“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.” (Amendment II, Constitution of the United States of America)
Would someone please explain to me the connection between what happened at Sandy Hook Elementary and a “well regulated Militia” or “the security of a free State?” Was the shooter a member of a “well regulated Militia” and acting on its behalf? How did his actions relate to “the security of a free State?” Was the shooter in that west coast shopping mall a member of a “well ordered Militia? Or the shooter in that Colorado theater? Or … maybe you get the idea.
Why did James Madison include those 13 words — “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State” in the 2nd Amendment? Was he simply increasing the word count? Simply padding what would seem to be a rather abrupt and terse 14 word sentence? Nearly half of the 2nd Amendment consists of “”A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State.”
Some background would be helpful to understand what Madison was driving at. In 1786 farmers were experiencing severe financial difficulties. Because paper currency was essentially worthless (remember the expression, “not worth a Continental?”) creditors demanded gold or silver in payment of debts; states were demanding gold or silver in payment for taxes, which were heavy because the state was trying to pay down the Revolutionary War debt. Gold and silver was hard to come by if you were a subsistence farmer. In Massachusetts a group of farmers, led by one Daniel Shays, were armed and shut down county courts to stop debt and tax collection hearings. They also attempted to seize the federal armory. A militia was organized to oppose Shays’ Rebellion (as it is known to history). In this context the Constitutional Convention was called. While the convention was in session the revolt was put down. The experience of Shays’ Rebellion was fresh on American minds as the Constitution was ratified. These are not unrelated events.
In 1789, responding to requests from some state ratifying conventions, James Madison, as a member of the 1st Congress under the new Constitution, drafted 12 proposed amendments to the Constitution. Ten of those were adopted by the requisite number of states by 1791. (One was ratified to become the 27th Amendment in 1992; the other is technically still pending but will never be adopted in its present form because it would increase the size of the House of Representatives to over 6,000 members.)
But the story does not end here. While the states were considering the proposed amendments which were to become the Bill of Rights, another rebellion occurred. Congress had decided to levy an excise tax on whiskey (see Article I, Section 8, Constitution of the United States of America). In Western Pennsylvania farmers organized a rebellion attacking tax collectors. This rebellion is known to history as the Whiskey Rebellion. President Washington called governors to send militia to put down the rebellion. Washington personally led 13,000 state militiamen from Virginia, Maryland, New Jersey and Pennsylvania. The western Pennsylvania farmers wisely disbanded without confronting Washington’s troops.
The history of the 2nd amendment clearly indicates that Madison actually did see a connect between “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State” and “the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” That connect had nothing whatever with some inalienable right to keep and bear arms, but had everything to do with “a well ordered Militia” being necessary for both states and the federal government to secure the nation and states against unlawful armed rebellion.
The Constitution provides a means for the people to oust tyrants – it is called “elections.” But if random, armed citizen groups are at liberty to attack our federal, state and local governments, neither freedom nor security are safe guarded. Even the most just, fair, honest government must have the capacity to defend itself and the people from armed attempts to overthrow lawful authority. The children at Sandy Hook Elementary were neither secured nor free. Their lives and liberty were not protected. It was not the intention of James Madison to empower mass murderers.