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the second amendment militia

Why Do We Need A Well Regulated Militia?

"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 Second Amendment of the Constitution, ratified on December 15, 1791.

Gun grabbers pretend and would like everyone to believe that the Second Amendment doesn't exist. The exception to this rule is whenever they think they can try and exploit the wording and use it to their own advantage. These anti-gunners commonly get hung up on the militia portion of the Second Amendment. They will argue until they are blue in the face that "a well regulated militia" refers exclusively to a government controlled armed force and thus excludes the average citizen. This is contrary to the beliefs of the Founding Fathers and subsequent Supreme Court decisions.

To find the actual meaning and intent, let's take a brief look at the origin of the Second Amendment.

The Start of The Second Amendment and A Well Regulated Militia

muskets vs rifles

Over 238 years ago, back when America was still considered a British colony, nearly all of the settlers on the frontier owned firearms. Typical families owned two muskets, one to take out hunting and another to be left at home for self-defense against hostile Natives. There were no phones and no police to call even if they had them; Colonists were responsible for their own safety.

When asked what started the Revolutionary War many Americans will say tea or taxes and point to The Boston Tea Party of 1773. While both taxes and tea substantially contributed to the growing resentment Colonists had toward the British they were not what pushed them over the edge. The “shot heard around the world” accrued on April 19, 1775. Under the orders of British General Thomas Gage 700 red coats were sent to Concord, Massachusetts to seize a stash of gun powder colonists were storing. Learning of the impending raid Militia Captain John Parker led 70 colonial men and cut them off in Lexington, Massachusetts. Shots were fired in the subsequent confrontation leaving 8 colonists dead. Being heavily outnumbered the colonists retreated back to Concord. With the help of reinforcements the colonists were able to take a stand at Concord’s North Bridge and repel the British advances.

Thus it was gun control in the form of confiscation that sparked the Revolution.

Bearing Arms in The Constitution

second amendment in the constitution

After the war when the Constitution was being written, anti-federalists such as George Mason and Patrick Henry had fears (and rightly so as we can see today) that a central government would become intrusive and overbearing. Several States delayed the initial ratification of the Constitution and demanded some form of a citizen’s Bill of Rights be added. To ease these fears Federalist proponent James Madison introduced several amendments to the Constitution which would limit the powers of the Federal government. These amendments would later become ratified and collectively known as The Bill of Rights. Despite popular belief, The Bill of Rights didn’t create any new rights but instead ingrained pre-existing natural rights that had long been recognized by society as a whole.

This brings us back to the topic of what constitutes a militia described in the Second Amendment. According to the Militia Acts of 1792 the Federal standard was “every free able-bodied […] male citizen of the respective States, […] who is or shall be of age of eighteen years, and under the age of forty-five years […] shall severally and respectively be enrolled in the militia.” Furthermore it required that the citizen “provide himself with a good musket or firelock, a sufficient bayonet and belt, two spare flints, and a knapsack, a pouch, with a box therein, to contain not less than twenty four cartridges, suited to the bore of his musket or firelock[…]”

While the Supreme Court has been quiet, it has not been completely silent on the issue. The most notable case is the District of Columbia V. Heller. In this case, the Court stated that “the adjective “well-regulated” implies nothing more than the imposition of proper discipline and training.” The Court also stated that “we find that they [the words “keep and bear”] guarantee the individual right to possess and carry weapons in case of confrontation. This meaning is strongly confirmed by the historical background of the Second Amendment. We look to this because it has always been widely understood that the Second Amendment, like the First and Fourth Amendments, codified a pre-existing right.”

So what exactly is a militia?

It is you, your friends, your family, your fellow citizens; you are the militia.

About The Author

Travis Box is currently a college student studying American history with a concentration on the Constitution, Revolutionary War, politics and legislation. As an active hunter for 5 years and a recreational marksman for over a decade, his writing brings with it years of real world experience from both the field and the range.