The right to a gun? You could look it up

Discussion in 'Legal and Activism' started by opaww, Jun 10, 2008.

  1. opaww

    opaww New Member


    Monday, June 09, 2008
    Anticipating the Supreme Court's expected decision later this month in District of Columbia vs. Heller, the case that will decide the constitutionality of a D.C. law restricting gun ownership rights, many analysts have turned to the founders' writ ings in an effort to understand the Second Amendment. What analysts need to do -- recognizing that language and word usage change over time -- is turn to America's first dictionary.

    The Second Amendment states simply: "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 Supreme Court questioned whether the D.C. statute violated the "Second Amendment rights of individuals who are not affiliated with any state-regulated militia but who wish to keep handguns and other firearms for private use in their homes."

    For the answer, turn to Noah Webster.

    Known as the "Father of American Scholarship and Education," Webster believed that popular sovereignty in government must be ac companied by popular usage in language. In "A Compendious Dictionary of the English Language," published in 1806, and "An American Dictionary of the English Language," published in 1828 and adopted by Congress as the American standard, Webster defined all the words in the Second Amendment.

    "People" were "the commonality, as distinct from men of rank," and "right" was "just claim; immu nity; privilege."

    "All men have a right to secure enjoyment of life, personal safety, liberty and property," he wrote. Thus, in the language of Webster's time, "the people" meant individuals and individuals have "rights."

    "Keep" was defined as "to hold; to retain one's power or possession; not to lose or part with; to have in custody for security or preservation." "Bear" was "to carry" or "to wear; name; to bear arms in a coat." And "arms" were defined as "weapons of offense, or armor for defense and protection of the body." Only civilians would "bear arms in a coat" -- soldiers carried muskets in their hands, while officers carried pistols in holsters.

    Thus the words "keep and bear arms"suggest a right to hand-held arms that a person could "bear," such as muskets, pistols and swords but not cannon and heavy ordnance that a person could not carry.

    "Infringe" was defined by Webster as " to violate, either positively by contravention, or negatively by non-fulfillment or neglect of performance."

    "Militia" was defined as "able bodied men organized into companies, regiments and brigades, with officers and required by law to attend military exercises on certain days only, but at other times left to pursue their usual occupations." "Regulated" was defined as "subject to rules or restrictions." A well-regulated militia consisted of civilians, not soldiers.

    What about the phrase "being necessary to the security of a free state?"

    "Necessary" was defined as "that must be; that cannot be otherwise; indispensably requisite." "Security" was "protection; effectual defense or safety from danger of any kind" and "free" as "In government, not enslaved; not in a state of vassalage or dependence; subject only to fixed laws, made by consent, and to a regular administration of such laws; not subject to arbitrary will of a sovereign or lord."

    "State" was defined as "a political body, or body politic; the whole body of people united under one government, whatever may be the form of government." A free state, we must conclude, therefore, encompasses the entire body politic.

    During most of our history, an exhaustive analysis of the Second Amendment would never have been necessary. The meaning of each word would have been obvi ous to citizens of the time.

    It was only in the late 20th century that an Orwellian view of the Second Amendment gained currency. Within this distorted language prism, "the people" would come to mean the states or state-conscripted militia; "right" would mean government power; "keep" would no longer entail custody for security or preservation; "bear" would not mean carry; "arms" would not include ordinary handguns and rifles, and "infringe" would not include prohibition.

    The founders worded the Second Amendment in an easy-to- understand manner. Individuals have a right to have arms in their houses and to carry them for protection, and the government may not violate that right.

    Modern contortions of language can't change that meaning because we can still refer to Noah Webster.

    Stephen P. Halbrook, an attorney and research fellow at the Independent Institute (www.independen in Oakland, Calif., is the author of "The Founders' Second Amendment: Origins of the Right to Bear Arms."
  2. Dillinger

    Dillinger New Member

    Very Interesting. That was something I did not know, given the older version of the dictionary and how it broke down. I knew what the 2nd said, and what it meant to me, but that is an interesting break down of what it meant to our forefathers.

    Very interesting read opaww - That you for posting.


  3. BigO01

    BigO01 New Member

    Interesting yes indeed and almost kinda sad how they will sit and pick every single word apart .

    If you listened to the audio of the Heller case "As I did" you will have heard Justice Scalai when picking apart "Bearing Arms" in it he said "now if someone were going hunting and had a rifle would they say they were Bearing Arms ? I mean did people actually speak that back then ?" not a perfect quote but pretty close .

    No one attempted to answer him and while he may be correct that a person wouldn't speak in such a manner of his own actions it would seem plausible that if a Constable "the term for a police officer back then" were to approach an armed man on his way to go hunting asking and phrasing the question as "John why are you Bearing Arms today ?" seems logical , at least to me .

    They seemed to also be trying to pick apart the nuances between the times in questioning if this applied only to those who would be defined as within "Militia age requirements from a bygone era" and if I recall brought up the subject of excluding women as they weren't considered eligible for Militia service 200+ years ago .

    I swear the more I understand about the Law the more I wonder if Law school is really all about the untlearning of all common sense one gathers prior to going there and replacing it with haggling over the slightest misuse of a word in a communication .
  4. pioneer461

    pioneer461 New Member

    With all of the Bravo Sierra over so-called gun control, the US congress has never seen fit to change the definition of the militia. The following is current federal law:


    Subtitle A - General Military Law



    Sec. 311. Militia: composition and classes.
    (a) The militia of the United States consists of all able-bodied
    males at least 17 years of age and, except as provided in section
    313 of title 32, under 45 years of age who are, or who have made a
    declaration of intention to become, citizens of the United States
    and of female citizens of the United States who are members of the
    National Guard.

    (b) The classes of the militia are -
    (1) the organized militia, which consists of the National Guard
    and the Naval Militia; and

    (2) the unorganized militia, which consists of the members of
    the militia who are not members of the National Guard or the
    Naval Militia.

    In other words, all able-bodied males, aged 17-45 are members of the unorganized militia. The exception cited above (32 USC, 313) defines who is eligible to join or re-enlist in the National Guard, or the organized militia.

    In the history of Colonial America and at the founding of our country during our Revolutionary War, the unorganized colonial militia was often called upon to fight. They fought against criminals & suppressed riots, hostile Indians, the French and finally the English Army. Sometimes they fought bravely, sometimes they turned and ran. I would imagine the same would be true today. The use of militia fell from usage with the organization of police forces and sheriffs, which from time-to-time still utilized militia in the form of a posse. As police forces grew, unorganized militia fell from favor, but it remains on the books.

    Deep in their hearts and minds, the elected officials know there could be a scenario where all of our military is committed in a real SHTF situation, and more help is needed. The president has the power to call up the militia. If / when we see a movement to change this law, we should be afraid. Very afraid.

  5. ScottG

    ScottG Active Member

    Anyone who is truthful knows this stuff, anti-gunners included. Unfortunately, since there is a stated age limit to the unorganized militia, that is a possible loophole that can be used to take away our rights after reaching age 45. I wouldn't put it past some anti-gunner like Bloomberg to try to confiscate guns from those past the stated age, and some anti judge would declare it constitutional because no one after 45 has the right to keep and bear arms.
  6. bkt

    bkt New Member

    Outfreakingstanding information. I had this squirreled away at one point but misplaced it. Thanks for this.