The Right to Bear Arms is an Individual Right

Posted on December 4, 2016

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The Myth

The right to bear arms, which is granted to us by the Second Amendment, is a collective right, granted exclusively to those who are members of a formal military organization, called the militia.  Integral to this myth is the belief that the militia mentioned in the Second Amendment is the same as the modern National Guard.

The Truth

The right to bear arms is a God given natural right.  This right is granted to every individual directly by God.   The Second Amendment protects this right by preventing the federal government from interfering with it in any way.  The militia, unlike the modern National Guard, was made up of the entire population of the country.

The Facts

The framers of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights believed very firmly in individual rights.  This notion of collective rights was foreign to them.  They believed every individual was granted rights directly by God.  The right to bear arms for personal defense, defense of community, defense of the person’s state, and defense of the nation is one of those God given natural rights,

There is no modern equivalent of the militia.  Unfortunately it has died out over the past 120 years or so.  This informal military organization was open to the entire body of the people.  The militia would meet several times a year to practice maneuvering and firing their weapons.  The standardized manual they used for training was written by the United States Congress.  All militia units used this manual so they would be on the same page when they had to function together.  Because all militia units used the same training and operating doctrine, they were well regulated.  The militia took the place of a standing army.  The framers of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights strongly believed standing armies were a major threat to liberty.

The modern National Guard can trace its roots to the militia but there are substantial differences between the two.  The official origins of the modern National Guard can be traced back to the Dick Act of 1903, which split the militia into a formal militia, called the National Guard, and an informal militia.   The National Defense Act of 1916 further regulated the National Guard.  With the passage of the National Guard Mobilization Act in 1933, the split between the militia and the National Guard became complete.  The National Guard became the official reserve formations for the United States Army and membership was limited to a limited number of formally enlisted soldiers.

The Proof

William Blackstone == Commentaries on the Laws of England

By the absolute rights of individuals we mean those which are so in their primary and strictest sense; such as would belong to their persons merely in a state of nature, and which every man is intitled to enjoy whether out of society or in it.

Thomas Jefferson: Legal Argument, 1770. FE 1:376 Case Howard v Netherland

Under the law of nature, all men are born free, every one comes into the world with a right to his own person, which includes the liberty of moving and using it at his own will. This is what is called personal liberty, and is given him by the Author of nature, because necessary for his own sustenance.

Thomas Jefferson, Declaration of Independence

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

John Dickinson

Government could not give the rights essential to happiness.  We claim them from a higher source; from the King of kings, and Lord of the Earth.

Thomas Jefferson to James Madison, 1789.

What is true of every member of the society, individually, is true of them all collectively; since the rights of the whole can be no more than the sum of the rights of the individuals.

Massachusetts Constitution Preamble 1780

The end of the institution, maintenance and administration of government, is to secure the existence of the body-politic; to protect it; and to furnish the individuals who compose it, with the power of enjoying, in safety and tranquillity, their natural rights, and the blessings of life: And whenever these great objects are not obtained, the people have a right to alter the government, and to take measures necessary for their safety, prosperity and happiness.

Virginia Declaration of Rights June 1776

That a well-regulated Militia, composed of the body of the people, trained to arms, is the proper, natural, and safe defence of a free State; that Standing Armies, in time of peace, should be avoided as dangerous to liberty; and that, in all cases, the military should be under strict subordination to, and governed by, the civil power.

First Draft – Mr. Boudinot Chairman proposed the amendment, August 17, 1789

A well regulated militia, composed of the body of the people, being the best security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed; but no person religiously scrupulous shall be compelled to bear arms.

Richard Henry Lee Federal Farmer 18

To preserve liberty, it is essential that the whole body of people always possess arms, and be taught alike, especially when young, how to use them…

George Mason Virginia Ratifying Convention 1787

I ask who are the militia? They consist now of the whole people, except a few public officers

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