Certain semiautomatic rifles, particularly the AR-15 and similar configurations, have been characterized by some as “weapons of war”. Since there are significant differences between the AR-15 and M16, particularly in the modes and rate of fire, it is well-known the characterization is inaccurate.
However, given the similarity in general design, including its ability to accept a high-capacity magazine, let us for the moment accept the designation as a “weapon of war”. Does this then disqualify it for civilian ownership?
Preceding posts have sufficiently demonstrated, it is believed, that a large block of civilians in this country are compelled, in certain exigent circumstances, to provide military-type services to the country or their State in their capacity as members of the unorganized militia — or at least be available and prepared to do so. By definition, then, would they not be engaged in war-type activities? And, if so, should they not then be experienced in and have available a “weapon of war”? How then can they be proscribed from ownership of and familiarity with such a weapon?
Moreover, the statutory prescription of potential militia service is parallel to the prefatory clause of the Second Amendment. While historically and contemporaneously there have been continued conflicting interpretations of the purpose and scope of the amendment, there can be no dispute it includes two (2) clauses and that at a minimum the right to keep and bear arms was to enable the people to perform militia service. Now, by both historical and legal definition, the performance of militia service was engagement, as the circumstances might require, in paramilitary and military service. How then is the keeping and bearing of a “weapon of war” incompatible with this capacity? Rather, does not this capacity instead require it?
One might also analyze the question from the perspective of the purpose of a militia. It is beyond cavil that a militia was considered more harmonious with liberty, in contrast with the greater threat to liberty that was posed by a standing army. While not as universally accepted, there was also an understanding that a militia could potentially act as a bulwark against a standing army controlled by persons with objectives in conflict with those of the larger — or, at least, a sufficiently substantial — body of the people.
Certain critics have cast scorn on the continued viability of this function, given the geometrically-superior firepower of the country’s military forces. How can, they say, a militia equipped with AR-15s and sidearms realistically oppose a standing army with, inter alia, M16s, tanks, fighter aircraft and bombers? This however overlooks a singularly perceptive observation (or, at least, its corollary) from our Declaration of Independence. It is tendered that this provides the mechanism which preserves and proves the viability of such a resistance — albeit one that hopefully will never be required.
Mr. Jefferson noted that “[p]rudence … dictate[d] that governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shown that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed.” Thus, even if evils are being perpetrated, they are likely to be borne by the greater body of the populace if they are not excessive and egregious. Any rebellion by an insignificant body of the populace then allows, if not compels, a conclusion that the causes of the outrage are sufferable.
What then is the conclusion that is allowed, if not compelled, when a significant body of the populace engages in some form of insurrection? It is tendered that it should be deemed then that these evils have now become magnified into ones which are excessive and egregious. And it seems Mr. Jefferson concurs, as he further states that in such an instance of “… a long train of abuses and usurpations … evinc[ing] a design to reduce them under absolute despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such government, and to provide new guards for their future security.”
Let us then suppose that just Five percent (5%) of the population between 15 and 54 years of age deemed themselves outraged by a “long train of abuses and usurpations”. Nay, instead of more than 8,500,000 citizens, let us suppose that but One percent (1%) resolved to resist what they deemed despotism. What is conceived to be the likely reaction of the U.S. military forces to a civilian force of more than 1,700,000 citizens? Would they likely view with equanimity the slaughtering of such a large body of their fellow citizens, deeming it to be consistent with morals and the law? Wouldn’t they instead be likely to conclude that the perceived grievances of their fellow citizens had become, consistent with Mr. Jefferson’s formula, “insufferable” and due to excessive and egregious “abuses and usurpations”?
It is tendered that out of natural and innate morality — much less and regardless of any concern for their potential jeopardy as a consequence of possible commission of War Crimes and Crimes against Humanity — these military forces would conclude that the actions inspiring such resistance, as well as any orders to overcome such resistance, were patently illegal, and therefore would themselves resist.
It would be impossible of course to reduce to mathematical certainty what proportion of the citizenry would be required for an observer to conclude that resistance was legal rather than illegal. Suffice it to say that there would be sufficient parameters, when viewed in the context also of any surrounding relevant circumstances, to allow a resistance by a substantial body of the citizenry to be cause for concluding the resistance was justified. And upon a determination of such justification would instead eliminate the despotism that caused the resistance.
Consequently, a citizenry keeping and bearing arms sufficient to cause a suspension of exertion of force against them, in order to allow an assessment whether their actions were rather justified, demonstrates that the existence and interposition of a militia remains a viable mechanism for resistance to potential despotism. And the keeping and bearing of arms compatible and consistent with their function as a militia continues to be an essential right.
WAYNE A. SMITH
Forester Twp, Michigan USA
04 July 2016