HURRAH FOR THE REPUBLIC! If there is any flesh left on the bones of Thomas Jefferson, his desiccated lips must be curled into a smile at this moment! The Federal Recluse has been waiting with bated breath for the decision just rendered by the Supreme Court regarding the nature of the Second Amendment. As you probably know, the question before the Court was whether that amendment recognized an individual right to keep and bear arms, or whether that right was reserved only for state militias, i.e. National Guard units. Five Justices at least have sufficient regard for individual liberty to have voted for the individual rights interpretation.
No other decision could have been rendered without leaving the Constitution little more than a shredded piece of tissue to be discarded completely. Your individual right to keep and bear arms is the keystone of all your other liberties. In all likelihood, without it, those other liberties recognized—not conferred—by the Bill of Rights would not last long. There are monsters in this world, would-be tyrants who would enslave you it they could. The world is full of examples of people who have first been disarmed by those monsters, and then enslaved—or murdered—by them. But arms keep those monsters at bay. Monsters are terrified by guns. They are horrified by a free, armed populace. It is said that Joseph Stalin was so afraid of being assassinated by some rogue gun owner that he kept numerous lookalike doubles scattered all over the Soviet Union. Virtually no one ever knew where Stalin really was because, even in a country over which he had an iron grip and whose citizens he had largely disarmed, he was afraid that somewhere out there some liberty-loving person would end his reign of terror.
Arms are the ultimate guarantor of liberty. The Framers intended that you should have the ability, should all peaceful means fail, of violently overthrowing tyrannical government. Certainly they considered the benefits of an individual's ability to keep arms for the defense of life, home and property. But from a political standpoint, which was a major concern, it was the overthrow of tyrannical government that was at the heart of the matter. You must have that ability, or you will find yourself a subject and not a citizen. Your liberty, your very life, will be at the mercy—at the whim—of any tyrant who happens to receive a plurality of the popular vote.
In the immediate aftermath of this decision, it is clear that its detractors continue to cling to the belief that the "well regulated militia" clause of the amendment limits the right to keep and bear arms only to state militias, usually interpreted to mean National Guard units. Nothing could be further from the truth. In reading the words of the Framers, during and after the Founding Era, it is crystal clear that among their greatest fears was a standing army. Thousands of years of history, as well as their own experiences under the heel of the British during the colonial period, taught them that a permanent, professional standing army represented a great danger to a free people. The very last thing they would have done in writing the Bill of Rights would have been to restrict access to arms to such an organization. Further, such an interpretation flies in the face of the very intent of the Bill of Rights itself. Its whole purpose was to place limits on government, and certainly not to grant that government a monopoly on the use of force. In the context of the entire Bill of Rights, the National Guard interpretation of the Second Amendment is, quite literally, ridiculous.
So what did the authors of the Second Amendment mean when they used the phrase "a well regulated militia" if not a standing army? Centuries of Anglo-American law and tradition answer that question. The militia to which they were referring, in 1791 and to this very day, is the unorganized militia of the United States, which consists of all able bodied men. The idea was that if all men were armed, the United States could not be conquered by any foreign power. An invader would have to take the country house by house. If anyone thinks that such a concept is outdated, they must consider the fact that after the attack on Pearl Harbor, not so long ago, the Japanese considered an invasion of the west coast of the United States but abandoned the notion after study revealed the almost universal ownership of firearms among the American population. They realized that the Japanese Imperial Army was inadequate to the task. The thought of millions of armed citizens sniping at them from behind every rock, tree and building convinced them of the futility of such an endeavor.
There will be a great deal more concerning the right to keep and bear arms in future entries. The Federal Recluse is among its staunchest supporters. This entry is celebratory: we have taken a giant step in the direction of individual liberty. Those who oppose that freedom, and there are many of them, have this day assumed the role of ankle-biters in the American body politic. They will continue to try to gnaw away, like the rats that they are, at your liberty as just confirmed by the Court. But their legs have been knocked out from under them. There is a great deal of work to be done at the state and local level to drive these rats back into their holes. But at last there is a glimmer of light on the horizon. A brilliant sun will rise over a country that is freer today than it was yesterday, and the rats will scurry from the blazing light. Break open the champagne and toast American liberty! Mr. Jefferson would.