A Well-Regulated Militia

After this nation’s most recent experience with mass shootings, politicians seem a bit more motivated than usual to change gun laws. These proposed changes range from so-called “red flag” laws (i. e., laws designed to identify people in the throes of violent mental health crises deemed likely to result in violence to themselves or others), to background checks and outright bans on civilian ownership of assault weapons. Whether any of these proposals stand a chance in our filibuster-prone U. S. Senate is anyone’s guess.

In this week’s blog post, the Spirited Reasoner offers a solution aimed at undercutting the root argument of conservative Republicans; namely, that personal ownership of military-grade weapons is a concept derived from the Founding Fathers aimed at ensuring the preservation of our “free state.” In fact, the Spirited Reasoner will argue that if we were to handle firearms in a manner more consistent with the language of the 2nd Amendment to the U. S. Constitution, we could, oddly enough, reduce the number of mass shootings.

Let’s start with the text of the 2nd Amendment itself:

“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.”

Anyone reading this language can see, right up front, that it concerns the maintenance of a “well regulated” militia. The Spirited Reasoner’s argument, therefore, is that we design laws along the following lines:

  1. Ownership of firearms in the United States must be tied to a State-chartered militia organization. In other words, if I want to own a firearm, I must join a militia.
  2. The militia must be “well regulated” by the State in which it operates. Federal law could require that such regulations must include (a) licensing requirements deeming the owner of each firearm legally (and financially) responsible for its usage, unless the owner has promptly reported the loss or theft of the weapon; (b) requirements that all weapons bear a serial number of a militia-approved manufacturer, and the militia maintain records of each serial number; (c) firearms safety and testing along the same lines as motor vehicle operators must be tested prior to licensing; (d) punishments for anyone damaging or defacing a serial number; and (e) other reasonable regulations. Note that the 2nd Amendment says “well regulated,” a phrase diametrically opposed to the right-wing argument against federal regulation.
  3. As in the case of motor vehicle operator regulations, state regulation could require, as one of its regulations, the purchasing of liability insurance by gun owners. This would be coupled to regulations imposing liability on the owner for the use of that owner’s weapon in the commission of a crime. This provision alone would cause citizens to think twice about the heavy responsibility they would be taking on by choosing to own a deadly firearm.

What’s the point of an approach like this? From a political perspective, focusing on the text of the 2nd Amendment removes the right-wing argument to the effect that gun restrictions are anti-Constitutional. In fact, the Spirited Reasoner would argue that our Founding Fathers intended this whole area of gun ownership to be “well regulated.”