by Cam Edwards, Host, NRA News “Cam & Co.”
Wednesday, January 13, 2016
Have you seen this on Facebook or Twitter lately? “The Founding Fathers couldn’t have imagined a world with semi-automatic weapons, therefore the Second Amendment is outdated.” If that’s true, I doubt the Founders could’ve envisioned social media and smartphones either, so does that mean the First Amendment doesn’t apply to online postings (or television, or radio …)?
Or maybe you’ve heard this one: The Second Amendment isn’t about an individual right, it’s all about a militia, which is now the National Guard. I’m kind of amazed that this is brought up as some kind of actual debate, when the meaning of the Second Amendment was crystal-clear to those who enshrined it in our Bill of Rights.
Take a look at Federalist 46, for instance, authored by James Madison. Keep in mind, the Federalist Papers were originally opinion pieces, published at a rate of one or two a week in order to influence the debate over ratification of the Constitution. Madison was writing this to convince a living audience to approve the Constitution and create a strong federal system. In Federalist 46, the “Father of the Constitution” is laying out the case that, even with a strong federal government, Americans shouldn’t worry about tyranny developing. Why? As he explained, even under the most powerful federal government, the people would retain state and even local governments that would be freely elected. Additionally, Madison explicitly acknowledged, the armed populace of a free society would far outnumber the size of the federal army.
“The highest number to which, according to the best computation, a standing army can be carried in any country, does not exceed one hundredth part of the whole number of souls; or one twenty-fifth part of the number able to bear arms. This proportion would not yield, in the United States, an army of more than twenty-five or thirty thousand men. To these would be opposed a militia amounting to near half a million of citizens with arms in their hands, officered by men chosen from among themselves, fighting for their common liberties, and united and conducted by governments possessing their affections and confidence. It may well be doubted, whether a militia thus circumstanced could ever be conquered by such a proportion of regular troops.”
So, in a nation of 2.5 million people, Madison thought it reasonable that around 500,000 or so would be armed and ready to fight “for their common liberties,” united and conducted by governments of their own choosing if necessary. In a nation of more than 300 million like we have today, Madison would be heartened to know that the estimated number of gun owners in this country is between 90 million and 100 million. The “citizens with arms” that Madison referred to owned firearms for many reasons, including hunting and self-defense, but those arms could be counted on to defend the nation if necessary. Madison explicitly acknowledged the role that armed citizens played in fighting a tyrannical regime if one were ever established, but even more important was the role that those armed citizens played in ensuring that tyranny was never attempted in the first place.