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Ignorance of History

I’ve seen the “civic duty” meme floating around gun control circles lately, with the conclusion that you should have to join the National Guard if you want a firearm. That’s what the founders intended, according to them. It ignores the reality that the National Guard was created by the Dick Act of 1903 and was nothing at all like a militia system the founders would have understood. From Miguel’s quoting at Daily Kos:

If you truly believe in the founders intent, then the answer is yes, the intent of the Second Amendment was to codify a civic duty. Those duties aren’t found in local gun clubs or so-called militia organizations, in their 20th century flavor. One place that civic duty can be found is in the National Guard.

Actually, the militia system our founders understood was closer to the local gun club than to the National Guard. To make matters worse for the historically challenged Kos contributor, the modern private militia groups they so deride were something the founder had intimate familiarity with. Actually, the closest modern civic body that offers the best analogy the founder’s militia, at least in structure and operation, is your local volunteer fire company.

I appreciate why the gun control folks want to reframe the discussion, but I think a bare requirement to accomplish that is for them to familiarize themselves with the literature on this topic. I am no expert, by any means, but it wouldn’t take but a few days of reading to develop a good enough understanding to have a reasonable discussion. Should we revive the militia system of the founding generation? It’s an interesting question, and something fine to debate, but first you have to know what you’re talking about when you say that.

16 Responses to “Ignorance of History”

  1. Richard says:

    Pennsylvania in particular had totally private militias known as “Associators” for a long time due, to our pacifist Quaker roots. There is a brief discussion of this in David Hackett Fischer’s excellent Washington’s Crossing book. There is a new history of the Associators by Joseph Seymour (that I have sadly not caught up to read yet).

    See here

  2. GMC70 says:

    They’re not interested in truth, at least anything that is remotely associated with objective truth. Their history is little more than a means to an end, and the end is always the same: disarming the civilian population.

    Believing that the National Guard is similar to the militia of the founding period is “truthy.” After all, didn’t the National Guard adopt the symbol of a colonial militiaman? “Truthy” is close enough, and it serves the real goal.

  3. James Felix says:

    AH, of course! That’s why we call the first ten amendments the Bill of Duties.

    The combination of ignorance, stupidity and bad faith displayed by these people really, truly turns my stomach. They would have us believe that the Founders, who carefully considered and organized the Constitution, picked this one amendment, alone among the ten, to:

    1) enumerate a duty instead of a right
    2) use the word “people” to mean the opposite thing it means everywhere else in the document
    3) reverse the rules of grammar so that the subordinate clause determines the meaning of the sentence
    4) use the words “shall not be infringed” when what they really meant was “infringe it all you want”

    I’m willing to debate with anyone but not if they come in bad faith. And bad faith is the only kind the gun controllers have.

    • Bitter says:

      Yes, the Bill of Duties. I’m sure these people also argue that there is no free speech unless you’re officially hired by a newspaper. The protection from quartering of troops only applies if you exercise your duty to own a small, environmentally-friendly home. The Fourth Amendment is contingent upon you doing your duty to never look remotely suspicious to anyone in power ever again. You’re definitely not upholding your duty on that one if you look like you might try for that whole “free speech” thing without the proper newspaper credential.

      How do these people not see where this mindset leads?

      • Alpheus says:

        I’ve noticed for a while that certain elements of our society are more than happy to mix up rights and duties. By calling education a right, for example, it gives the State license to tell us what to think, and call it education. Never mind that education is strictly a duty, and that only people who want to be educated can be (while those who don’t want to be educated will ruin things for those who do…).

        I, for one, would propose that many of our rights have complementary duties–but they aren’t the duties proclaimed by the likes of Daily Kos. For example, the right to keep and bear arms implies a duty to be trained in the use of arms, and a duty to carry them for defense; a broader understanding of this duty includes being prepared for disasters. Of course, Daily Kos wouldn’t like this duty, because it strengthens the right, rather than undermine it, so it undermines their quest for power.

      • Jack says:

        “How do these people not see where this mindset leads?”

        Some do, and agree with that mindset. It’s part and parcle with the idea that “betters” should run things for the good of the proles.

        Others deny it or have “faith” that the State will stop with just guns. They say things like “It can’t happen here!” or “Well, we wouldn’t let the goveremnt ban free speech!”

        One notes that the 2nd group is really just an obfuscation of the first. As it depends on the “nobility” of the ruling class to allow the proles free speech and *some* other rights… provided they behave.

  4. HappyWarrior6 says:

    My understanding was that the “Dick Act” was another name for the 1994 AWB. Oh well.

  5. Andy B. says:

    I just want to comment (because I haven’t offended enough people yet today) that I think the jury remains out regarding the virtues of the historical militia system. Certainly they were a virtue during the Revolution, when everyone had a common focus and goal. But later, with less direction and less constraint by actual law, I think they were often used for less savory purposes, including suppression of undesirable immigrant populations, and suppression of early efforts at labor organizing (again, often by immigrants.) And, your analogy to volunteer fire companies may be better than you know, because volunteer fire companies were often little more than rival gangs fighting each other on behalf of competing political factions. I think militias often filled the same roles. Speaking of immigrants, armed Irish immigrant militias in New York City were used by Bishop “Dagger John” Hughes to protect St. Patrick’s Cathedral from being burned by nativist militias who had threatened to do just that. Hughes threatened that New York “would look like Moscow” (burned by Napolean’s troops.)

    I don’t know how many people outside this area know much about it, but the ongoing archaeological dig at “Duffy’s Notch” in Malvern I think may trace back to some militia activity in the 1830s, when 50+ new Irish immigrant laborers appear to have been killed by the locals during a cholera outbreak that they were blamed for. How many died of disease and how many died of violence I believe remains undetermined, but it seems certain some sort of organized activity of many people was required “disappear” an entire labor camp and to put that many bodies in a mass grave. I met the professors who initiated the investigation, a couple years ago, and they said there had been very strong resistance from old families in the area, to them beginning their dig. I know from roles of the Bucks County militia, prior to the Civil War, that most of its members were relatively prominent people of the time, and many of the families remain prominent. I suspect the same was true in Chester county, and that some of the militia descendants still have an oral history of what went down, and would prefer that the activities of their ancestors not be investigated in great depth. They were probably considerably less heroic than during Revolutionary times.

  6. Alpheus says:

    One of the big things that undermines the claim that, to fulfill the right to keep and bear arms, we have to be in the National Guard, is the fact that the Militia, to this day, is defined by Federal Code to be men of a certain age range, specifically not members of the Armed Forces *or* National Guard. I’m not in a disposition to look up the relevant section of code at this moment, but it’s not that difficult for someone to look up.

    So, by this law, I’m a member of the Organized Militia (and yes, there’s even an unorganized militia, which, if I recall correctly, includes anyone who could carry a gun), so it’s my right, and even my duty, to acquire, be trained in the use of, and carry arms.

    • J says:

      10 U.S.C. § 311 : US Code – Section 311: Militia: composition and classes (a) The militia of the United States consists of all able-bodied males at least 17 years of age and, except as provided in section 313 of title 32, under 45 years of age who are, or who have made a declaration of intention to become, citizens of the United States and of female citizens of the United States who are members of the National Guard. (b) The classes of the militia are – (1) the organized militia, which consists of the National Guard and the Naval Militia; and (2) the unorganized militia, which consists of the members of the militia who are not members of the National Guard or the Naval Militia.

  7. MrPickle says:

    A founding-era style militia could only work for defensive purposes, which would be fine with me. But we all know it would never happen today.

    • Andy B. says:

      When the “citizen militia” concept became a fad back in the mid-’90s, I was initially a great fan of it, but has such strong reservations about it that when approached by “Company F” here in Bucks County, I declined to get involved.

      For one thing, with only a couple notable exceptions, the people put me off. But more generally, what I anticipated was what I have called the “all dressed up with no place to go” phenomenon, where after a time of training and bit of posturing, if no useful purpose was found, militia members would go out looking for trouble.

      Since I didn’t involve myself, I perhaps shouldn’t comment on what happened, but as I heard it and to my recall, the PA State Police went around and had a conversation with every militia member who could be identified — just to let them know they were fingered — and the militia just collapsed.

  8. Jack says:

    Also if the 2nd applies to the National Gaurd… what exact activities on the part of a Gaurdsman are protected?

    Given that the types of arms he can have and how he can bare them are determined by his commanding officer and so on.

  9. Cargosquid says:

    You should see the “crickets” come out when I reply that if an militia is needed…then I have a duty to be familiar with arms and that the attempts to disarm me are thus treasonable.

  10. Cahs says:

    “Actually, the closest modern civic body that offers the best analogy the founder’s militia, at least in structure and operation, is your local volunteer fire company.”

    Yes, and we’ve got radios and cool trucks! C’mon on down. Meeting’s on Thursday.

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