Those Horrid, Horrid Guns!
By James J. Odle
Exclusive to TLE
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.
-- Second Amendment to the US Constitution
Part One: Setting the Record Straight
As a truck driver, I spend a lot of time listening to talk radio. A
lot of time. Ever since the Columbine madness, the airwaves have been
saturated with both hosts and callers offering opinions which range
from the totally uninformed to those being offered by people who
should be able to put the history and case for our inalienable right
to keep and bear arms fully, thoroughly and completely. Nobody has
succeeded yet. Not Rush Limbaugh. Not Michael Reagan. Not G. Gordon
Liddy (who has the brains, a sympathetic outlook on private gun
ownership, knowledge of history and legal training to do so.) Mind
you, some of these estimable gentlemen and their callers have come
close. Nevertheless, something always seems to be left out.
So I will take a shot at it.
If we recall our basic high school history correctly, prior to the
Revolutionary War, the British had this nasty habit of quartering
their soldiers in the homes of the civilian populace against their
will. In turn, this practice created a great distaste and distrust
for standing Armies.
So after the British were defeated, the last thing that the colonists
wanted to see was another standing Army. When the time came to
address the matter of national defense in the Constitution, James
"To raise and support armies, but no appropriation of money to that
use shall be for a longer term than two years." Article I, Section 8
of the US Constitution. This is in the enumerated powers section.
You see, at the time of the Constitutional convention, the nation was
economically and militarily weak. The colonists did not want another
standing Army, but the Founders did see a need for one for a short
period of time. Hence the two year time period mentioned above. The
last thing they wanted was a permanent standing Army as they intended
the people as a whole (or at least the men) to be the standing Army.
Do we have any confirmation of this?
Here are a few of the many available quotes from some of our Founding
Fathers and other early Americans:
"I ask, sir, what is the militia? It is the whole people...To disarm
the people, that is the best and most effective way to enslave
them..." -- George Mason
"The supposed quietude of a good man allures the ruffian; while on
the other hand, arms, like laws, discourage and keep the invader and
the plunderer in awe, and preserve order in the world as well as
property. The same balance would be preserved were all the world
destitute of arms, for all would be alike; but since some will not,
others dare not lay them aside...horrid mischief would ensue were one
half the world deprived of the use of them..." -- Thomas Paine, I
Writings of Thomas Paine at 56, 1984
"Before a standing Army can rule, the people must be disarmed; as
they are in almost every kingdom of Europe. The supreme power in
America cannot enforce unjust laws by the sword; because the whole
body of the people are armed, and constitute a force superior to any
bands of regular troops that can be, on any pretense, raised in the
United States" -- Noah Webster, pamphlet aimed at swaying Pennsylvania
"Are we at last brought to such humiliating and debasing degradation,
that we cannot be trusted with arms for our defense? Where is the
difference between having our arms in possession and under our
direction, and having them under the management of Congress? If our
defense be the real object of having those arms, in whose hands can
they be trusted with more propriety, or equal safety to us, as in our
own hands?" -- Patrick Henry
"And what country can preserve its liberties, if its rulers are not
warned from time to time that this people preserve the spirit of
resistance? Let them take arms...the tree of liberty must be
refreshed from time to time, with the blood of patriots and tyrants.
It is its natural manure." -- Thomas Jefferson
"No freeman shall ever be debarred the use of arms." -- Thomas
Jefferson, proposed Virginia Constitution, June 1776, 1 T. Jefferson
Papers, 334 (C.J. Boyd, Ed., 1950)
"The people are not to be disarmed of their weapons. They are left in
full possession of them." -- Zachariah Johnson, 3 Elliot, Debates at
"The right of the people to keep and bear...arms shall not be
infringed. A well regulated militia, composed of the people, trained
to arms, is the best and most natural defense of a free country..." -
James Madison, I Annals of Congress 434, June 8, 1789
"No free government was ever founded, or ever preserved its liberty,
without uniting the characters of the citizen and soldier in those
destined for the defense of the state...such area well-regulated
militia, composed of the freeholders, citizen and husbandman, who
take up arms to preserve their property, as individuals, and their
rights as freemen." -- Richard Henry Lee
"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..." -- Richard Henry Lee, 1788, Initiator of the
Declaration of Independence, and member of the first Senate, which
passed the Bill of Rights
"Congress shall never disarm any citizen unless such as are or have
been in actual rebellion." -- James Madison
As we have seen from above the Founding Fathers had three
expectations of the Second Amendment: 1) To replace the standing Army
and provide for the national defense; 2) To guard against domestic
tyranny; and 3) To provide for personal protection against criminals.
So what was life like in colonial America?
It may surprise the curious reader to know that early Americans were
not only allowed, but they were often required to own firearms. From
time to time, local sheriffs would hold musters at which all the men
[the local militia] were required to show up with the assault weapons
of the time, fully functional, ready to go, with an appropriate
amount of ammo. Also, sheriffs could call-up local militia members,
form a posse, and chase down criminals.
So, in the immortal words of Jack Nicholson in A Few Good Men, "ARE
WE CLEAR?", as to the purpose of the Second Amendment?
Part Two: Those Horrid, Horrid Guns!
Cogent replies to the anti-gunners among us:
I know what you're thinking.
You're thinking that if we simply rid ourselves of those horrid,
horrid guns why the birds will sing, the flowers grow, the rivers
flow and life will be just peachy! Heaven's gates will open and we
will romp in the Elysian Fields. Nay, a veritable state of Nirvana
will spring up among us! [OK. I'm exaggerating.]
Nevertheless, join me in the real world.
As I mentioned above I listen to a lot of talk radio. I have heard
the ignorance and deliberate misrepresentations of the Second
Amendment. I have also heard the clever rationalizations for ignoring
Here then are a few of the typical criticisms directed toward
supporters of our Constitutional right to keep and bear arms together
with the appropriate cogent reply:
Anti-gunner: You gun nuts always seem to forget the first part of the
Second Amendment where it says, "A well regulated Militia" This gives
the government the right to have an army!
Second Amendment Advocate: Sir, I demonstrated in Part One that the
word Militia means all of the people. Nevertheless let us go through
this from a different direction. Rush Limbaugh always says that words
mean things so here goes:
Second Amendment -- Translation
"A well-regulated (This means well trained) Militia, (All of the
people) Being necessary to the security of a free state, (Hey,
private ownership of arms are necessary for a free country) The Right
(Notice that is says right not privilege!) Of the People (That's
everybody, pal) To keep (This means 'to own') And bear (This means
'to carry') Arms (Personal weapons of all types, shapes, forms and
varieties) Shall not be infringed." (The government may not lawfully
interfere with the personal, civilian ownership and carrying of
There you have it. The Second Amendment in plain English.
Anti-gunner: Yea, but you left out the part [Article 1, Section 8]
where it says:
"To provide for calling forth the Militia to execute the Laws of the
Union, suppress Insurrections and repeal Invasions; To provide for
organizing, arming, and disciplining, the Militia, and for governing
such Part of them as may be employed in the Service of the United
States, reserving to the States respectively, the Appointment of the
Officers, and the Authority of training the Militia according to the
discipline prescribed by Congress;"
Second Amendment Advocate: Allow me to point out then when there is a
conflict between the Bill of Rights and the remainder of the
Constitution the Bill of Rights takes precedence. Further, each and
every right in the Bill of Rights is an individual right. To argue
otherwise is to make a mockery of our history and the English
language. Further, the phrase 'Bill of Rights' is a misnomer. The
so-called 'Bill of Rights' is really a list of prohibited activities
that, had we a law-abiding government, no government agent would be
Anti-gunner: But the Second Amendment is obsolete! The Founding
Fathers never anticipated machineguns, hand grenades and other high
caliber high power weapons!
Second Amendment Advocate: No, but they did anticipate that the
Constitution may need to be modified from time to time so they wrote
in it the procedures for amending it. There is only one way for those
who dislike the possession of arms in private hands to go about
lawfully getting what they want and that is through the repeal of the
Second Amendment. Sure it is cumbersome. It is supposed to be
cumbersome. But it would be playing within the rules that have been
given us. To do otherwise is to encourage more abject contempt for
our rights and lawlessness on the part of public officials. If you
think we need more of that then you haven't been paying attention to
what has been happening in this country. Do you really want public
officials cherry-picking which portions of the Constitution they will
respect and which they will ignore?
Anti-gunner: But you don't need guns! You have the military and
police to protect you!
Second Amendment Advocate: We need personal weaponry for the same
reason we need fire extinguishers -- as a hedge against a future we
hope will never come. Besides, what are you so worried about? If I
don't need my guns then they will lie peacefully in my cabinet or
ride underneath the front seat of my car and never bother anybody. If
you will investigate the subject then you will discover that in
nations where the people have been deprived of their weapons that
crime increases, government runs rough shot over the people. It has
always been a dangerous world out there and personal safety and
security is never enhanced by private citizens giving up guns! The
Russians suffered with communism for roughly seventy years because
they didn't have weapons. Seventy years of abject slavery and
poverty. Seventy years of secret police. Seventy years of watching
their loved ones being hauled off to the gulags [if they weren't
executed first.] Slobo in Kosovo was able to get away with stomping
on his people because they didn't have weapons.
Also, in case you are not aware of it, our governments have never had
any legal duty to protect us. Nor do they have the competence. We
will not be provided with our own personal cop to escort us through
life. If you think relying on the police to protect you is a good
idea then download the file "Dial 911 and Die!" from the Jews for the
Preservation of Firearms Ownership website http://www.jpfo.org/Dial911.htm
And besides, criminals will always have weapons.
You should also know that in states where there are concealed carry
laws, crime declines.
Besides, what protects me from the government? With a federal
government so obviously lacking in anything resembling morality,
honesty and anything resembling integrity there is little reason to
have confidence in any of them. These are people who are so crazed
with power that they would, in the immortal words of P.J. O'Rourke,
"boss the grass in the fields and tell the grass which way to bend in
the wind if they thought the grass had ears to listen."(A Parliament
of Whores.) Did you notice that the hapless victims of government
aggression at Waco, Ruby Ridge, Athens, Tennessee surely needed their
Anti-gunner: But I don't want untrained people out there carrying
Second Amendment Advocate: Since when are your wishes relevant?
Everyone has a Constitutional and basic human right to keep and bear
arms regardless of the wishes of the community, city, state or
country. That is why it is called a right and not a privilege
Nevertheless, I would certainly advocate those who wish to carry arms
for their protection to go through some sort of professional training
which includes knowledge of laws, marksmanship, and proper judgement
as to when to use deadly force are imparted. I also advocate monthly
trips to the range to maintain proficiency. I also advocate training
of children [beginning at age 9] to use and respect firearms.
However, I will not advocate mandatory training and licensing. This
practice is unconstitutional. It converts a right into a privilege I
favor Vermont style carry.
Anti-gunner: Enough already! Can't we all just get along?
Second Amendment Advocate: Sure we can get along! But you need to
become educated. Check out the reading list and become informed.
A Short Reading List
On gun issues:
The Samurai, The Mountie And The Cowboy: Should America Adopt The Gun
Control Laws Of Other Democracies, David B. Kopel
Targeting Guns: Firearms And Their Control, Gary Kleck
Stopping Power, J. Neil Schulman
More Guns, Less Crime, John R. Lott, Jr.
A Right To Bear Arms, Stephen P. Halbrook
That Every Man Be Armed: The Evolution Of A Constitutional Right,
Stephen P. Halbrook
On social issues:
Freedom In Chains: The Rise Of The State And The Demise Of The
Citizen, James Bovard
Lost Rights: The Destruction Of American Liberty, James Bovard
All The Trouble In The World, P.J. O'Rourke
Parliament Of Whores, P.J. O'Rourke
We The Living [for a picture of what life is like for those who live
under tyrannical government], Ayn Rand
James J. Odle is a splendid fellow who, unlike the vast majority of
so-called 'public servants' has a real job in the private sector
performing real work which a real employer voluntarily pays him to
perform. He also presents a triple threat to the anti-gunners in that
he is a Life Member of Gun Owners of America, a $25 a year member of
the National Rifle Association [if they want more they'll have to
earn it], and a member of the Jews For The Preservation Of Firearms
Ownership [hey, you don't have to be Jewish to join.]