News From Terre Haute, Indiana

January 4, 2013

READERS’ FORUM: Jan. 4, 2013


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Don’t forget the part about a ‘well-regulated’ militia


Since yet another senseless shooting — I write it that way because these days odds are there will be another between the composition of this and its potential publication — I have read seemingly endless blog posts, essays and letters to the editor regarding the proliferation of weapons in our country.

Given the fear shot through our society by demagogues and idiots who find conspiracy within any attempt at reasonable discussion, it seems arrogant for me to believe that my addition to the cacophony will matter. But I do have a serious question for anybody who wants to consider it.

Those men who wrote the Constitution and the Bill of Rights were conservative men. They created what they did with the express purpose of perpetuating the society they had built and that they at the time owned and operated. If there are any doubts about that, see Section 2 Article 1. Still, the document was written by men who hoped to create an enduring yet flexible system, one fully intended to be amended as needed. If that was not their intent, why did they include a provision for amending it?

My question is simple. Gun advocates invariably dwell on the second half of the Second Amendment, which states that their right to bear arms shall not be infringed, but that’s only half what the framers composed.

Can anybody out there give me a functional 21st Century definition of “A well-regulated militia?”

I realize that the word regulated is anathema to many who seem to prefer anarchy over any effort to provide for the general welfare, but it’s the framers’ word, not mine.  They surely recognized the need for home defense in an era when danger still existed on their own continent. They also clearly did not intend for their system to be overthrown by it. See the Whiskey Rebellion.

So how do we translate that to modern America, where the Brown Bess with a rate of fire of three rounds a minute in the hands of a trained user has been replaced by a stupefying collection of weapons with no purpose other than military? One gent in discussion with me recently said that if the police or the government had it, private citizens ought to be allowed to have it. I asked if that meant his neighbor should be allowed their own home defense Abrams tank or Apache helicopter? He pronounced that silly. Those were explosives, he said, not guns.

Well, no. Ask any tanker what that thing is sticking out the front of the turret. Or imagine the irony of calling that weapon attached to an Apache a “minigun.” OK, now we accept there are limits. Where should they be?

A well-regulated militia? Think about that as you consider firearms in our society.

— Peter C. Ciancone

Terre Haute