Everyone has heard of the Second Amendment, yet many people don’t know what exactly it means. Let’s dissect and define the components of the second amendment together.
In its entirety, it reads: “A well regulated militia, being necessary for the security of the free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.”
What did the founders mean by “well regulated”? What exactly is a militia?
In the two and a half centuries since these concepts were formulated by our forefathers, the English language has evolved somewhat as different words take on new cultural meanings.
Well regulated means “functioning as it should”. Imagine the air regulator on a diver’s SCUBA tank. The airflow is well regulated, not too much, not too little, providing the air that the diver needs to stay alive under water. “Regulation” in the modern context connotes rules, laws, and restrictions, but in essence those rules and laws are so that whatever is to be regulated can function as it should. A militia that is armed, trained, and ready is one that is “well regulated”.
What then is a Militia? The militia is not the military, even though our modern day concept of the National Guard does trace its lineage back to the American colonial militias. The difference is that a militia is a local, part time, and self equipped collection of normal every day citizens who are decentralized in their leadership, but can band together and take up arms in defense of the community, should the need arise. This is in stark contrast to the various components of our current military, who go through formal training, wear official uniforms, are issued taxpayer equipment, take orders from the executive branch of our government, and are on state payroll.
In contemporary understanding, the militia would have been comprised of white males typically between age 18 and 45. Today, post feminism and civil rights, the militia encompasses all able bodied men and women without regard to skin color.
We can finish defining the remainder of the Second Amendment at a later date, but today let’s look to history for why the militia is still important today as it was 250 years ago.
Importance and history of the militia
Our country is very different in its origins from otherwise comparable countries today. For example, Australia began as an expedition under British authority to use prisoners in establishing a colony for economic gain after Britain had lost the American war. In contrast, North america was pioneered by pilgrims from many countries seeking freedom from oppressive governments. From the get-go, Americans as a breed were independent do-it-yourself-ers who mistrusted centralized power, and sought to trade the stability of government oversight for the risks and rewards of the new world.
Militias from a very practical standpoint were the backbone of pioneer settlements. For centuries they defended the communities against Indian raids, bandits, and competing colonial powers. It is only natural that as Britain brought in soldiers to tame it’s rebellious colony on the wake of the Boston Tea Party, that militias shifted their attention to fighting a protracted war against our own tyrannical government.
While most colonists then still saw themselves as Englishmen, they were astute enough to recognize the pattern of tyranny, which begins with the confiscation of personal arms. As history has it, the colonist’s fears came to fruition on the morning of April 19th, 1775 when General Gage, then acting governor of the Province of Massachusetts Bay ordered redcoats (The Army) to sneak out of Boston harbor under the cover of darkness to seize and destroy militia weapons cached in the nearby countryside. This was a clear act of war, and the rest is history.
You might ask, how does this pertain to me today? If I may remind you while we live in a period of relative peace, Yemen is at civil war, Libya is at civil war, Iraq is at civil war, Venezuela is amid civil unrest, Ukraine just had a revolution, Russia took the Crimean Peninsula by military force, Thailand just had a crisis, and the list goes on. During all of the hubbub of the Trump vs Clinton election, did we ever have a military coup, assassination, or civil war? When was the last time you saw American government forces firing upon members of the public at a rally or protest? Which minority can you think of that is subject to genocide? When was the last time a highway patrolman pointed his weapon at you to demand a road side bride?
Our nation is stable to this day because of the balancing and moderating influence that an armed populace provides against the sway of political corruption. Power corrupts all men, but by maintaining a balance of power throughout the population, we have a government which is decentralized and in check. We as a nation are stable because of gun owners and their AR15’s, not in spite of them.