Sunday, May 30, 2021

What Did Madison Mean By that?

 My daughter and I spent an hour catching up in a phone call this morning.

I mentioned in passing that I had posted on my blog a short thought about the Second Amendment.

That got us into a back and forth on why, what, how, when and all those other things that come to mind when one perceives the nightmare descendant to that simple statement that has been breathed to life by the Supreme Court and enhanced and abetted by the NRA.

“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 first thing I mentioned in my part of the exchange was that the starting point of difficulty presented by this snippet of prose from James Madison is the meanings of two words: "state" and "militia".

As recent to Madison's statement as the recently completed Constitutional Convention there was widespread disagreement about what "state" meant; most looked upon the entities that they were representing at the Convention as what we would today call "nations".

And, although as best as I can remember, the word militia never entered into the Convention's deliberation, if such a word had entered the deliberations it would have been generally interpreted as meaning what the word had meant in England for a couple hundred years - at least.

England had never had a standing army because Magna Carta says that the King can't spend money without the approval of the Barons - later the Parliament - and the Parliament wasn't going to pay for the king to have a standing army; all they had to do was look across the water to France to be able to see how bad an idea it was for the King to have military power; besides law and order ought to be a local thing; so the idea of a local constabulary was brought into being across Britain's myriad localities and these constabularies came to be called militias.

It could be argued that there is a third word in the Amendment that is of questionable meaning: "people".

But, back to Roman times, that word has referred to the aggregate population of the "state" ("nation").

So, if one takes the apparent face value meaning of the Second Amendment, it seems to say that the aggregate population of the nation have the unabridgeable right to keep an inventory of weapons in support of the mission of keeping domestic order.

There isn't any mention of an individual right to keep and bear arms.

There also isn't any mention of a right to keep and bear arms for hunting or for personal defense.

So how did we get to the nightmare of unlimited guns, including weapons of war, available without any control or constriction, in the closet or under the beds of every red blooded INDIVIDUAL American?

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