John R. Ratzlaff, like so many others arguing against the rights of individuals to bear arms, argues in favor of “militias” (12/3, Opinion, “As I See It: Right to bear arms focused on militias, not individuals”). His statement that, “the meaning of the Second Amendment at the time seems explicit: The right to bear arms belongs to the militia for the purpose of defending the State” is just simply wrong.
Ratzlaff conveniently ignores the fact that, during the time frame when the Second Amendment was framed and ratified, militia persons were usually expected to provide their own weapons, equipment and supplies. In fact, the origins of the right to bear arms go back to England in the 12th century, when King Henry II obligated all “freemen” to bear arms for public defense.
The “originalist” interpretation, “according to the ‘common sense’ meaning and definition of the document’s words at the time they were written” can lead to no other conclusion than an individual right to bear arms.
I appreciate Professor John Ratzlaff’s comments and interpretation that only militias should have guns, per the Second Amendment. However learned he may be, he completely failed to mention the second half of the 2nd Amendment, “the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.”
Perhaps he has a liberal cataract in his eye that caused this oversight.
“Americans have the right and advantage of being armed — unlike the citizens of other countries whose governments are afraid to trust the people with arms.” — James Madison, The Federalist Papers
The primary author of the Constitution wrote these words in descriptive support of the document itself. The militias of the time were made up of the common citizen. Shopkeepers, craftsmen and farmers picked up their personal rifles and stood, shoulder to shoulder, to fight the tyranny of an overbearing government.
Last summer my wife and I spent a week in Colonial Williamsburg, Va., as everyone should. There, we stood in the Powder Magazine, a building that housed the black powder and lead musket balls to supply the citizens in time of threat. There were no barracks at this site, because the militia was the citizens. Upon the signing of the Declaration of Independence, the British raided the magazine and stole the powder, disarming the citizens.
It scares me to the bone that people who want to distort history for their own cause are in a position to influence our youth.