“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”
— 2nd Amendment, U.S. Constitution
That is what the single sentence indicates, which is our 2nd Amendment. This one sentence Amendment addresses our right to keep and bear arms, but does not actually itself provide us that right. The compound sentence begins with a 13-word dependent clause, followed by an independent clause, both being separated by a comma. The Independent clause indicating that “the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed”, is undeniably the purpose of the single sentence amendment.
One would think such a clear and simple sentence would be straightforward and readily understood, but not when subject to the deliberate abuses of manipulative minds, often with alphabet–soup credentials providing a crutch.
This past Thanksgiving I was directed to a brand new article by Dr. Edwin Vieira, Jr., Ph.D., J.D. titled, “COGNITIVE DISSONANCE AND THE SECOND AMENDMENT”. Evidently that article was only the latest of a series of similar efforts in the form of articles, books, and DVDs, going back at least to 2012, with other titles such as “Thirteen Words”, and “The Sword and Sovereignty: The Constitutional Principles of “the Militia of the Several States”, all promoting the Militia.
You may be asking, “What’s the matter with his argument promoting the Militia? ” All of us on the Right generally support the militia, and so does Vieira, correct? Bear with me (pun intended).
Vieira’s most recent article disguises a direct assault on the Individual right to keep and bear arms, by hiding that attack behind criticism of the National Rifle Association (NRA) for not specifically engaging in any direct support of Militias. Vieira emotionally enlists the onlooker in that attack via their own support of militias. Make no mistake, this is a calculated move on Vieira’s part, which enables him to engage non-personalized criticism of the “cognitive dissonance” of those who ignore those first 13 words of the 2nd Amendment addressing militias, in deference to the clearly stated right of the people to keep and bear arms, which “”shall not be infringed.”
Vieira indicates that persons have “cognitive dissonance”, as a result of promoting the “historically inaccurate and legally indefensible so-called ‘individual right to keep and bear arms’ “(DailyBell, Feb 10, 2013).
Yet Vieira would have us believe that the passive actor in the dependent clause , “A Militia”, which is necessary in some unspecified capacity of securing a free State, is the actual focus of the 2nd Amendment, and not any sort of individual “right of the people”, recognized in the Bill of Rights, whose purpose is to secure individual rights, which Vieira views as “indefensible,” at least in this particular instance.
Such an argument itself is in no way reasonable, much less historically accurate.
MILITIA – Publicly Sanctioned Body
Vieira makes his first enormous leap regarding what that militia actually is, repeatedly implying that a valid militia must be a publicly recognized body with (apparently) some sort of official State sanction, given that the Amendment itself references “State”. However Vieira is never quite clear on what this sanctioning would actually entail, or what level of participation is congruent with the Constitution’s principles. Despite this, Vieira is repeatedly playing on the subconscious, addressing the validity of a publicly recognized and organized capital “M” Militia, as opposed to a loosely formed lowercase “m”, militia, which he does not directly address, but is readily apparent throughout.
It should be recognized that the 2nd Amendment ratified by the States in 1792, capitalized neither “state” nor “militia”, however what Congress officially drafted had both “State” and “Militia” capitalized. There has been considerable historic debate over that capitalization, particularly in regard to the militia clause. What’s fascinating is that Vieira alters his own capitalization of Militia throughout the article, with the capital “M” being applied to an organized, directed and sanctioned Militia, and lowercase militia evidently used when referencing the less-reputable and poorly organized “unofficial” militia.
If those founders particularly wanted to only recognize militia as having the right to keep and bear arms, they most certainly would have had the 2nd Amendment stipulate “the right of the militia to keep and bear arms,” but they did not do so. Recognition of this fact alone, should undermine claims that a capitalized “Militia” has any overriding significance.
While Vieira does make a minimal effort to indicate that a militia is actually all able-bodied persons of age, he does not waste any time leaping to indicate that those able-bodied persons are not properly trained and disciplined, thereby questioning their competency, and perhaps legitimacy as well:
As Article 13 of Virginia’s Declaration of Rights (1776) exemplified, America’s Founders knew that “a well regulated militia” is “composed of the body of the people, trained to arms”—not of some small, élitist group, with the rest of the citizenry relegated to inactivity, ignorance, and lack of instruction. So, the constitutional requirement of near-universal service (and therefore training) in the Militia having been allowed to atrophy, of course the Union troops came to their military service devoid of even rudimentary proficiency in the use of arms. That is, the NRA’s mission became plausible only because the institutions the Second Amendment declares to be “necessary” had theretofore been rendered moribund. (Pg 1, Par 12)
Vieira himself nowhere offers clear evidence of any sort of “constitutional requirement” of near-universal service in the militia, but rather this claim seems to be a derivative of Vieira’s own interpretation. There is little to suggest the application of any sort of universal requirement in America’s early constitutional history. Perhaps Vieira misconstrues the near-universal membership in ad hoc militias involving some sort of compulsion, but that near-universal compulsion, if it exists at all, is nowhere directly indicated in the terms of the Constitution, whose purpose is to provide the terms for the federal government itself.
Of note, the NRA consistently serves as the scapegoat for the lack of general proficiency in firearms, due allegedly to a failed understanding on the part of the NRA, but nowhere allowing for any misunderstanding by Vieira himself.
In fact Vieira would turn us unto a militarist society with “near-universal compulsory service, including actual training with arms.” Apparently Vieira believes that a “free State” must be synonymous with a militarized State, despite history itself being replete with examples contradicting this philosophy. My own perspective of this country’s history, and the Founder’s intent, is that this is not at all what they revered. I see no value obtained in the American populace becoming Brownshirts.
Right to Arms – Collective, not Individual
Vieira then makes a SECOND mistaken leap of assumption, which the reader should have anticipated at this point: given that the right to keep and bear arms is associated with the militia as an organized body, therefore the right to keep and bear arms must be a “COLLECTIVE right” held only by those organized and recognized militias, and not any sort of individual right at all.
“In order to overcome the psychological discomfort that must arise out of their dissecting this single sentence and discarding half of it, these advocates of the Second Amendment supply the rationalization that “the right of the people to keep and bear Arms” is an individual right, whereas “[a] well regulated Militia” is a collective undertaking—and therefore they can dismiss the Amendment’s first thirteen words as not having any controlling legal, logical, or even linguistic influence on the following fourteen.” (pg 1, Par 2)
While Vieira posits the psychological discomfort of those who discard the first thirteen words of the 2nd Amendment, he recognizes no similar psychological discomfort on his own part resulting from turning the Second Amendment away from being a right held by the people themselves. Instead the passive Militia is turned into the overriding purpose of the Second Amendment. Evidently, in Vieira’s view, the mere reference to this militia is cause for the founders to be great believers in collective rights, even though I cannot recall any one of the founders ever expounding on the merits of such collective rights, which are solely a fabrication of more contemporary times:
“Obviously, the Framers both of the original Constitution and of the Second Amendment were fully aware of the relationship between individual and collective rights (and duties, for that matter) with respect to “the right of the people to keep and bear Arms”, because they conjoined those rights (and duties, too) in the Militia.” (Pg 1, Par 3)
Here Vieira is actually using circular logic to validate his claim that the Second Amendment represents a collective right, because it references a militia which is a collective exercise, ignoring the possibility of that individual right having a valid collective expression, in addition to individual necessity. What Vieira ignores here is almost as disturbing as what he focuses upon. Certainly there are individual rights that are exercised collectively, such as the freedom of speech, that may be further exercised in a collective under the Freedom of Assembly, or the Freedom of Religion engaging its own free assembly in church congregations. The Freedoms of Speech and Religion would not be of much real value in a society without each having a concomitant collective expression.
Ultimately, if the right to keep and bear arms is a collective right, then we have empowered whatever might be the biggest collective to control our lives,. and given arms to those who would act in that body’s name, which would be arming Democratic tyranny.
Collective Right = “No Gun Control”
Vieira is indeed a savvy manipulator, drawing the reader into his argument by claiming, “were the Militia revitalized, all obnoxious ‘gun control’ would be eliminated at one stroke, forever” ( Pg 2, Para 8 ). However Vieira does not there fully disclose that the gun control would be “eliminated forever” due to the individual right to firearms having already been implicitly relinquished, to only be retained by the collective Militia. Somehow Vieira imagines it a victory prohibiting the gun controllers from the “complete disarmament of the American people”, by limiting gun possession to only those in an official capital “M” Militia. Again, Brownshirts anyone?
What Vieira has done, all while maintaining the NRA as the scapegoat, is to walk the reader down the logical path of:
Step 1) first making the militia a publicly sanctioned group, then
Step 2) recognizing the right to keep and bear arms as a collective right.
Step 3, in the Tyrant’s Handbook, is then to remove the public sanction of more and more militias, thereby denying them any right to keep and bear arms, and very soon all of America would be disarmed, all a consequence of Vieira’s rationalization. Very likely along the way, all guns would be registered, both to ensure all firearms were held lawfully by militia members (since it really isn’t an individual right), and likely also the result of some outcry over the militias themselves not keeping sufficient control on their collective firearms. And the most amazing thing about this plan is that no individual rights would be taken, and only collective groups, that once had “rights”, were disavowed and disbanded. This is just one of the many reasons why this nation’s founders never recognized anything similar to collective rights.
The fact that these individual rights are exercised in collective groups, does not make them collective rights. However by recognizing them as a collective right, Vieira then surreptitiously has those rights no longer recognized as an individual right, thereby making the leap to individuals no longer being subject to gun control.
In making this gross assumption of the right to keep and bear arms being a collective right, Vieira blatantly ignores the fact that the Bill of Rights is entirely discussing Individual Rights, nowhere collective rights, The only place those original 10 Amendments deviate from addressing individuals is with the 10th Amendment’s reference to State powers, and that Amendment is to ensure the various States security from the federal government itself. There is no evidence that “collective rights” had any significance to the founders, with them vehemently rejecting Democracy itself.
- While Vieira makes the claim of the “collective right” being tied to a Militia, at no point does Vieira even question why that Amendment itself does not reference the militia’s right to keep and bear arms, instead recognizing that right as residing with “the people.”
- If those founders particularly wanted to only recognize militia as having the right to keep and bear arms, they most certainly would have specified in Second Amendment, “the right of the militia to keep and bear arms,” but they did not do so. Recognition of this fact should undermine claims that a capitalized “Militia” has any real significance.
To be fair, Vieira does soften the distinction between collective and individual right, indicating:
“In short, the Second Amendment cannot be construed so as to set up a distinction, let alone a conflict, between an “individual” and a “collective” “right of the people to keep and bear Arms”. The “individual” and the “collective” right are two sides of the very same coin.” (Pg 1, Par 3)
However if there really is no distinction, or conflict, between collective and individual rights, then Vieira should have ceased using the NRA as a scapegoat after the third paragraph. However with the NRA no longer serving as strawman, then the reader would be forced to contemplate the removal of their individual right to keep and bear arms, not to mention their compulsory enlistment in a Militia.
The Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution indicates neither of these things:
“The right of the Militia to keep and bear arms”
“The right to keep and bear arms…. ” (generally)
But rather the Second Amendment specifically indicates, “the right of the people to keep and bear arms”, and therefore is directly referencing the right of individuals themselves to those arms, which is in no way legally “indefensible”, but rather is recognized as the law of the land.
Perhaps as we leave one year behind, and enter into this New Year, we should all pause and recognize that, even under the best of times, the various policing forces of the Federal, State, and Local governments have never provided for our personal security, much less guaranteed that security, being more interested in establishing our adherence to rules and directives.
Historically, it has always been the concern of every individual American to provide that security for themselves, with this possibly being even more necessary today. As such, it is entirely an individual right, and in no way “collective.” Once we recognize those collective rights, then “someone” (invariably the government) steps in to pick and choose which individuals may be recognized as having those rights, with individual Freedoms undoubtedly suffering as a result.