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FGF Op-Ed
THE CONFEDERATE LAWYER
August 16, 2019

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The Right of the People to Keep and Bear Arms

by Charles G. Mills
Fitzgerald Griffin Foundation

Front Royal, Virginia — Whenever there is a notorious misuse of a rifle, the enemies of the Second Amendment to the Constitution attempt to create and use hysteria to restrict the right of the people to keep pistols or rifles.

Right now, there is a clamor to revive the former law against “assault rifles” or even to outlaw all “semi-automatic rifles.” This clamor ignores the role of the Second Amendment as a protector of freedom.

The Second Amendment to our Constitution, a part of the American Bill of Rights, says, “ 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.”

Prior to American Independence, there were accusations in England that certain Catholic kings wanted to disarm Protestants and that certain Protestant kings wanted to disarm Catholics. The result was a provision in the English Bill of Rights prohibiting the government from disarming Protestants. The Second Amendment to our Constitution, a part of the American Bill of Rights, was modeled on this and says, “ 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 clear intent of the Second Amendment is to guarantee the right of those citizens capable of warfare to own and carry own and carry their own weapons of war for the defense of liberty.

This language is broader than the First Amendment guarantee of freedom of religion, speech, the press, assembly, and the right to petition, which starts, “Congress shall make no law . . .”. Furthermore, it expressly ties the right to the preservation of “a free State.” In other words, it encourages an armed population. In colonial America, in fact, there were several laws requiring the people to bring their arms to church on Sunday.

The exact definition of “militia” has changed a little bit over the centuries, but both now and at the time of the adoption of the Bill of Rights, it included an armed citizenry. In most states, “militia” now includes:
– The federally supported “National Guard”
– The other parts of the organized militia, military units organized by the state government but not financed or recognized by the Federal Government
and
– The “unorganized militia” consisting of all able bodied citizens between certain ages, typically 18 and 62. Frequently the actual language also includes the word “male.”

It is quite clear that civilians do not have a right to have their own battle ships, atomic bombs, or stealth bombers.

In other words, the clear intent of the amendment is to guarantee the right of those citizens capable of warfare to carry their own weapons of war for the defense of liberty.

The Supreme Court has interpreted it to include a very broad, but not absolute right to own and carry a pistol. Most pistols made today are “semi-automatic.”

Almost nobody claims that law abiding, careful, non-blind have no right to a rifle. Furthermore, a rifle is the typical militia weapon.

In colonial America, there were several laws requiring the people to bring their arms to church on Sunday.

In most states there is no right for the ordinary civilian to carry a fully automatic rifle, such as the Browning Automatic Rifle, or the military version of the M-16. Furthermore, such fully automatic weapons are limited by federal law. In is quite clear that civilians do not have a right to have their own battle ships, atomic bombs, or stealth bombers.

The controversy, today, is about semi-automatic rifles. It is a dishonest controversy. The great majority of rifles made today are semi-automatic. “Semi-automatic” simply means that the rifle cocks itself. The enemies of the first amendment, however, try to spread two misunderstandings:
1. that “semi-automatic” means fully automatic, like a submachine gun; and
2. that “semi-automatic” rifles are only fearsome war weapons without legitimate civilian purposes.

“Semi-automatic” simply means that the rifle cocks itself…. Most pistols made today are “semi-automatic.”

When this deception fails, the enemies of the Second Amendment fall back on the claim that they are only trying to ban “assault rifles,” a term that actually does not have a defined meaning, at least not in the context of banning weapons.

The naked truth is that the proponents of gun legislation are simply city slickers who just do not like fire arms, or ignorant people who want to limit rifles to the technology of 1919.

For ten years the United States did have a ban on selling “assault rifles” to civilians. It was one of the most ridiculous laws ever passed. It seems to have been primarily aimed at a rifle named the “AR-15.” Among other things it prohibited a semi-automatic rifle with a bayonet stud and a pistol grip. The makers of the AR-15 simply stopped including bayonet studs of the new version of the AR-15 and it became legal. Both the bayonet stud and the pistol grip were simply cosmetic features to make the rifles look somewhat like the weapons carried by our troops in Vietnam.

The naked truth is that the proponents of gun legislation are simply city slickers who just do not like fire arms, or ignorant people who want to limit rifles to the technology of 1919.

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Copyright @ 2019 by the Fitzgerald Griffin Foundation. All rights reserved. This article may be reprinted if credit is given to Charles G. Mills and fgfBooks.com.

Charles G. Mills, author of The Confederate Lawyer, is the Judge Advocate Emeritus (general counsel) for the New York State American Legion. As a New York lawyer, he has been arguing cases for fifty years in federal courts and in all levels of the New York courts.

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