On the Muddiness of My Thoughts On Guns

(Note: As of right now, this is a blog post. However, I’ve been working on writing scripts for vlogs lately, because I intend to re-open my YouTube channel at some point in the near future for political vlogs, pointless rants, recipes, and one or two other things I want to get into… maybe music videos if I can afford to start getting my music recorded? We’ll see… but anyways…

This was meant to be one of those vlog scripts, but I decided to post it here as a blog post. You can read this just as a blog post for now, but eventually it’ll be the “Sort of Transcript” for a near-future vlog [albeit updated if I move further on this topic in that time], as well.

And since I’m on it… note that once I start my YouTube channel back up again, I’ll be using this blog as a space to post those transcripts, as well. So anyways… let’s get to the post…)

So this is an issue I’ve been feeling very torn about lately, and I wanted to write this in order to attempt to work out my feelings on it. Of course, given the title of this, I mean guns, and the regulation/banning thereof.

Way back when I was extremely politically ignorant and “edgy”, I was a “fan” of guns. Although I could never afford it, I wanted to be a member of the NRA. When I first moved to Florida, I even got the paperwork needed to apply for a permit to own a gun… although I never got one.

The idea of gun ownership to me was the same as it is for any gun fetishist in the United States: the 2nd Amendment, masculinity, a mistaken belief in “protection”, a general coolness factor (which, I fully admit, I still feel even now, despite my general hatred of guns), etc. I was never keen on the idea of actually killing anyone or anything, but the general idea of going to a range and shooting a gun, having that around for “protection”, and so on was super attractive to me.

I wish I could tell you when my feelings about guns started to turn around. I’m not actually sure I could pinpoint a specific moment. I do know that they changed as more and more mass shootings happened, and it was definitely in the run-up to the election that made Obama president for the first time (which was the first Presidential election I voted in; I was 17 years, 5 months, and 11 days old during the 2004 election that led to Bush Jr.’s second term). To be honest, it’s interesting how, before I was legally able to vote, I was super libertarian and genuinely believed that Bush, Jr. would go down as one of the US’s greatest presidents (this was during his first term, mind y’all). As Bush, Jr. got through his second term, however, I started moving to the left. (FTR, I now believe Bush, Jr is a war criminal along with his entire administration and they should all be in prison… so… yeah…)

What prompted that was something Dad kept telling me: “you have to hear opposing viewpoints”. So I sought out opposing viewpoints, and the result was that today, on October 31, 2019, I’m a Socialist… a proud Socialist… a Socialist who knows that Elizabeth Warren is a Capitalist and, although he won’t admit it, so is Bernie Sanders. You know… I sometimes thinks Dad regrets telling me that now because of just how far to the left I’ve gone, and the fact that I openly acknowledge the possibility that I could easily move further left than I am now; from Socialist to Communist… to An-Com, perhaps?

But I digress…

The point is, I managed to swing from “guns are cool; I want one… and I actually like the NRA” to “FUCK GUNS! THEY SHOULD ALL BE BANNED AND THE NRA SHOULD GO WITH THEM!” over a short period.

I held on to that viewpoint for a long time. And talked about it publicly, as well!

I never had full agreement in my offline life with that position, though. Living in Florida, a lot of my friends were the opposite of me when it came to guns. No, they weren’t fetishists (I know for a fact that the ones who did belong to the NRA strongly support stricter regulations and stronger background checks with all loopholes fully closed even while they still own guns), but they absolutely believed in the 2nd amendment and, obviously, their right to own guns for hunting and defense.

Although I never actually wavered in my hard-line anti-gun stance while I lived in Florida, I’m quite sure now that they helped plant the seeds that a certain episode of a certain TV show started watering…

That TV show was Adam Ruins Everything. They did an episode entitled Adam Ruins Guns. Here’s a clip from it, specifically dealing with the racism inherent in the Gun Debate:

I’ve seen the full episode, of course. Things that I learned from the episode included the fact that the NRA, at its start, was a fan of gun control, and in fact had extremely strict ideas about what gun control should look like… ideas that would have modern gun fetishists excoriating then for being “unconstitutional”. I mean what the old NRA wanted to see in terms of gun control might have actually been noted as “unconstitutional” by today’s Supreme Court.

Even Ronald Reagan (then a governor) supported very strict gun control!

But there’s a reason for that. Can you guess? I’ll give you a hint… it’s in that YouTube video above…

There you go… racism.

Black people, especially groups like the Black Panthers, were hella armed in the 60s, 70s, and 80s, and white people were super not okay with that. So gun control was incredibly popular back then… because racism.

Other topics brought up in the full episode include how and why it was so easy for Australia to ban most guns, and why such an attempt likely would not work here in the US (hint: gun culture in Australia was pretty small, whereas here in the US it’s huge, shown in part by the fact that the US has 84 times as many guns as Australia did), how assault rifles are not actually that common in gun shootings, and so on. It also talks about how guns are the most common cause of death by suicide, how 66% of US-Americans supporter stricter gun control, how the current interpretation of the 2nd Amendment is actually as recent as 2008, and that before it, the Supreme Court actively refused to interpret the 2nd Amendment as applying to individual citizens for almost 220 years, and more. The episode comes to the conclusion that “this conversation is way more complicated than either side of the gun debate would have us believe, and we need a lot more nuance on it than we have right now.”

I’ll be honest… initially, aside from the clip you see above, I thought the episode was pretty bullshit. So I did what a lot of so-called “critics” of Adam Ruins Everything seem to fail to do… I found the sources and followed them.

The conclusion I ended up coming to was that the episode… well… wasn’t bullshit… at all. It made me decide to stop talking publicly about guns at all for a little while. In the meantime, I was also falling down the rabbit hole known as “Breadtube”. Breadtube, for those who might not know, is one of the names for “Lefttube”, which, as I’m sure you can imagine, is the side of YouTube leftist content creators inhabit. It even has a subreddit!

Through that rabbit hole, I found a YouTuber called “Beau of the Fifth Column”. The shtick, here, is a “Southern Redneck” with super-lefty ideas. I call it a “shtick”, but in reality, that’s exactly who Beau (real name Justin King) actually is. I don’t actually know his politics. He says he’s not a Socialist, and he does have some serious skepticism for government in general, which leads me to believe that he’s an Anarchist. But I’m not 100% sure.

Regardless, Beau does have very good videos calling out gun fetishists while using their language, but he also does appear to support the 2nd Amendment. That was a surprising realization for me, that this ostensible leftist actually does support said amendment. I had just assumed that leftists were all about gun control, if not a full gun ban. But here was a hint that I was… well… wrong.

So, back on Reddit, I did a little more research, and discovered something that absolutely blew my mind. As it turns out, the National Rifle Association is not the only rifle association. There’s another one in the United States… one I never expected to find.

It’s called the Socialist Rifle Association.

They take their inspiration from Karl Marx himself, who, apparently, was actually a very strong supporter of arming the proletariat. Marx himself was a “you can take my guns from my cold dead hands” type of guy…

Under no pretext should arms and ammunition be surrendered; any attempt to disarm the workers must be frustrated, by force if necessary.

The blog Defacing Currency has a post from 2014 that gives quite a bit of context to that quote, and even in context, it’s very clear; the Socialist Marx, far from wanting guns banned, might have actually supported the 2nd Amendment in the United States had he been here.

That discovery really frustrated my thoughts on gun control. The leftist argument in favor of guns is pretty damn strong.

To be fair, it again comes from the same base of paranoia of a government, but is there an argument that a leftist paranoia of government is far more… realistic… than the typical right-wing paranoia of government? I can actually think of one: Fascism.

Right-wingers are afraid of Socialism or (real, not Authoritarian-hijacked) Communism. These things, when done right, are net goods for a society. Capitalism is, indeed, a great evil, that must be abolished somehow. I honestly believe that the only way we’re going to achieve a true halt to making climate change any worse than it already is is by first completely abolishing Capitalism and replacing it with at least Socialism.

Left-wingers, on the other hand, are afraid of what the right-wingers actually want: fascism. Left-wingers are afraid of right-wing authoritarianism. You know… the kind of right-wing authoritarianism that led to The Holocaust, or the Armenian Genocide. The kind of right-wing Authoritarianism that Trump seems in love with. This is actually dangerous, unlike Socialism, because fascism actually kills people. Fascism leads to genocide. Socialism… well… doesn’t.

If fascism is an obviously clear and present danger, isn’t an armed proletariat a good thing?

And there’s a bit of a more pressing fear that I have… that a revolution is coming to the US. I don’t know what that revolution will look like. I’m hoping that it’s purely political; that it takes place in the voting booth, during peaceful protests, via the signing of petitions, and stuff like that. But that’s not what people think of when they think “revolution”. I’m genuinely afraid that, if I’m right, it’s going to be the violent and bloody kind.

And of course you know I made the mistake of listening to the podcast “It Could Happen Here”, which is a short series about whether or not a second civil war could happen in the US (the answer to that question is “yes”), how it could happen, how likely it is (not as likely as I honestly thought, but still likely enough to be terrifying), and what it would look like (a dystopia). If you haven’t listened to it, could you? It’d be super great to have people to actually talk about it with.

Over at the Breadtube subreddit, I said the following in a post I made about guns and gun control (and I realize that this is a theme I return to a lot)…

So here’s a reality… I’m a coward. Honestly, my favorite fighting position is curled up in the corner in the fetal position crying for mommy. Part of me would like to believe that in some kind of revolution or civil war, I’d at the very least be helping vulnerable people escape, but the reality is that you’d probably know where I am by the sounds of screeching tires as I high-tail it to Canada, and from there to… somewhere else that isn’t where the fighting is.

So should I own a gun?

This is the question I struggle with now. There’s a strong part of me that wants to join the Socialist Rifle Association and learn how to shoot. But the part of me that truly hates guns and everything they stand for keeps yelling at me and saying “no! Don’t you dare! We have to get rid of guns! Not put more in the world!”

And the reality is that I do still hate guns. I think the relationship we in the US have to guns isn’t just unhealthy… it’s actively gross and dangerous. I can say with 100% confidence that we care more about our guns than our kids. And that genuinely terrifies me. Further, I’m more of a blade guy, anyways. If I’m going to learn to fight with weapons, I’d almost rather learn to fight with swords, knives, throwing knives and stars, etc. But even then, I’m not sure I’d actually be useful in a violent situation. Even if I could throw a knife with an accuracy to rival the best snipers, I’d still be curled up in that corner… either crying or dead.

Plus there’s the simple fact that having a gun in your home doesn’t actually make you safer. If you keep that gun the way you should in your home… locked away in a safe, unloaded, with the safety on and the bullets locked away in a different safe… that gun isn’t going to save you from a home invasion. The invaders have already got their gun loaded, armed, and together. In fact, statistics show that homes with guns are actually less safe than homes without for so many reasons.

So now I’m stuck. I still believe guns are dangerous, yet I never imagined that there’d be a strong leftist argument in favor of them.

What do you think? Is the leftist argument for guns persuasive, or is it as ridiculous as the right-wing argument for guns? I want your thoughts on this…


  1. says

    I’ve thought for a long time the police should be disarmed except in very special circumstances. Considering how many of them worked with the Klan.

  2. StevoR says

    Well, I learnt something -- a couple of things -- that I really didn’t expect from this. A socialist American rifle association and a Marx quote saying workers should have guns? Igues sinretrospect eitehr perhaps shouldhave been so surprising and they make sense but they are. Thanks.

    As an Aussie here, I don’t feel qualified to comment really. I’m no fan of guns personally and think our system has things right but then living here I would and the culture of the USA is quite different especially in this respect. I do feel very glad Oz hasn;t goen down the US road re : guns and hope we never do. But that’s not reallyadvice for yoru situation. Know that’s not too helpful. Sorry.

  3. StevoR says

    Sigh . That’s : I guess in retrospect either fact perhaps shouldn’t have been so surprising .. Sorry.

  4. cartomancer says

    I am extremely doubtful that an armed populace -- any populace -- could prevent the excesses of a fascist state. Their army would inevitably have far greater firepower and far more sophisticated organization. It would just make the bloodbath far deadlier. All widespread gun ownership does is up the stakes. Fascists in an unarmed society are themselves going to be largely unarmed. Those are the kinds of fascists we must prefer.

    The notion of the dashing citizen resistance rising up to overthrow the government is still a ridiculous piece of unrealistic American macho wankery even when imagined from the left. We might note that there were plenty of armed leftists, Jews and resisters in Weimar Germany who stood up to the Nazis. They couldn’t stop the rise of Nazism -- what makes US leftists believe it’s going to be any different there?

  5. lochaber says

    I used to be really uncertain where I stood on the issue of firearm ownership and rights. I’m still not terribly certain, but the pro-gun crowd kinda scare me, and make me question if “responsible gun owners” actually exist.

    As far as an armed populace… I think things were a lot different in the 1700s, 1800s, and maybe even the early 1900s. Now, there is almost no way a group of armed civilians, even armed with assault rifles and body armor, can legitimately stand up to government-backed military forces. Even a standard infantry company (~100 people) without attachments, has light and medium machine guns, grenade launchers, rocket launchers, and mortars, all of which they have been extensively trained on. And that’s just a standard infantry company. There is even more firepower at the battalion level, nevermind additional assets like armored vehicle, air support, artillery, etc.

    Anyways, if you have some friends with firearms, or access to a range that provides lessens, that may be worth a try. If nothing else, I think everyone should be aware of basic firearm safety, both because there are so many damned guns in the U.S., and also so you can be more aware of how irresponsible so many of these pro-gun people are.

    As to leftist gun groups, there is also the Redneck Revolt, The John Brown Gun Club, and the Huey P. Newton Gun Club, amongst others.

  6. GerrardOfTitanServer says

    I’m not really sure why it should matter if Marx supported gun rights or not. I mean -- he very clearly did. I was aware of that quote already; it’s a fun quote. Marx is not a god, and plenty of things that he said were wrong, and I say this as someone who identifies as a card-carrying radical Marxist.

    Re this:

    the Supreme Court actively refused to interpret the 2nd Amendment as applying to individual citizens for almost 220 years, and more.

    Yeah. Specifically, you seem to be hinting “the individual rights interpretation of the second amendment is a new thing”, and this is a crock of shit. See the sources in my google doc here that I save for just such occurrences.

  7. says


    It matters only because I didn’t know it, and it surprised me.

    As for your link… thank you for that! So you’re write-up suggests that John Paul Stevens was wrong:


    For over 200 years after the adoption of the Second Amendment, it was uniformly understood as not placing any limit on either federal or state authority to enact gun control legislation. In 1939 the Supreme Court unanimously held that Congress could prohibit the possession of a sawed-off shotgun because that weapon had no reasonable relation to the preservation or efficiency of a “well regulated militia.”

    During the years when Warren Burger was our chief justice, from 1969 to 1986, no judge, federal or state, as far as I am aware, expressed any doubt as to the limited coverage of that amendment. When organizations like the National Rifle Association disagreed with that position and began their campaign claiming that federal regulation of firearms curtailed Second Amendment rights, Chief Justice Burger publicly characterized the N.R.A. as perpetrating “one of the greatest pieces of fraud, I repeat the word fraud, on the American public by special interest groups that I have ever seen in my lifetime.”

    In 2008, the Supreme Court overturned Chief Justice Burger’s and others’ long-settled understanding of the Second Amendment’s limited reach by ruling, in District of Columbia v. Heller, that there was an individual right to bear arms. I was among the four dissenters.

    Or at least that the show (Adam Ruins Everything), misquoted him:

    For [almost 220] years the U.S. Supreme Court declined to rule that the 2nd amendment had anything to do with individual rights.

  8. lorn says

    As a matter of history, context, the 2nd amendment was worded the way it is because it had to, for the constitution to be ratified, to paper over the separate and distinct differences in what was meant by “militia”. The northern states always pictured militia as being primarily about repelling foreign invaders. For the south militia was a jobs program for unruly white men and their mission was maintaining control over potentially troublesome groups. Primarily slaves. It was deemed necessary to keep them terrorized and bottled up enough to be controlled even as they often outnumbered the white folks in some counties. Other minorities were also kept in check.

    But it wasn’t all about suppressing the POC. Poor whites were also hurt by slavery and they also needed to be made aware of their place. Wages and respect for work and expertise suffered by being undercut by slave labor. It is hard to compete against the ‘free’ labor of slaves. The present lack of respect for physical labor, physical skills, training, and education all goes back to distortions in the market caused by slave labor.

    In the south militia was all about internal control and maintaining the power of large landholders by keeping potentially troublesome groups, of all races, well aware of their place and what might happen if they step out of line. Yes, slaves got the worse of it. But it is helpful to remember that in much of the south poor white sharecroppers, right into the 1960s, were still commonly barefooted, uneducated, diseased, underemployed and housed in shacks.

    Having nothing it is no big surprise they jealously held on to the one thing allowed them: the racist myth that they were still better than any black man.

    As far as guns go it is helpful to drain away all their symbolic value and remember that they are just tools and significantly less important than, as an example, a shovel. You can do lots of things with a shovel, including cook on one. Guns are far less versatile. Also, for the most part, what you do with a shovel can usually be undone with a shovel. Guns, no so much. As a survival tool the first choice of most experienced woodsmen if they are limited to only one is usually either an axe or a machete. The selection between the two being a matter of how hard the wood in the area is.

    Even when limited to the one thing firearms are good for, killing things, most are unsuitable for most such jobs. Handguns are weak and hard to use effectively and the most popular assault rifles are, at best, marginal choices for efficiently and humanely killing anything but humans, and a very small subset of game animals. ARs are really optimized for maiming and killing humans, and poodle sized animals. The round is too weak for larger game and too strong for smaller game. The AK platform has different limitations. The SKS is a functional, but by no means outstanding, gun for deer.

    The one gun that can do it all reasonably well is the 12 gauge shotgun. By selecting the right shells you can effectively kill mice (low-power #9 shot), or polar bear (magnum slugs).

    Should you know how to shoot? Ideally, yes. You ought to be good with tools. Imagine not knowing how to use a screwdriver, or a shovel. You might go your entire life and never need to use a shovel. But it is a valuable skill. Anyone who says anyone can use a shovel efficiently has never used one efficiently. You can do twice the work in half the time using half the energy if you learn the techniques from someone who knows and can teach. A couple hours training and practice is usually more effective than a thousand hours untrained practice.

    Using firearms is the same thing. You may never need to use a gun. But it is helpful to know how. If you know how there is less of a mystery to it. Master shooting and you are less likely to have unrealistic expectations of what guns can or cannot do, or feel excessive fear around them. The first step in learning about firearms is to forget everything you have ever seen in a movie or TV show. Forget all the platitudes. Remember that firearms simply project chunks of metal. If the job at hand won’t benefit from a chunk of lead being thrown around a firearm is not the right tool for the job.

    If you want to impress people and prove your worth as a human being a firearm is not the optimum tool. To impress men: build something beautiful and useful. To impress women: sweep, mop, do a load of laundry, and prepare a meal.

    Should you own a gun? It is up to you. Odds are that you will find it less useful than you might imagine. A common commentary on guns comes from the significant number of police officers who openly stat that they have never had cause to use one outside of a range. Point being that if a significant number of police haven’t needed to shoot anything but paper the odds are, you not being a police officer, you may never need a firearm.

    In a discussion forum centered on sailing it was pointed out that opinions fell into two camps: those that had guns and couldn’t imaging sailing without them. And those who didn’t have them and couldn’t imagine ever needing them.

    It is easy to learn to shoot without owning a gun if you are over 21. Most shooting ranges allow you to rent a gun. You buy ammunition and rent the gun. Most that do this demand you take a short course on safety. Many offer lessons after that. Often they have a wide variety of guns for rent.

    Guns are not mystical or magical. They are tools. Most are so specialized that are the wrong tool for any job not related to warfare or mayhem. Knowing how to shoot is helpful. If for no other reason than it is always better to know more than less. Owning a gun is potentially dangerous. Handling a gun is potentially dangerous. Even the most skilled and conscientious have bad days and accidents happen.

  9. invivoMark says

    Anyone who thinks an armed populace would make a mouse’s fart of a difference against the rise of an authoritarian in a country with a modernized military is kidding themselves so hard they might as well believe they’re in a Tolkien novel.

    The US government has laser-guided missiles and unmanned drones, snipers who can put a bullet through your head from miles away, and an endless swarm of disposable chuckleheads who believe the lies about “service to my country.” No amount of socialists with experience at the gun range is going to make any difference whatsoever, and meanwhile they’re voluntarily giving their money to gun manufacturers and erecting even more political barriers to keeping guns away from right-wing terrorists.

    I agree with WMDKitty -- the pro-gun arguments are crap.

  10. GerrardOfTitanServer says

    To lorn and Nathan
    This is a lie. It’s a lie that has practically zero basis in fact.

    I am not arguing for gun rights. I am arguing for an honest description of history, and for an honest jurisprudence. If you don’t like the law, don’t lie about it; change it.

    For over 200 years after the adoption of the Second Amendment, it was uniformly understood as not placing any limit on either federal or state authority to enact gun control legislation.

    What your author is talking about is the near complete lack of SCOTUS cases on the federal second amendment for the first 140 years of this country. I don’t dispute that.

    Howevr, this author is maing a stronger claim, and that claim is pure unadultered nonsense. It’s just as bad as claiming that the Earth is flat. It’s completely unsupported by evidence, and contradicted by a mountain of evidence, and it’s asserted by many authors, possibly including this author, because of their intrinsic dislike of gun rights. “Liars for Jesus”; lying for a good cause in this way is justifiable for these people.

    Find me a single quote from any scholar, judge, or expert from 1790 -- 1850 saying that individual white free men do not have an individual rights to own guns in America, and you’ll be the first to do that for me. Find me a single such source for that time period saying that the federal second amendment is not a prohibition against the federal congress making laws unduly restricting that right, and you’ll be the first for me.

    I’m sure you’ve seen the quotes from the founding era enough times. I’ve included many in my google doc. How about quotes from around the American Civil War? Let me copy some here, in case you didn’t read my doc, which I assume you didn’t.

    In passing remarks in the infamous Dred Scott Supreme Court majority opinion (1857), the court remarks (in dicta) that if blacks were to be made full citizens, then they would have the same civil rights as anyone else, including the personal right to own firearms. Bolding added by me:

    It cannot be supposed that they intended to secure to them rights, and privileges, and rank, in the new political body throughout the Union, which every one of them denied within the limits of its own dominion. More especially, it cannot be believed that the large slaveholding States regarded them as included in the word citizens, or would have consented to a Constitution which might compel them to receive them in that character from another State. For if they were so received, and entitled to the privileges and immunities of citizens, it would exempt them from the operation of the special laws and from the police [60 U.S. 393, 417] regulations which they considered to be necessary for their own safety. It would give to persons of the negro race, who were recognised as citizens in any one State of the Union, the right to enter every other State whenever they pleased, singly or in companies, without pass or passport, and without obstruction, to sojourn there as long as they pleased, to go where they pleased at every hour of the day or night without molestation, unless they committed some violation of law for which a white man would be punished; and it would give them the full liberty of speech in public and in private upon all subjects upon which its own citizens might speak; to hold public meetings upon political affairs, and to keep and carry arms wherever they went. And all of this would be done in the face of the subject race of the same color, both free and slaves, and inevitably producing discontent and insubordination among them, and endangering the peace and safety of the State.

    The same persons who wrote and ratified the thirteenth, fourteenth, and fifteenth amendments also wrote and ratified the Freedmen Bureau bills, that created the Freedmen Bureau. They recognized that simply freeing black slaves would leave them destitute and unable to function in society, and so they created the bureau, with some success, to teach newly freed blacks to read and write, and helped them negotiate labor contracts with the same landowners, and also worked to protect their newly obtained civil rights. The fourteenth amendment took the bill of rights, which used to be only a prohibition against certain kinds of federal laws, and applied that prohibition against the states too. One of that civil rights was gun rights, and one of the civil rights that the writers and ratifiers of the Freedmen Bureau bills talks about as strongly important is gun rights in order to resist oppression by white people.



    Any idea that the consensus at that time was anything other than fully supportive of gun rights is a ridiculous farce, your lying source notwithstanding.

  11. GerrardOfTitanServer says

    There never was any misunderstanding of the word “militia”. That controversy is a very modern controversy by those lying anti-gun right advocates. I say “lying” because even a simple cursory examination would show otherwise.

    The Federalist #29 paper advocated for the creation of a law that says everyone should own a gun.

    If a well-regulated militia be the most natural defence of a free country, it ought certainly to be under the regulation and at the disposal of that body, which is constituted the guardian of the National security. If standing armies are dangerous to liberty, an efficacious power over the militia, in the body to whose care the protection of the State is committed, ought, as far as possible, to take away the inducement and the pretext to such unfriendly institutions. If the Fœderal Government can command the aid of the militia in those emergencies, […]


    The project of disciplining all the militia of the United States is as futile as it would be injurious, if it were capable of being carried into execution. A tolerable expertness in military movements, is a business that requires time and practice. It is not a day, or even a week, that will suffice for the attainment of it. […] Little more can reasonably be aimed at, with respect to the People at large, than to have them properly armed and equipped; and in order to see that this be not neglected, it will be necessary to assemble them once or twice in the course of a year.

    A few years later, the federal congress created such a law, the second federal militia act of 1792. Clarification: In their time, only white men counted as “full people”, and for practical purposes, the law applied only for able-bodied white men between the ages of 17 and 45. However, for those people, there was a federal law that required each such person to obtain a certain kind of military-style gun, a certain amount of ammo, and a laundry list of military equipment.

    Not only did the founders want gun rights for everyone, they wanted everyone to be armed, and they even required by law most “persons” to own a gun!

    Notice the name: “militia”. That’s how the word “militia” in a technical historical sense has always been defined. The militia (notice the difference between saying “a militia”), is simply the whole of the national population that can fight. The militia is the national population viewed through the lens of warfare. Militia was a simultaneous legal obligation to perform military services, and also individual gun rights.

    Again, see the Federalist Papers, this time #46

    The only refuge left for those who prophesy the downfall of the State Governments is the visionary supposition that the Fœderal Government may previously accumulate a military force for the projects of ambition. […] [Suppose that] traitors should […] uniformly and systematically pursue some fixed plan for the extension of the military establishment […] Let a regular army, fully equal to the resources of the country, be formed; […] This proportion would not yield, in the United States, an army of more than twenty-five or thirty thousand men. To these would be opposed a militia amounting to near half a million of citizens with arms in their hands, officered by men chosen from among themselves, fighting for their common liberties, and united and conducted by Governments possessing their affections and confidence. It may well be doubted, whether a militia thus circumstanced could ever be conquered by such a proportion of regular troops. Those who are best acquainted with the late successful resistance of this country against the British arms, will be most inclined to deny the possibility of it. Besides the advantage of being armed, which the Americans possess over the people of almost every other nation, the existence of subordinate governments, to which the people are attached, and by which the militia officers are appointed, forms a barrier against the enterprises of ambition, more insurmountable than any which a simple government of any form can admit of. Notwithstanding the military establishments in the several kingdoms of Europe […], the governments are afraid to trust the people with arms. And it is not certain, that with this aid alone they would not be able to shake off their yokes. But were the people to possess the additional advantages of local governments chosen by themselves, who could collect the national will and direct the national force, and of officers appointed out of the militia, by these governments, and attached both to them and to the militia, it may be affirmed with the greatest assurance, that the throne of every tyranny in Europe would be speedily overturned in spite of the legions which surround it. Let us not insult the free and gallant citizens of America with the suspicion, that they would be less able to defend the rights of which they would be in actual possession, than the debased subjects of arbitrary power would be to rescue theirs from the hands of their oppressors. Let us rather no longer insult them with the supposition that they can ever reduce themselves to the necessity of making the experiment, by a blind and tame submission to the long train of insidious measures which must precede and produce it.

    Even today, the federal militia is defined by law in the same way. Practically every able-bodied male adult citizen of the United States between the ages of 17 and 45 are legal members of the militia. Here’s a link to that federal law:

    The last thing that you need to understand to make sense of the second amendment’s text is that the word “regulated” and the phrase “well-regulated” meant something different back then compared to today. Back then, “well-regulated” did not imply government regulation. Rather, the phrase simply meant that something was in good working order, or functioning according to some ideal, etc. One could say that someone’s taste in music was well-regulated, or that an spring clock was well-regulated because it told accurate time. Consequently, a well-regulated militia, as also made clear by the two Federalist Papers above, is simply a description of the national population. “A well-regulated militia” is a national population that is well-armed, well-trained, and well-disciplined in war. “A well-regulated militia” is an effective militia.

    A common mistake is to confuse “militia” and “army”. “Army” is composed of professional soldiers, whose day job is being a soldier. “Militia” is composed of everyday people, of non-professional soldiers. If you ask a member of the militia, “what is your profession?”, they would answer “potter”, “baker”, “tailor”, etc. If you ask a member of an army, “what is your profession?”, they would say “soldier”.

    Again, militia was a simultaneous legal obligation to perform military services, and also individual gun rights. With that understanding, the text of the second amendment is not unclear at all. It makes perfect sense. Look at the text now:

    “A well-regulated militia”, aka a national population that is well armed, trained, and disciplined in war, “being necessary to the security of a free State”, aka an assertion that it is necessary to prevent invasion and tyranny, “the right of the people”, aka an individual right of the national population, “to keep and bear Arms”, obvious, “shall not be infringed”, also obvious.

    And again, if this isn’t obvious, let me beat the dead horse.

    James Madison, father of the federal constitution, argues with George Mason, father of the federal bill of rights, concerning details of the proposed federal constitution, as recorded in the official notes of the congressional debates over ratification of the federal constitution in the congress of the commonwealth of Virginia.

    Source: The Debates in the Several State Conventions on the Adoption of the Federal Constitution [Elliot’s Debates, Volume 3]. Saturday, 14 June, 1788. https://memory.loc.gov/ammem/amlaw/lwed.html … A direct link to the particular page is sadly unavailable. The search function does work.

    Mr. MADISON supposed the reasons of this power to be so obvious that they would occur to most gentlemen. If resistance should be made to the execution of the laws, he said, it ought to be overcome. This could be done only in two ways--either by regular forces or by the people. By one or the other it must unquestionably be done. If insurrections should arise, or invasions should take place, the people ought unquestionably to be employed, to suppress and repel them, rather than a standing army. The best way to do these things was to put the militia on a good and sure footing, and enable the government to make use of their services when necessary.

    Mr. GEORGE MASON. Mr. Chairman, unless there be some restrictions on the power of calling forth the militia, to execute the laws of the Union, suppress insurrections, and repel invasions, we may very easily see that it will produce dreadful oppressions. […] There are various ways of destroying the militia. A standing army may be perpetually established in their stead. I abominate and detest the idea of a government, where there is a standing army. The militia may be here destroyed by that method which has been practised in other parts of the world before; that is, by rendering them useless--by disarming them. Under various pretences, Congress may neglect to provide for arming and disciplining the militia; […] An instance within the memory of some of this house will show us how our militia may be destroyed. Forty years ago, when the resolution of enslaving America was formed in Great Britain, the British Parliament was advised by an artful man, who was governor of Pennsylvania, to disarm the people; that it was the best and most effectual way to enslave them; but that they should not do it openly, but weaken them, and let them sink gradually, by totally disusing and neglecting the militia.

    By this understanding, our modern police forces are the very standing army that the founders so feared, but that’s a whole separate conversation. For that, see:

    Stephanie A. Dangel,Is Prosecution a Core Executive Function? Morrison v. Olson and the Framers’ Intent, 99Yale L.J.(1990).Available at:

    “ARE COPS CONSTITUTIONAL?”, by Roger Roots.
    It’s the best freely available introduction article that I can find. However, some of the citations are insufficient for the claims being made, and some of the claims and citations are suspect.

  12. Dunc says

    I agree with invivoMark -- the idea that the toys you can buy at Walmart will be much use in the case of actual insurrection or a serious breakdown of civil order is a fantasy. Fine for murdering unarmed civilians provided they’re sufficiently concentrated and not expecting you, but that’s about as far as it goes.

    Look at Afghanistan… Everybody, right down to the 12-year-old girl watching the goats, has got an AK-47 -- a real, fully-functional AK-47, not a pretend one like you can buy in the US -- and yet engagements with small arms are rare. The real tools of modern insurgent warfare are roadside IEDs, suicide vests, mortars, RPGs, TOWs, and “tacticals” (truck-mounted heavy weapons). In Yemen, we’re seeing things move on to drones and homebrew cruise missiles. None of that shit is legal. Hell, a lot of mere criminals in the US are using weapons that you can’t buy legally.

    You know the old saying that “if guns are outlawed, only outlaws will have guns”? Well, actual armed insurrection is a pretty long way past mere outlawry, and you shouldn’t even be thinking about it if you’re worried about whether or not the tools you’ll need are legal. Anything else is just LARPing.

    Marx’s ideas on the subject were rendered obsolete by the invention of the Maxim gun.

Leave a Reply