Why the Lack of a “Well-Regulated Militia” Doesn’t Undermine Individual Gun Rights

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I appreciate good faith efforts to repeal the Second Amendment. I don’t support them, of course, but I prefer honest debates to dishonest ones. In contrast, one of the most dishonest threads in the gun debate proposes that without a “well regulated militia”, there are no gun rights for individuals – that this right is only a collective one and can only be exercised by a militia, strictly defined, not “the people”, as the amendment specifies. This is both wrong and short-sighted for a number of reasons.

The Militia is the People

“I ask, sir, what is the militia? It is the whole people, except for a few public officials.” – George Mason, Virginia delegate to the Constitutional Convention

“The great object is, that every man be armed … Every one who is able may have a gun.” -Patrick Henry, governor of Virginia

“The right of the citizens to keep and bear arms has justly been considered, as the palladium of the liberties of the republic…” -Joseph Story, Supreme Court justice

“Whereas, to preserve liberty, it is essential that the whole body of the people always possess arms, and be taught alike, especially when young, how to use them…” -William Henry Lee, Virginia delegate to the Continental Congress

Under every common understanding of the term for 300+ years, the “militia” has meant every free citizen of the republic. Period. At various times in the darker days of our past, citizenship itself has been limited to certain subclasses of the people, but what constitutes the militia has never been in question.

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