(I have provided some related sources at the end of this blog for your reading enjoyment.)
There were three basic purposes behind the Second Amendment: 1) Protection of the State against outside aggression; 2) Protection against internal aggression; and 3) Protection of the individual against immediate threats to life.
1) Protection against outside aggression:
This is the least disputed purpose of the militia, which many view as unnecessary with the presence of the National Guard and professional military forces.
It may be noted that this purpose was also as a defense against potential (and eventual) aggression from the US government itself and from other states that were part of that union (e.g., the Civil War).
2) Protection against internal aggression:
This, again, reflects two main parts. First, protection against rebellion and violations of the law. Second, protection against governmental encroachments on freedom.
Many will claim that the first is addressed by law enforcement and, as needed, the National Guard. The second part requires arms in the control of citizens, rather than government only. Those who argue that the US government would never turn on its own people (that we are somehow too advanced, civilized, or moral for such an action) is neither a student of human behavior nor of world events (past or current). Granted, such an attempt would require a number of changes in our military and law enforcement (as most that I have known in either profession would not support broad actions against their own people, including confiscation of firearms), but such changes can and may happen with little public outcry until it is too late.
3) Protection of the individual against immediate threats to life:
It is argued that this purpose is also antiquated in view of the protection afforded by modern law enforcement. In addition, some reason that a strict ban on firearms would largely reduce that risk.
As for the latter, our right to defend our own life does not change, whether the aggressor uses a gun, a knife, a club, or whatever else may be used to threaten our life. Nor should we be required to meet an aggressor with less than the means necessary to adequately defend ourselves.
The idea that law enforcement, even with all the assistance of modern technology, can stop someone from being killed (chance and divine intervention aside) is entirely laughable. If technology some day reaches the point that no crime will go unsolved, it still cannot restore life to those who are dead. The law cannot rightfully bar a person from protecting what it is unable to restore upon appeal.
What remains are the two primary reasons that the right to bear arms is as relevant today as ever: 1) For the protection of ourselves against immediate threat; and 2) For protection against tyranny on the part of our government.
In view if these facts, the government does not have the ability to deny to individuals the right to bear arms, because, in doing so, it may be denying the right to life.
If people have the right to bear arms, how far does this go?
I do not believe that individuals have a right to weapons of mass destruction for many reasons. Since I don’t expect that many will disagree, I’ll move on.
Although personal defense does not require more than semi-automatic weapons (rifles, shotguns, handguns), fully-automatic weapons, I believe, are the upper limit that is necessary to meet the requirements of defense against a tyrannical government. The first consideration that brought me to this decision is that, if we were still under the Militia Act in the United States, then most males, ages 18-45, would be required to purchase and keep a rifle that fits service guidelines in our homes. Today, that would be an assault rifle of 5.56mm (such as the M4), or a machine gun of 7.62mm (such as the M60). Before moving to change current laws to support private ownership of such weapons, without ATF registration, I would like to see a reinstatement of the Militia Act, which would provide for training and accountability in the defense of the Constitution. Until that time, I believe semi-automatic assault rifles are most appropriate without regulation from the government.
I do not believe that RPGs, grenades/grenade launchers, etc., are necessary for individual ownership to protect against government tyranny or foreign invasion. The reason for this is that units armed with other firearms would be able to acquire such weapons, if necessary, from opposing military forces through attacks on supply depots and convoys.
The right to bear arms is not simply supported by the paranoid. Like most who seek to protect this right, I hope that I never need to protect myself or others from such threats as I listed above. I also doubt that the United States will reach a point that I will need to defend myself against its government. I pray this never happens. I also pray we are not faced with foreign invasion (which I find more likely than a US despot). However, giving up these rights does not only affect my ability to protect myself and my family, it would affect the generations that follow, who would be easy prey to the wolves.
U.S. Constitution, Second Amendment:
“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.”
U.S. Constitution, Article I, Section 8 (excerpts):
“The Congress shall have Power To lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises, to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States; but all Duties, Imposts and Excises shall be uniform throughout the United States;
“To provide for the calling forth the Militia to execute the Laws of the Union, suppress insurrections and repel invasions;
“To provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining, the Militia, and for governing such Part of them as may be employed in the Service of the United States, reserving to the States respectively, the Appointment of the Officers, and the Authority of training the Militia according to the discipline prescribed by Congress; …”
U.S. Constitution, Article II, Section 2 (excerpts):
“The President shall be Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States, and of the Militia of the several States, when called into the actual Service of the United States; …”
The Militia Act of 1792, passed May 8, 1792, Article I:
“I. Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America, in Congress assembled, That each and every free able-bodied white male citizen of the respective States, resident therein, who is or shall be of age of eighteen years, and under the age of forty-five years (except as is herein after excepted) shall severally and respectively be enrolled in the militia, by the Captain or Commanding Officer of the company, within whose bounds such citizen shall reside, and that within twelve months after the passing of this Act. And it shall at all time hereafter be the duty of every such Captain or Commanding Officer of a company, to enroll every such citizen as aforesaid, and also those who shall, from time to time, arrive at the age of 18 years, or being at the age of 18 years, and under the age of 45 years (except as before excepted) shall come to reside within his bounds; and shall without delay notify such citizen of the said enrollment, by the proper non-commissioned Officer of the company, by whom such notice may be proved. That every citizen, so enrolled and notified, shall, within six months thereafter, 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, each cartridge to contain a proper quantity of powder and ball; or with a good rifle, knapsack, shot-pouch, and powder-horn, twenty balls suited to the bore of his rifle, and a quarter of a pound of powder; and shall appear so armed accoutred and provided, when called out to exercise or into service, except, that when called out on company days to exercise only, he may appear without a knapsack. That the commissioned Officers shall severally be armed with a sword or hanger, and espontoon; and that from and after five years from the passing of this Act, all muskets from arming the militia as is herein required, shall be of bores sufficient for balls of the eighteenth part of a pound; and every citizen so enrolled, and providing himself with the arms, ammunition and accoutrements, required as aforesaid, shall hold the same exempted from all suits, distresses, executions or sales, for debt or for the payment of taxes.”
John Locke’s Treatise of Civil Government, Chapter XVIII: Of Tyranny, Section 207 (excerpt):
“…[F]or where the injured party may be relieved, and his damages repaired by appeal to the law, there can be no pretence for force, which is only to be used where a man is intercepted from appealing to the law: for nothing is to be accounted hostile force, but where it leaves not the remedy of such an appeal; and it is such force alone, that puts him that uses it into a state of war, and makes it lawful to resist him. A man with a sword in his hand demands my purse on the highway, when perhaps I have not twelve pence in my pocket: this man I may lawfully kill. To another I deliver 100£ to hold only whilst I alight, which he refuses to restore me, when I am got up again, but draws his sword to defend the possession of it by force, if I endeavor to retake it. The mischief this man does me is a hundred, or possibly a thousand times more than the other perhaps intended me (whom I killed before he really did me any;) and yet I might lawfully kill the one, and cannot so much as hurt the other lawfully. The reason whereof is plain; because the one using force, which threatened my life, I could not have time to appeal to the law to secure it: and when it was gone, it was too late to appeal. The law could not restore life to my dead carcass: the loss was irreparable; which to prevent, the law of nature gave me a right to destroy him, who had put himself into a state of war with me, and threatened my destruction. But in the other case, my life not being in danger, I may have the benefit of appealing to the law, and have reparation for my 100£ that way.”