Letter To The Editor From Uninformed People.

We haven’t done one of these in awhile but this letter to the editor at the Florida Today newspaper caught our eye.

Guns, God and a well-regulated militia

Mr. Piowaty’s letter of Feb. 18 makes a statement that obfuscates the main issue of the Second Amendment.

“A well regulated militia” is the key opening clause that you people want to overlook. Who regulates all these gun owners who think themselves a militia? As explicitly stated in Art. 1, Section 8 of the Constitution, ” … reserving to the States respectively, the appointment of the officers, and the authority of training the Militia …” It couldn’t be clearer.

Can you imagine what those yahoos who broke into the Capital would have done if they had carried guns?

And, just what are your God-given rights? Guns didn’t exist when Jesus walked the earth and assault guns didn’t exist when the Constitution was written.

Polls have shown that a majority of the public wants more gun regulation — or doesn’t the majority matter anymore?

Brian Dean, Melbourne

It is almost hard to know where to begin with this.

“A well regulated militia” is the key opening clause that you people want to overlook.

“You people?” The people who believe in the Constitution? Are they “you people?”

Dean seems to be woefully unaware that the Supreme Court in the case of District of Columbia v. Heller shreds that interpretation of being in the militia is a requirement for the exercise of the right to bear arms:

The Second Amendment is naturally divided into two parts: its prefatory clause and its operative clause. The former does not limit the latter grammatically, but rather announces a purpose. The Amendment could be rephrased, “Because a well regulated Militia is necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms shall not be infringed.” See J. Tiffany, A Treatise on Government and Constitutional Law §585, p. 394 (1867); Brief for Professors of Linguistics and English as Amici Curiae 3 (hereinafter Linguists’ Brief). Although this structure of the Second Amendment is unique in our Constitution, other legal documents of the founding era, particularly individual-rights provisions of state constitutions, commonly included a prefatory statement of purpose. See generally Volokh, The Commonplace Second Amendment , 73 N. Y. U. L. Rev. 793, 814–821 (1998).


1. Operative Clause.

a. “Right of the People.” The first salient feature of the operative clause is that it codifies a “right of the people.” The unamended Constitution and the Bill of Rights use the phrase “right of the people” two other times, in the First Amendment ’s Assembly-and-Petition Clause and in the Fourth Amendment ’s Search-and-Seizure Clause. The Ninth Amendment uses very similar terminology (“The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people”). All three of these instances unambiguously refer to individual rights, not “collective” rights, or rights that may be exercised only through participation in some corporate body.5

Three provisions of the Constitution refer to “the people” in a context other than “rights”—the famous preamble (“We the people”), §2 of Article I (providing that “the people” will choose members of the House), and the Tenth Amendment (providing that those powers not given the Federal Government remain with “the States” or “the people”). Those provisions arguably refer to “the people” acting collectively—but they deal with the exercise or reservation of powers, not rights. Nowhere else in the Constitution does a “right” attributed to “the people” refer to anything other than an individual right.6

What is more, in all six other provisions of the Constitution that mention “the people,” the term unambiguously refers to all members of the political community, not an unspecified subset. As we said in United States v. Verdugo-Urquidez, 494 U. S. 259, 265 (1990) :

“ ‘[T]he people’ seems to have been a term of art employed in select parts of the Constitution… . [Its uses] sugges[t] that ‘the people’ protected by the Fourth Amendment , and by the First and Second Amendment s, and to whom rights and powers are reserved in the Ninth and Tenth Amendment s, refers to a class of persons who are part of a national community or who have otherwise developed sufficient connection with this country to be considered part of that community.”

This contrasts markedly with the phrase “the militia” in the prefatory clause. As we will describe below, the “militia” in colonial America consisted of a subset of “the people”—those who were male, able bodied, and within a certain age range. Reading the Second Amendment as protecting only the right to “keep and bear Arms” in an organized militia therefore fits poorly with the operative clause’s description of the holder of that right as “the people.”

We start therefore with a strong presumption that the Second Amendment right is exercised individually and belongs to all Americans (emphasis ours).

Dean’s assertion that one must be a member of a militia to have a weapon is contrary to historical understanding of rights, and the wording of the Constitution at the time it was adopted.

It couldn’t be clearer.

We agree. It couldn’t be clearer so why is Dean muddying the waters with nonsensical arguments?

Dean’s argument on being in the militia as a requirement for gun ownership goes out the window if one looks at the idea that women were not allowed to serve in the militia, yet many women were without husbands, or without children of militia age living with them, and they owned firearms for safety, self defense and hunting. In addition those who were too old to serve in the militia would not be able to provide for their self defense of their lives, their family and their property.

That’s the “clearer” world Dean would have people believe.

Can you imagine what those yahoos who broke into the Capital would have done if they had carried guns?

Some people that were let into the Capital did carry weapons. Those with an armed presence in the Capital were there in the form of the Capital Police.

How many of those officers were members of a state militia?

If Dean wants to be consistent, he would have to demand that in order for police to be armed, they must be members of a militia.

He won’t make that demand because it is nonsense.

And, just what are your God-given rights?

One of those rights would include the right to self defense. According to the CDC, guns are used 800,000 – 3 million times a year by legal, lawful weapon owners in self defense.

Does Dean believe that the God given (or natural right) to self defense goes away because he doesn’t like the instrument used in defense?

Guns didn’t exist when Jesus walked the earth and assault guns didn’t exist when the Constitution was written.

The printing press, radio, television, the internet, etc. didn’t exist when Jesus walked the earth. Does Dean therefore think that the right of free speech doesn’t apply to those mediums today?

Does the government have the right to search your computer without a warrant because computers weren’t around in 1787 and therefore any search would be “reasonable” under the Fourth Amendment?

As to the “assault gun” claim, clearly Dean lives in ignorance as to the capabilities of a British soldier and his Brown Bess musket with bayonet that was used as an assault weapon.

However, Dean also never mentions the fact that an “assault weapon” is by definition an automatic weapon – not a semi-automatic as variants of the AR-15 (or any other gun labeled by people like Dean) for civilian use are.

The Heller decision is instructive as to the meaning of the word “arms” in the Second Amendment:

Before addressing the verbs “keep” and “bear,” we interpret their object: “Arms.” The 18th-century meaning is no different from the meaning today. The 1773 edition of Samuel Johnson’s dictionary defined “arms” as “weapons of offence, or armour of defence.” 1 Dictionary of the English Language 107 (4th ed.) (hereinafter Johnson). Timothy Cunningham’s important 1771 legal dictionary defined “arms” as “any thing that a man wears for his defence, or takes into his hands, or useth in wrath to cast at or strike another.” 1 A New and Complete Law Dictionary (1771); see also N. Webster, American Dictionary of the English Language (1828) (reprinted 1989) (hereinafter Webster) (similar).

Furthermore, if Dean wants to say that there were no rapid fire muskets when the Constitution was written, he is either woefully ignorant or deliberately deceitful as the writers of the Constitution were aware of the “Puckle gun” – a repeating weapon from 1718, some 70 years before the Constitution was ratified.

Polls have shown that a majority of the public wants more gun regulation — or doesn’t the majority matter anymore?

Polls showed that people in the South approved of Jim Crow laws. Polls showed that most felt that women should not be allowed to vote. Two thirds of the people in the 1770’s were against going to war with England or did not have an opinion on the matter. Only one third of the people wanted the US – the country in which Dean resides – to become an independent nation.

Even without those examples, Dean seems to think that a majority can strip people of their rights.

That would mean that the masses could limit what people say. That would mean that the masses could limit people gathering together. That would mean that the masses could limit the peaceful exercise of one’s religious and moral beliefs.

Where Dean gets that thought is unclear but like the rest of his letter, the statement lacks cognitive thinking.

Rights belong to the individual – not to the mass of people.

In the Declaration of Independence, famous consumer of hoecakes Thomas Jefferson wrote:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed,…

It is the foundation of this country that the government protects the rights of people, regardless of how “the majority” feels about those rights.

If Dean doesn’t want to own a gun, we will respect that.

However, when Dean and people of his ilk come after the rights of others to own a gun, that’s a different story. When Dean’s opposition to guns is based on his ignorance and perhaps even deliberate misrepresentations, that says something as well.

People like Dean want their opinions to restrict your rights.

That’s not America.


One Response to “Letter To The Editor From Uninformed People.”

  1. Moon Doggy says:

    Thanks for taking the time to put this together in a clear and concise manner. Over the years I’ve heard bits and pieces of your article, especially the District of Columbia v. Heller case but had never taken the time to look at the actual court findings. Great job in pulling it all together.