the shortest sentence in the U.S. Constitution reads: “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 phrase “well-regulated” was in common use long before 1789, and remained so for a century thereafter. It referred to the property of something being in proper working order. Something that was well-regulated was calibrated correctly, functioning as expected. Establishing government oversight of the people’s arms was not only not the intent in using the phrase in the 2nd amendment, it was precisely to render the government powerless to do so that the founders wrote it.
James Madison’s original proposal even included a conscientious objector clause: “No person religiously scrupulous of bearing arms shall be compelled to render military service in person.”
For a people who are free, and who mean to remain so, a well organized and armed militia is their best security. ~ Thomas Jefferson
The majority falls prey to the delusion, popular in some circles, that ordinary people are too careless and stupid to own guns, and we would be far better off leaving all weapons in the hands of professionals on the government payroll. But the simple truth, born of experience, is that tyranny thrives best where government need not fear the wrath of an armed people… ~ Alex Kozinski
No freedman, Negro, or Mulatto shall carry or keep firearms or ammunition. ~ Mississippi Black Code of 1865
A June 2018 report from the Small Arms Survey estimates that American civilians own 393 million guns, both legally and otherwise, out of a worldwide (civilian) total of 857 million firearms. That’s up from 270 million civilian-owned guns domestically, and 650 million globally, in 2007, the last time the Swiss organization released an estimate.
In the American gun world, estimates are even higher. Some ideologically-motivated firearm advocates assert that American civilians own as many as 600 million guns.
American civilians own nearly 100 times as many firearms as the U.S. military and nearly 400 times as many as law enforcement.
Federal Bureau of Investigation background check records suggest that civilians bought more than 2 million guns in May 2018 alone, which means civilians purchase more than double the number of firearms owned by police departments. The number of gun-related civilian background checks in May and April, at over 4.7 million, is greater than the number of firearms currently owned by the American military.
The FBI reported processing more than 25.2 million gun-related civilian background checks in 2017, which is more than the 22.7 million guns the Small Arms Survey estimates are currently held by every law enforcement agency in the world combined. Between 2012 and 2017, the FBI reported conducting more than 135 million civilian gun checks—more than the 133 million guns the Small Arms Survey estimates are in all the world’s military stockpiles.
The Small Arms Survey estimated there are about 1 billion firearms currently in circulation throughout the world. By its estimate, about 85 percent are owned by civilians and American civilians own nearly 40 percent of all the guns in the world. Researchers said worldwide firearms ownership was up since the last time they studied the issue about a decade ago.
There are roughly a billion guns in the world, according to the latest data compiled by weaponry watchdogs the Small Arms Survey. Of these, a stunning 857 million are owned by private citizens, with only 133 million in the hands of authorized military forces and just 23 million used by law enforcement. This lop-sided ratio is getting more extreme, too—led by increases in U.S. purchases—with individuals possessing 650 million of the world’s firearms just ten years ago. These numbers include all firearms, of any type. In addition, only about 12% of these weapons are registered—that’s about 100 million out of the billion
The four countries with the most civilian guns are the U.S., India, China, and Pakistan.
If you examined the U.S., almost all of its estimated 393 million guns are unregistered. the number of guns per 100 people: 120.48. there are more guns in the U.S. than people.
National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF), a gun-manufacturers group. Its data say 13% of all new gun purchases in the U.S. are semi-automatic rifles as of 2012, the date of the latest relevant statistics. The NSSF says that 42.3% of active gun owners in America own at least one AR-15/M-16-type semi-automatic assault weapon
The U.S. military has 4.4 million weapons, compared to the American public possessing 393 million. U.S. police officers are even more overwhelmed by the American public’s arsenal, with about a million guns
Founders understood the right to bear arms as neither an individual nor a collective right, but as a civic
right–an obligation citizens owed to the state to arm themselves so that they could participate in a well regulated militia. The modern “collective right” view of the Second Amendment, the one federal courts have accepted for over a hundred years, owes more to the Anti-Federalists than the Founders. Likewise, the modern “individual right” view emerged only in the nineteenth century. The modern debate has its roots in the nineteenth century, during America’s first and now largely forgotten gun violence crisis, when the earliest gun control laws were passed and the first cases on the right to bear arms came before the courts. Equally important, the gun control battle took on a new urgency during Reconstruction, when Republicans and Democrats clashed over the meaning of the right to bear arms and its connection to the Fourteenth Amendment. When the Democrats defeated the Republicans, it elevated the “collective rights” theory to preeminence and set the terms for constitutional debate over this issue for the next century.
A Well Regulated Militia
Jefferson explained that among the sources of the declaration were “the elementary books of public right,” such as the works of Cicero, Locke, and Sidney. Those theorists had agreed that government without consent is the same as robbery; in both cases, forcible self-defense was legitimate.
Besides the advantage of being armed, which the Americans possess over the people of almost every other nation,” Madison wrote, “the existence of subordinate governments, to which the people are attached, and by which the militia officers are appointed, forms a barrier against the enterprises of ambition, more insurmountable than any which a simple government of any form can admit of.
The Constitution specifically empowers Congress “to provide for calling forth the Militia to execute the Laws of the Union, suppress insurrections and repel invasions.”
As stated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted by the United Nations in 1948, “It is essential, if man is not to be compelled to have recourse, as a last resort, to rebellion against tyranny and oppression, that human rights should be protected by the rule of law.”
Justice Antonin Scalia: “when the able-bodied men of a nation are trained in arms and organized, they are better able to resist tyranny.”
In the mid-1960s, the Ku Klux Klan was so powerful in southwestern Mississippi and southeastern Louisiana that they called the region “Klan nation.” The Klan’s organized terrorism had the tacit acquiescence of local law enforcement.
Today’s world is different from 1791. The genocides of the last century show that a criminal government is even more dangerous than the founders thought. The US military — along with the federal government — has grown more powerful than the founders could have imagined. Yet global military history since 1791 repeatedly demonstrates that mighty armies can be defeated by citizens fighting for the consent of the governed. One thing hasn’t changed since the days of the Roman lawyer Cicero: Free republics are sometimes taken over by tyrannical demagogues.
Perhaps, as Madison predicted, all the other checks and balances will always prevent tyranny. But should tyranny ever triumph, the US Constitution provides a mechanism to restore constitutional order. In the vision of Madison, it would be states leading their militias, the militias consisting of the able-bodied male population.
A study conducted by Rasmussen Reports found that a whopping 65 percent of Americans believe that the intention behind the Second Amendment was to protect Americans from the tyranny of government — a statistic that even holds true among those who don’t own guns and Democrats alike.
Only 17 percent doubted that freedom from tyranny was the purpose behind the Second Amendment, while 18 percent of people said they just didn’t know.
Not only do the majority of Americans believe the Second Amendment protects Americans from tyranny, but 74 percent agreed the average American has the right to own a gun compared to just 17 percent who don’t.
The term “militia” derives from Old English milite meaning soldiers (plural), militisc meaning military and also classical Latin milit-, miles meaning soldier.
The Modern English term militia dates to the year 1590, with the original meaning now obsolete: “the body of soldiers in the service of a sovereign or a state”. Subsequently, since approximately 1665, militia has taken the meaning “a military force raised from the civilian population of a country or region, especially to supplement a regular army in an emergency, frequently as distinguished from mercenaries or professional soldiers”.
The spelling of millitia is often observed in written and printed materials from the 17th century through the 19th century.
The beginning of the United States military lies in local governments which created militias that enrolled nearly all free white men. The British Army and Royal Navy handled international wars. The militia was not employed as a fighting force in major operations outside the local jurisdiction. Instead, the colony asked for (and paid) volunteers (e.g., Rangers), many of whom were also militia members. The local Indian threat ended by 1725 in most places, after which the militia system was little used except for local ceremonial roles.
The militia system was revived at the end of the colonial era, as the American Revolution approached; weapons were accumulated and intensive training began. The militia played a major fighting role in the Revolution, especially in expelling the British from Boston in 1776 and capturing the invading British Army at Saratoga in 1777.
Irregular military is any non-standard military component that is distinct from a country’s national armed forces. Being defined by exclusion, there is significant variance in what comes under the term. It can refer to the type of military organization, or to the type of tactics used. An irregular military organization is one which is not part of the regular army organization. Without standard military unit organization, various more general names are often used; such organizations may be called a “troop”, “group”, “unit”, “column”, “band”, or “force”. Irregulars are soldiers or warriors that are members of these organizations, or are members of special military units that employ irregular military tactics. This also applies to irregular troops, irregular infantry and irregular cavalry.
McDonald v. Chicago, 561 U.S. 742 (2010), is a landmark decision of the Supreme Court of the United States that found that the right of an individual to “keep and bear arms,” as protected under the Second Amendment, is incorporated by the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment against the states. The decision cleared up the uncertainty left in the wake of District of Columbia v. Heller as to the scope of gun rights in regard to the states.
District of Columbia v. Heller, 554 U.S. 570 (2008), is a landmark case in which the Supreme Court of the United States held that the Second Amendment protects an individual’s right to possess a firearm, unconnected with service in a militia, for traditionally lawful purposes, such as self-defense within the home, and that District of Columbia handgun ban and requirement that lawfully-owned rifles and shotguns be kept “unloaded and disassembled or bound by a trigger lock” violated this guarantee. It also stated that the right to bear arms is not unlimited and that guns and gun ownership would continue to be regulated.
On June 26, 2008, the Supreme Court affirmed by a vote of 5 to 4 the Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit in Heller v. District of Columbia. The Supreme Court struck down provisions of the Firearms Control Regulations Act of 1975 as unconstitutional, determined that handguns are “arms” for the purposes of the Second Amendment, found that the Regulations Act was an unconstitutional ban, and struck down the portion of the Regulations Act that requires all firearms including rifles and shotguns be kept “unloaded and disassembled or bound by a trigger lock”. Prior to this decision the Firearms Control Regulation Act of 1975 also restricted residents from owning handguns except for those registered prior to 1975.
The Firearms Control Regulations Act of 1975 was passed by the District of Columbia city council on September 24, 1976. The law banned residents from owning handguns, automatic firearms, or high-capacity semi-automatic firearms, as well as prohibited possession of unregistered firearms. Exceptions to the ban were allowed for police officers and guns registered before 1976. The law also required firearms kept in the home to be “unloaded, disassembled, or bound by a trigger lock or similar device”; this was deemed to be a prohibition on the use of firearms for self-defense in the home.
The National Defense Act of 1920 (or Kahn Act) was sponsored by United States Representative Julius Kahn, Republican of California. This legislation updated the National Defense Act of 1916 to reorganize the United States Army and decentralize the procurement and acquisitions process for equipment, weapons, supplies and vehicles. It was passed by Congress on June 4, 1920.
The National Defense Act of 1916, Pub.L. 64–85, 39 Stat. 166, enacted June 3, 1916, was a federal law that updated the Militia Act of 1903, which related to the organization of the military, particularly the National Guard. The 1916 act included an expansion of the Army and the National Guard, the creation of an Officers’ and an Enlisted Reserve Corps, and the creation of a Reserve Officers’ Training Corps. The President was also given expanded authority to federalize the National Guard, with changes to the duration and the circumstances under which he could call it up. The Army began the creation of an Aviation arm, and the federal government took steps to ensure the immediate availability of wartime weapons and equipment by contracting in advance for production of gunpowder and other material.
The militia is voluntary, it always has been. It is defined as a military force that is raised from the civil population to supplement a regular army in an emergency.
The militia of the United States, as defined by the U.S. Congress, has changed over time.
During colonial America, all able-bodied men of certain ages were members of the militia. Individual towns formed local independent militias for their own defense. The year before the US Constitution was ratified, The Federalist Papers detailed the founders’ vision of the militia. The new Constitution empowered Congress to “organize, arm, and discipline” this national military force, leaving significant control in the hands of each state government.
Today, as defined by the Militia Act of 1903, the term “militia” is primarily used to describe two groups within the United States:
- Organized militia – consisting of State militia forces; notably, the National Guard and Naval Militia. (Note: the National Guard is not to be confused with the National Guard of the United States.)
- Unorganized militia – composing the Reserve Militia: every able-bodied man of at least 17 and under 45 years of age, not a member of the National Guard or Naval Militia.
There is a third militia that is widely unknown to most. This militia is called a state defense force. They are authorized by state and federal laws.
The Militia Act of 1903 (32 Stat. 775), also known as “The Efficiency in Militia Act of 1903”, also known as the Dick Act, was legislation enacted by the United States Congress which created an early National Guard and codified the circumstances under which the Guard could be federalized. It also provided federal funds to pay for equipment and training, including annual summer encampments. This new entity was to organize units of similar form and quality to those of the regular Army, with intents to meet the same training, education, and readiness requirements as active duty units.
The Militia Acts of 1792 were a pair of statutes enacted by the second United States Congress in 1792. The acts provided for the organization of the state militias and provided for the President of the United States to take command of the state militias in times of imminent invasion or insurrection. This authority was used to suppress the Whiskey Rebellion in 1794.