.

The first two Amendments of the U. S. Constitution protect fredom of speech, worship, assembly, and the keeping and bearing of arms. All of these rights are sacred to me, and should be so for all Americans.

I'm normally a fan of the Rude One, but I find it regrettable that he is busy trying to erode the Second Amendment, when he should be focusing on restoring the First. The fact that freedom of speech has been trampled in the US is no excuse to go trampling more rights.

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