Bob Owens

The saddest truth in politics is that people get the leaders they deserve

Some explicit history to explain why we must keep military-capable arms to ensure our essential liberty

Written By: Bob - Dec• 17•12

When British General Thomas Gage sent his men out on an ill-fated mission to confiscate the firearms of Colonials unhappy with British rule, he had no intention of triggering a war. It was his government’s belief that citizens should be disarmed so that they could not threaten what they viewed as a just government and a civil society. Gage “meant well” when he secreted a force of Royal Marines and British Regular infantry across the Charles River from Boston to Lechmere Point in longboats with the intention of raiding Lexington and Concord for powder, cannon, shot and other items of military utility.

Despite claims to the contrary, the primary arms of colonial militiamen in the mid-1770s were not rifles, but smooth-bore muskets technologically similar to those of their Redcoat adversaries. These could be fired rapidly for their day—four shots per minute—and Colonial militia were better trained; Redcoats did not even have an “aim” command in their manual of arms, but instead were ordered to “present” and “fire” and they often turned their heads to the side to do so.

After the Revolutionary War was over, the Constitution was ratified. Ten Amendments were added after a long, costly, and bloody war. These first Amendments were our Bill of Rights.

The Second Amendment came second only to the freedom to assemble and freedom of speech, and was written to explicitly guard all the hard-won rights purchased at a great cost of blood and treasure.

The Second Amendment was not written to protect firearms designed for the taking of game, nor for firearms designed for sport or individual personal defense, except that such a purpose proves to be militarily useful.

The explicit purpose that the Second Amendment was written, was so that civilians that comprised the militia and alarm list would be armed with military-capable arms to depose would-be tyrants.

In the late 1700s and early 1800s, that meant flintlock muskets, which evolved to percussion muskets, which evolved to breach-loading rifles. After the disastrous performance of American rifles at the end of the 19th century, clip-fed bolt action rifles became the new standard which served through World War I. After the Great War, these same rifles came home in the hands of doughboys, and the 1903 and 1917 rifles are still used to this day by American civilian shooters.

The Second World War was America’s introduction to the Widespread use of semi-automatic rifles through the M1 Garand, and they are still being used today (I saw a dozen Garands this past weekend).

The military adopted the lighter weight, shorter range, smaller and less powerful AR-15 near the beginning of the Vietnam War, renamed it the M-16 and have used variants of it in every war since. Like at every previous time in our nation’s history, the standard military rifle of the day became the standard civilian rifle (though the automatic fire capability of the M16 is greatly regulated, and the semi-automatic Ar-15 is far more common, with millions in civilian hands).

These AR-15 rifles, their Soviet designed AK-variant opposites, and their NATO-developed counterparts are all explicitly protected by the 2nd Amendment, not just by law, but by explicit intent.

Those who would argue that the Founders who wrote the Second Amendment couldn’t have foreseen the creation of self-loading rifles are arguing an invalid point. The Second Amendment wasn’t about preserving a specific military technology for citizen use, but the preservation of the right to own arms of military utility for all Americans.

As the AR and AK platforms are by far the dominant military rifle designs of the late 20th and early 21st centuries, there is no doubt whatsoever that the Founders intended these arms and comparable arms of military utility to be in civilian hands, in great quantities, and for Americans to be proficient in their usage to a military standard.

The Second Amendment is written so that American citizens would always be able protect themselves from tyrants and enemies, both foreign and domestic. It codifies the preexisting right to own arms to defend one’s essential liberties, and woe to any would-be tyrants who attempt to strip Americans of that right.

The proper response to that infringement in 1775 was the near annihilation of a detachment of the finest land army of it’s day, at the hands of American militiamen.

Any modern attempt at a similar usurpation of power in the name of an encroaching government would likely lead to a Second American Revolution, to restore the Constitution from a government that increasingly views it as something to be discarded.

Tread carefully.

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  1. Orion says:

    Sure looking like it’s time to get started.

    I wonder what the Founders would say about the militarization of our Police forces?

    I’m sure though that every small-town PD needs a tank.


  2. Phelps says:

    And a more modern example — there’s nothing more delicious than recollections of Nazis running away shrieking, “Juden Haben Waffen! Juden Haben Waffen!” in the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising.

  3. styrgwillidar says:

    The DC Court of Appeals decision in Heller, which was upheld by SCOTUS addressed technological progression and came up during orals before SCOTUS (it’s on page 53 of the decision):

    “The modern handgun—and for that matter the rifle and
    long-barreled shotgun—is undoubtedly quite improved over its colonial-era predecessor, but it is, after all, a lineal descendant of that founding-era weapon, and it passes Miller’s standards. Pistols certainly bear “some reasonable relationship to the preservation or efficiency of a well regulated militia.” They are also in “common use” today, and probably far more so than in 1789. Nevertheless, it has been suggested by some that only
    colonial-era firearms (e.g., single-shot pistols) are covered by the Second Amendment. But just as the First Amendment free speech clause covers modern communication devices unknown to the founding generation, e.g., radio and television, and the Fourth Amendment protects telephonic conversation from a “search,” the Second Amendment protects the possession of the modern-day equivalents of the colonial pistol. See, e.g., Kyllo
    v. United States, 533 U.S. 27, 31-41 (2001) (applying Fourth Amendment standards to thermal imaging search).”

    SCOTUS orals discussion Solicitor General Clement arguing in favor of DCs ban and storage requirements:

    GENERAL CLEMENT: Well, Justice Scalia, I think our principal concern based on the parts of the court of appeals opinion that seemed to adopt a very categorical rule were with respect to machine guns, because I do think that it is difficult — I don’t want to foreclose the possibility of the Government, Federal Government making the argument some day — but I think it is more than a little difficult to say that the one arm that’s not protected by the Second Amendment is that which is the standard issue armament for the National Guard, and that’s what the machine gun is.
    CHIEF JUSTICE ROBERTS: But this law didn’t involve a restriction on machine guns. It involved an absolute ban. It involved an absolute carry prohibition. Why would you think that the opinion striking down an absolute ban would also apply to a narrow one — narrower one directed solely to machine guns?
    GENERAL CLEMENT: I think, Mr. Chief Justice, why one might worry about that is one might read the language of page 53a of the opinion as reproduced in the petition appendix that says once it is an arm, then it is not open to the District to ban it. Now, it seems to me that the District is not strictly a complete ban because it exempts pre-1976 handguns. The Federal ban on machine guns is not, strictly speaking, a ban, because it exempts pre – pre-law machine guns, and there is something like 160,000 of those.
    JUSTICE SCALIA: But that passage doesn’t mean once it’s an arm in the dictionary definition of arms. Once it’s an arm in the specialized sense that the opinion referred to it, which is — which is the type of a weapon that was used in militia, and it is -it is nowadays commonly held.
    JUSTICE SCALIA: If you read it that way, I don’t see why you have a problem.

    GENERAL CLEMENT: Well, I — I hope that you read it that way. But I would also say that I think that whatever the definition that the lower court opinion employed, I do think it’s going to be difficult over time to sustain the notion — I mean, the Court of Appeals also talked about lineal descendants. And it does seem to me that, you know, just as this Court would apply the Fourth Amendment to something like heat imagery, I don’t see why this Court wouldn’t allow the Second Amendment to have the same kind of scope, and then I do think that reasonably machine guns come within the term “arms.”

  4. Al Reasin says:

    I wrote FNC this morning after their reporter equated the civilian AR-15 used in the shooting to a military M-16. Of course they did not explain that the AR-15 rifle was not an automatic firing weapon or that other .223 cal rifles like the Ruger Mini-14 Ranch Rifle, which looks more like a Ruger 10-22 rifle (.22 cal.), does not have the style of a military weapon but has the same lethality based on its ammo.

    So it looks like the liberals are trying to pass another “assault” rifle ban. The idiots don’t know that the “assault” rifle style, while very dangerous looking with the pistol grip, folding stock and bayonet lug, does not increase the lethality of the firearm. But maybe it is better than they don’t know or they will try to ban the 30-30 or the .308 too.

    Guess its time to buy more ammo and magazines before the gun grabbers go too far. I’ll link your post to my followers on Facebook to give them some backgound on the 2nd Amendment since little will be learned via the media.

  5. John Jacobs says:

    Hi, appreciate the column, but from a pure historical perspective I think you may be overestimating the efficacy of the colonial militia. They clearly inflicted a defeat at Lexington and Concord and made Bunker Hill the very definition of a “Pyrrhic Victory” for the British, but for most of the war they were unreliable, ill-disciplined and a thorn in Washington’s side. They could shoot well-enough but were utterly incapable of standing up to a bayonet charge, hell the ones equipped with rifles didn’t even have bayonets, and could only fire about once per minute. It took a well disciplined army to defeat the British, with the militia serving more as auxiliaries with a few notable exceptions. If you’re interested in the ground level combat of the era an excellent book is “With Zeal and with Bayonets Only”, and thanks again for your excellent blog!

  6. Jeff Allen says:

    if a little \”structure\” helps: