Monday, 17 December 2012
ONE MUSKET AND TWENTY BALLS
The sad events of 14th December 2012 at Newtown in Connecticut give us all pause to think. Maybe from the tragedy some good can come.
Whenever there is a massacre of Sandy Hook Elementary School proportions in the USA the Second Amendment adopted by Congress on 15th December 1791 is cited as grounds for it being okay and reasonable to have an estimated 300,000,000 guns and several billion rounds of ammunition in circulation.
But what does the 221 year old Second Amendment actually say? It says:
"A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep Arms shall not be infringed."
The 2nd Amendment, as I read it, relates only to members of a Militia*. And this interpretation of mine is, I would say, supported by the fact that 5 months later, in May 1792, the same Congress passed an Act establishing such a Militia.
What does the Act say? It says:
"Each and every free able-bodied white male citizen of the respective States, resident therein, who is or shall be of age 18 years and under the age of 45 years (. . .) shall be severally and respectively enrolled in the Militia and every citizen so enrolled, shall, within 6 months thereafter provide himself with a good musket or firelock, each cartridge to contain a proper quantity of powder and ball: or with a good rifle, knapsack, shot-pouch and powder horn, 20 balls suited to the bore of his rifle . . ."
So there we have it. The intention of Congress, as I read and understand it, was that there should be:
comprising of Enrolled Men
of Good Health
between the ages of 18 and 45
each man having ONE gun
and 20 rounds of ammunition.
In plain English I believe what the Congress was saying in the 2nd Amendment was this:
The nation requires a well regulated militia for its security and protection and therefore the people (who will be shortly called upon to form this militia) must have the right to keep and carry weapons (i.e. one gun and 20 rounds per man) for use in the course of their duties in connection with the proposed militia.
The Congress could not have have foreseen the type and calibre of weaponry and ammunition available in America today.
*Militia: a body of men enrolled and drilled as soldiers: the National Guard and its reserve (U.S.): a territorial force: troops of the second line.