The Firing Line Forums

Go Back   The Firing Line Forums > The Conference Center > Law and Civil Rights

Closed Thread
 
Thread Tools
Old April 28, 2009, 02:36 AM   #1
honkylips
Senior Member
 
Join Date: December 16, 2007
Location: Arvada, Co
Posts: 124
Question about the 2nd Amendment (well regulated militia)

First off, let me preface by saying that I am 100% an advocate of the right to keep and bear arms. That being said, I've always wondered about the wording of the 2nd Amendment. The part about the 'well regulated militia' has always confused me a bit. They way I read it, I always take it to mean that the public has the right to keep/bear arms for the purpose of maintaining the aforementioned 'well regulated militia'.

Can somebody explain the significance of this part of the amendment. It's always kinda made me wonder. Like I said, the wording of amendment, to me, never translates to the right to keep/bear arms for all individual citizens.

Again, I am 100% pro gun, and I practice my right to carry. I've always wondered about this, and have never really seen a good explanation. Just looking for some enlightenment here. Thanks.
honkylips is offline  
Old April 28, 2009, 04:11 AM   #2
HiBC
Senior Member
 
Join Date: November 13, 2006
Posts: 3,838
This is my understanding,which could be wrong.

George Washington hired Baron VonSteuben to help make his men more effective.VonSteuben made up a training pictorial booklet that showed the steps of loading,aiming and firing in the fashion of the time.This booklet was called "Von Steubens Regulations"

And so,it seems,"well regulated" meant,in this context,a firearms proficiency which,if duty called on the citizen,would allow him to be militarily effective .
At that time,volley fire in ranks was still employed,I think.So,the rank might be well regulated if they all placed effective fire in the same general direction.

I'm thinking of how the term "regulated" was used if the folks at Holland and Holland were making a fine double rifle,and would make both barrels shoot true to the sights.

Then,in WW2 an aircraft crew cheif might regulate the 50 cals on a p-51 Mustang,making all the guns shoot to the same cone of fire,or "regulate the guns" might be applied to artillery,in all cases,it is about getting multiple guns to deliver effective fire.Thomas Jefferson might have a well regulated set of Manton duelling pistols.
And,for what it is worth,"security of the free state",perhaps,rather this means not the political entity "state" but "the state of being free.Liberty.

So,to paraphrase, To preserve a state of being free,the common citizens may need to drop the tools of trade,pick up their arms,and come together to be an effective fighting force,so,the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.

Actually sounds rather Swiss.
HiBC is offline  
Old April 28, 2009, 06:03 AM   #3
divemedic
Senior Member
 
Join Date: August 12, 2006
Posts: 1,313
Change the wording a little, and see if it makes sense now:

"A well trained faculty, being necessary to a good school; the right of the people to own and read books shall not be infringed."

Does this mean that the people only have the right to own and read books if they are students of the school?
__________________
Caveat Emperor
divemedic is offline  
Old April 28, 2009, 06:29 AM   #4
Jofaba
Senior Member
 
Join Date: April 4, 2009
Posts: 322
The way I see it, punctuation is key here.

Quote:
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.
Of course, couple that with the definition of "well regulated", "militia", "free state", & "the people" come into play.

Also, keep in mind that the Bill of Rights outline "INDIVIDUAL" rights, the rights of the individual. I hate to quote any one source online but as basic a search return as it is, Google's Answer.com worded it pretty well:

Quote:
The Bill of Rights is commonly viewed as consisting of the first ten articles of Amendments to the Constitution of the United States of America. But it is the specific guarantees of individual liberties in the first eight amendments that the public normally regards as the Bill of Rights. The Ninth and Tenth Amendments provide generally that rights not specified and powers not delegated to the federal government in the Constitution will remain with the people and the states.
The Good: The Bill Of Rights is not very wordy, and is pretty direct.

The Bad: This simultaneously leads to absolutes and interpretations, depending on who is reading it and breaking it down for discussion.

The "Militia" part gets misinterpreted, even as a dated phrase, possibly because it appears elsewhere in the document about quartering. Depending on who you're debating, if they hark on this fact it makes it harder to explain the definition of a Militia because they may not be taking the historical timeline into account(assembly of a Militia, versus the existence of an active Militia).

But the point remains that your average Joe took his personal firearm and bullet casts, and went to war. If it wasn't for those personally owned firearms, we very well may have lost. So when they formed the structure of basic individual rights, they knew how important it was to be able to protect everything that they were about to create as a basis for living this free life that they so wanted. Without the 2nd amendment, there is no way to protect the other 9.

We were lucky to have such incredibly intelligent and far-seeing people designing this country.

--

Divemedic, wow that's a great point. I drove home a similar replacement argument with my father last night. Following an argument on how "these days" it's up to the cops to stop crime, my mother came home and he mentioned that he found a fire extinguisher while cleaning his truck and I proceded to argue "what in the world do you need a fire extinguisher for? The fire department is RIGHT DOWN THE STREET!" He brushed it off conversationally, but I could see that it struck home in his head. He made an immediate connection and even though he dismissed it, you could tell it unlocked a door or two against the argument.

Last edited by Jofaba; April 28, 2009 at 06:36 AM.
Jofaba is offline  
Old April 28, 2009, 06:38 AM   #5
Bud Helms
Staff
 
Join Date: December 31, 1999
Location: Middle Georgia
Posts: 13,014
L&CR ... moving
__________________
"The irony of the Information Age is that it has given new respectability to uninformed opinion." - John Lawton, speaking to the American Association of Broadcast Journalists in 1995
Bud Helms is offline  
Old April 28, 2009, 07:19 AM   #6
BlueTrain
Senior Member
 
Join Date: September 26, 2005
Location: Northern Virginia
Posts: 5,825
The early colonists had a fear of standing armies, they having had bad experiences with them, generally speaking, and some of those experiences they brought with them from Europe. The militia was considered necessary and they were used in fighting the French and the Indians. Many of the Revolutionary War officers and men had experience in that war. I do not know details of the colonial units that actually took part in the French and Indian War, however.

Mostly the members of the militia provided their own arms and equipment but evidently the colonial governments provided some as well, even though the arms were considered government property. It was the attempt to confiscate these arms by the British that really started the shooting.

The militia was not a voluntary thing. Participation was required. It was organized. It was regulated. There is no way round that. I can't imagine they were thinking of street crime when they wrote that, although if you've ever been to Philadelphia and the neighborhood where it (the Constitution) was written, you could be forgiven for thinking otherwise. One thing I do no know is where the militia district stopped. That is, there were people living in isolated rural districts that probably could not have managed a militia. There wasn't a quorum, if you follow me. As it was, in a few places I am aware of, there were actually colonial troops, later state troops, stationed on what we think of as the frontier, which at the time was roughly 300 miles from the ocean or a little further. In the next twenty years or so it had reached the Mississippi. These state troops along the frontier were sometimes known as rangers but there were never many of them. The Indians were a source of trouble along the frontier until they were defeated by Wayne.

I believe that the people who wrote the second admendment were more concerned with actually having a militia and that it was under the control of the government than with citizens carrying hideout pistols. The last thing they wanted was private armies. They didn't care much for standing armies either and the Continental Army was effectively disbanded. The existance of the militia was a given and the fact that the officers would have been the local gentry was probably assumed, though none of that was mentioned in the admendment.

I also believe the view of the citizenry towards the militia, it not being voluntary, began changing almost right away. By the time the frontier was beyond the Mississippi, you read very little about militias. The army was doing everything by then and curiously, the army was voluntary. There was a movement in the 1850s with state military units but I'm not sure if that would be called the militia.

Other places around the world that we sometimes like to point to when discussing this subject, like the Boers in Africa and the Swiss (in Switzerland), unfortunately also end up being the same story. They aren't (or weren't) voluntary and they used government issued arms, if nothing else. And the worst thing is, no matter how you define it, I'm too old to qualify.
__________________
Shoot low, sheriff. They're riding Shetlands!
Underneath the starry flag, civilize 'em with a Krag,
and return us to our own beloved homes!
Buy War Bonds.
BlueTrain is offline  
Old April 28, 2009, 07:28 AM   #7
wjkuleck
Senior Member
 
Join Date: March 13, 2007
Location: Ohio, USA
Posts: 1,220
"Well regulated" in the 18th Century meant that the militiaman was to have a weapon suitable for military use, the accompanying accouterments, and clothing and gear of a suitable nature.

"Well regulated" meant that every citizen should have the current military weapon on hand, and to be proficient in its use. The Swiss have had a "well regulated" militia, with a military rifle in each militiaman's closet at home (this may have changed/be changing, but the example is still valid).

"Well regulated" had little or nothing to do with the 21st or even 20th century definition of "regulation."

Regards,

Walt
__________________
Author, NEW! The M1911 Complete Owner's Guide
The M14
and M1 Garand Complete Assembly Guides
The M1 Garand Complete Assembly Guide
The AR-15 Complete Assembly
and (New 4th Edition) Owner's Guides
wjkuleck is offline  
Old April 28, 2009, 07:29 AM   #8
alloy
Senior Member
 
Join Date: September 11, 2008
Posts: 1,931
If i was giving an uneducated layman's detailed analyzation, i read it like this:

Quote:
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.
An actual official militia, might be required one day for defense from XYZ, so folks have the right to keep arms, don't fool with it.

I try not to read too much into things, i don't think they were speaking pig-latin. I have alternative readings depending on the commas, definition of state and phrase placement swaps, but all of them still hinge on that last shall not be infringed bit.
__________________
Quote:
The uncomfortable question common to all who have had revolutionary changes imposed on them: are we now to accept what was done to us just because it was done?
Angelo Codevilla

Last edited by alloy; April 28, 2009 at 07:53 AM. Reason: incorrect smilie choice
alloy is offline  
Old April 28, 2009, 08:58 AM   #9
Al Norris
Staff
 
Join Date: June 29, 2000
Location: Rupert, Idaho
Posts: 9,323
It's rather amazing, to me at least, how many times we have to explain this. It's not a slam on any individual, more it's a slam on our educational system, that the founding documents of this nation are so well hidden from (students) view. sigh.

Back in the 18th century and for much of the 19th century, the English Language was bereft of standardized punctuation (as we know it today). It was more of an individualized stylistic device. Therefore, to try to use punctuation as a means to understanding the words, is at best a faulty premise to begin with. At worst, it's plain futile.

[i]"A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state,"[i] is a prefatory clause and of and by itself, an incomplete statement. A sentence fragment, as it cannot stand alone, without adding some wording to complete the thought.

"The right of the people to keep and bears arms, shall not be infringed," is however, a complete thought and stands alone as a complete sentence.

The nature of crafting a prefatory clause to such a statement, merely provides one reasoning (justification) behind the function of the statement. Is it the most important reason for the operative clause? That's a debatable point.

Law Professor Eugene Volokh, has written an excellent paper on the subject of prefatory clauses, their uses in Colonial law and legal writings. You can read it here.

The operative clause, on the other hand, emcompasses the actual right, and was written to prohibit the national government. The legal debate will, in time, detail the scope of this right, as it is applied to its citizens and what prohibitions it contains to the government.

What is not debatable, at this point in time, is that the Supreme Court has decoupled the prefatory clause from the operative clause.
__________________
National listings of the Current 2A Cases.
Al Norris is offline  
Old April 28, 2009, 09:02 AM   #10
BlueTrain
Senior Member
 
Join Date: September 26, 2005
Location: Northern Virginia
Posts: 5,825
So what some of you folks think it means is that the 2nd admendment gives you the right to carry a concealed weapon with no government regulation. Right? Or am I misreading some of the comments here. Maybe the commas are in the wrong place or something.
__________________
Shoot low, sheriff. They're riding Shetlands!
Underneath the starry flag, civilize 'em with a Krag,
and return us to our own beloved homes!
Buy War Bonds.
BlueTrain is offline  
Old April 28, 2009, 09:27 AM   #11
vranasaurus
Senior Member
 
Join Date: November 16, 2008
Posts: 1,175
Quote:
So what some of you folks think it means is that the 2nd admendment gives you the right to carry a concealed weapon with no government regulation. Right? Or am I misreading some of the comments here. Maybe the commas are in the wrong place or something.
No right is absolute. What regulation of individual rights is permissible is not dependant ont he prefatory clause. The first amendment has no such clause but it is certainly not absolute.

The point being made above is that "well regulated" in the second amendment has nothing to do with allowing gun control.

Absent the prefatory clause some gun control would still likely be allowed. I can almost assure you that "well regulated" will not be cited as the reason for allowing it. The arguments and reasons used to regulate the first amendment will probably be used in some fashion to allow regulation of the second.
vranasaurus is offline  
Old April 28, 2009, 09:40 AM   #12
ZeSpectre
Senior Member
 
Join Date: June 4, 2007
Location: Shenandoah Valley
Posts: 3,276
in the parlance of the day, 'well regulated' meant "properly equipped and trained".

Quote:
So what some of you folks think it means is that the 2nd admendment gives you the right to carry a concealed weapon with no government regulation.
Well, think about this. If the ultimate purpose of the 2'nd Amendment was to act as a "check and balance" on the Government, does it make any sense that said Government has the power to regulate that "check and balance"?

or, as I saw quoted once someplace...

Quote:
The citizens of the United States are a free people who might need to be armed in order to defend the Nation. Disarming the people is, therefore, not allowed.

Last edited by ZeSpectre; April 28, 2009 at 09:46 AM.
ZeSpectre is offline  
Old April 28, 2009, 09:41 AM   #13
sundog
Senior Member
 
Join Date: November 22, 1999
Location: Green Country, OK
Posts: 730
Read the amicus briefs for Heller. For that matter, read the decision also. Good lesson in American history.
__________________
safety first
sundog is offline  
Old April 28, 2009, 09:59 AM   #14
azredhawk44
Junior member
 
Join Date: September 28, 2005
Location: Mesa, AZ
Posts: 6,465
Here's the text:

Quote:
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.
Here's the interpretation of HCI, VPC, Brady and friends:

Quote:
A well regulated State shall not be infringed.
They seem to forget quite a few words when reading it.

Just another voice in the dark (with dawn on the horizon), shouting out that "regulated" means well practiced and equipped, "people" means people like everywhere else in the Constitution, and Militia has the same connotation as the Minutemen, Training Bands, and Alarm Lists that were familiar to the Colonials of the day.

"Militia" membership or lack thereof does not preclude the "people" from keeping and bearing arms, or seeking regulation (traditional interpretation, not modern) of their arms.
azredhawk44 is offline  
Old April 28, 2009, 10:04 AM   #15
Brian Pfleuger
Staff
 
Join Date: June 25, 2008
Location: Central, Southern NY, USA
Posts: 18,791
Quote:
So what some of you folks think it means is that the 2nd admendment gives you the right to carry a concealed weapon with no government regulation.
There's more to the 2A than concealed weapons. The anti's want to eventually ban all firearms of all kinds.

So far as "no government interference", just like the first amendment is regulated to make for reasonable safety for the people, so must be the second. In the case of The First, it might mean no shouting "Fire!" in a crowded theatre. In the Second, it might mean restrictions on RPGs and similar weapons. On the opposite end, banning items like "handguns" or "assault rifles" is the equivalent of prohibiting free exercise of religion or shutting down newspapers that oppose government policy.

In short, there are limits... on both ends.
__________________
Still happily answering to the call-sign Peetza.
---
The problem, as you so eloquently put it, is choice.
-The Architect
-----
He is no fool who gives what he can not keep to gain what he can not lose.
-Jim Eliott, paraphrasing Philip Henry.
Brian Pfleuger is offline  
Old April 28, 2009, 10:11 AM   #16
ZeSpectre
Senior Member
 
Join Date: June 4, 2007
Location: Shenandoah Valley
Posts: 3,276
Quote:
In the case of The First, it might mean no shouting "Fire!" in a crowded theater.
I'm always puzzled by this example since it isn't actually illegal to shout "FIRE" in a crowded theater (especially if there IS a fire).
ZeSpectre is offline  
Old April 28, 2009, 10:16 AM   #17
Brian Pfleuger
Staff
 
Join Date: June 25, 2008
Location: Central, Southern NY, USA
Posts: 18,791
I'm just using it as an example. It would be illegal if there was not a fire and you create a panic/riot. It just shows that the right to speak freely is not absolute. We could just as easily use the example of religious ceremonies which use illicit drugs as being illegal, generally. Another good example is that you can not make threats against the President, which is also "technically" a free speech violation.
__________________
Still happily answering to the call-sign Peetza.
---
The problem, as you so eloquently put it, is choice.
-The Architect
-----
He is no fool who gives what he can not keep to gain what he can not lose.
-Jim Eliott, paraphrasing Philip Henry.
Brian Pfleuger is offline  
Old April 28, 2009, 10:36 AM   #18
ZeSpectre
Senior Member
 
Join Date: June 4, 2007
Location: Shenandoah Valley
Posts: 3,276
EDIT - Realized I was about to hijack this thread.
ZeSpectre is offline  
Old April 28, 2009, 10:42 AM   #19
jfrey123
Senior Member
 
Join Date: July 7, 2006
Location: Reno, NV.
Posts: 1,026
I am not an expert, but I did stay at a Holiday Inn once....

Short answer: No standing army back in those days. Army was a group of citizens coming together to form a militia, and they all needed to bring their own guns, hence why the need for armed citizens.




Long answer: British had tried to disarm the colonist prior to the revolution. After we won the war, the new Federal Government wanted states to sign the contract to be under the new United States of America. The States wanted to retain the right for the citizens to bear arms, because we never had a standing army before. The "army" back then was a General going from farm to farm, saying "I need Militia Men" and the men would grab arms and come fight as needed.
__________________
Rock out with your Glock out!
jfrey123 is offline  
Old April 28, 2009, 10:42 AM   #20
maestro pistolero
Senior Member
 
Join Date: August 16, 2007
Posts: 2,092
Quote:
What is not debatable, at this point in time, is that the Supreme Court has decoupled the prefatory clause from the operative clause.
Do you mean to say that the operative clause may stand on it's own, or that the prefatory clause is no longer valid, or both?
maestro pistolero is offline  
Old April 28, 2009, 10:44 AM   #21
maestro pistolero
Senior Member
 
Join Date: August 16, 2007
Posts: 2,092
Quote:
So what some of you folks think it means is that the 2nd admendment gives you the right to carry a concealed weapon with no government regulation.
If you mean like in Vermont or Alaska, then yes.
maestro pistolero is offline  
Old April 28, 2009, 10:55 AM   #22
BlueTrain
Senior Member
 
Join Date: September 26, 2005
Location: Northern Virginia
Posts: 5,825
George Mason, gentleman planter and neighbor to George Washington, had a hand in drafting some of the ideas that were covered in the bill of rights. I take particular delight in pointing that out because my wife is a direct decendant of George Mason (which I have no doubt mentioned here before many times), she being the great-granddaughter of his great-grandson. One of Mason's granddaughters married General Samuel Cooper, CSA, and another married Robert E. Lee's brother and was the mother of Fitzhugh Lee. This, after all, is Virginia, where we worship ancestors. Most of that has absolutely no bearing on the issue at hand but I enjoy teasing my wife over George Mason's role in the bill of rights.

Mason had more than a little to say on the subject of the right to bear arms, unfortuately most of which was not voted on by any legislative body. But it is still interesting reading. In any event, I suspect that they would have all found our present twisting of words, commas, and meanings to be amusing.
__________________
Shoot low, sheriff. They're riding Shetlands!
Underneath the starry flag, civilize 'em with a Krag,
and return us to our own beloved homes!
Buy War Bonds.
BlueTrain is offline  
Old April 28, 2009, 11:28 AM   #23
honkylips
Senior Member
 
Join Date: December 16, 2007
Location: Arvada, Co
Posts: 124
So what about the argument "since we don't use, need, or employ a militia anymore, how does the 2nd A apply to the Joe Citizen?

Again, don't misread my intentions, as I am all for the RKBA, I just always wondered about this and have never heard the appropriate answer.

Thanks for all the replies. Very interesting/informative reading.
honkylips is offline  
Old April 28, 2009, 11:31 AM   #24
Brian Pfleuger
Staff
 
Join Date: June 25, 2008
Location: Central, Southern NY, USA
Posts: 18,791
Quote:
So what about the argument "since we don't use, need, or employ a militia anymore, how does the 2nd A apply to the Joe Citizen?
Because, as stated above, the "Militia" is only an example, one reason among many, it is not the singular, defining purpose for the amendment. If it were then I suppose it would make a lot more sense to have it written as:

"So long as there is a well-regulated militia,..."
__________________
Still happily answering to the call-sign Peetza.
---
The problem, as you so eloquently put it, is choice.
-The Architect
-----
He is no fool who gives what he can not keep to gain what he can not lose.
-Jim Eliott, paraphrasing Philip Henry.
Brian Pfleuger is offline  
Old April 28, 2009, 11:32 AM   #25
azredhawk44
Junior member
 
Join Date: September 28, 2005
Location: Mesa, AZ
Posts: 6,465
Quote:
since we don't use, need, or employ a militia anymore, how does the 2nd A apply to the Joe Citizen?
Joe Citizen has an inherent right to lobby his community and raise a militia or posse in support of law or in defiance of tyranny.

Just because he is not currently a member of a Militia does not mean he cannot come to join a Militia. He needs to be well practiced (regulated) so that he can be of use to that militia.

And... Joe is a member of the "unorganized Militia" mentioned in US Code.
azredhawk44 is offline  
Closed Thread

Thread Tools

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off

Forum Jump


All times are GMT -5. The time now is 11:08 AM.


Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.7
Copyright ©2000 - 2014, vBulletin Solutions, Inc.
This site and contents, including all posts, Copyright © 1998-2014 S.W.A.T. Magazine
Copyright Complaints: Please direct DMCA Takedown Notices to the registered agent: thefiringline.com
Contact Us
Page generated in 0.14240 seconds with 7 queries