I like to bust myths perpetuated by the NRA. Over the years, they’ve carved up history and spread lies for their own purposes. I looked at altered history that centers around the Second Amendment and what it meant when Madison wrote it.
Being the master of 100 slaves, he needed his firearms to discourage escaping and to repress insurrections, or a slave revolt. He wrote the amendment to protect the legality of slavery for the south without every using the word slavery.
Need for slave patrols
Slaves were property, like equipment that a farmer would own as part of his business. Plantation owners kept slaves to compete with other farmers in the south who also owned slaves. To expand his farm and make a better living for himself, the farmer needed to save up money to buy additional slaves.
As the farm expanded, the slaves became a major investment that farmers feared losing. Preventing slaves from escaping was paramount. To solve this problem, communities formed militias and poses to hunt down runaway slaves bringing them back for punishment. By solving a community need, the militias developed into an important protection of white people’s property.
Slave uprisings concerned plantation owners because the number of slaves outnumbered their white masters. Militias protected white citizens from retaliation by an enslaved population. Men carrying firearms managed to maintain a social dominance in the south with guns.
A military style of draft forced community members into the ranks of the slave patrols. All able body white men joined at one time or another, including physicians and ministers. Only judges, legislators and students were exempt.
These militia organizations were well-regulated. The communities knew who the white males were and who had weapons. Militia member underwent training in firearms and rudimentary military discipline. Local leaders knew that regulated gun ownership and organizational discipline made an effective militia. Another words, well-regulated.
Besides suppressing the slave population, militias overpowered native Americans and took over their land. The south was a very brutal and violent place to live.
Importance of protecting militias from the Federal Government
Southern states feared a united Federal Government, influenced by the anti-slavery north, would outlaw slavery in the South. This is what formed the tension between Federal Government and state government power.
Constitution framers inserted the Second Amendments to ease their fears of southern states of Federal forces coming from the north to outlaw their slavery. It allowed states to maintain their militias or slave patrols. The purpose of the Second Amendment was to restrict the federal government from taking away state militias.
Southern states thought, their militias would fend off federal forces. This is in fact what they attempted during the Civil War. Fortunately for the Country, the militias of the south failed.
Importance of Virginia in agreeing to the Constitution
After writing the constitution, each state voted on ratification. Nine state were needed. Constitutional ratification balanced on the decision of several states. In the end, it came down to Virginia, a large and populated state with 500,000 slaves.
It is significant to note the number of framers of the Constitution who were slave owners. Fathers of this country from Virginia who had slaves:
- Madison owned 100 slaves
- Thomas Jefferson owned over 600 slaves
- George Washington owned 317 slaves
- James Monroe owned 75 slaves
- George Mason owned 300 slaves
- Patrick Henry owned 67 slaves
Expressing fear that the constitution might allow the north to abolish slavery, called manumission, Patrick Henry said:
“They will search that paper [the Constitution], and see if they have power of manumission. And have they not, sir? Have they not power to provide for the general defense and welfare? May they not think that these call for the abolition of slavery? May they not pronounce all slaves free, and will they not be warranted by that power? This is no ambiguous implication or logical deduction. The paper speaks to the point: they have the power in clear, unequivocal terms, and will clearly and certainly exercise it. This [slavery] is a local matter, and I can see no propriety in subjecting it to Congress.”
Other constitutional rights blocked for slaves
Rights afforded everyone else were unavailable to black people whether enslaved or freed. The Bill of Rights only provided protection for free white people. Black Virginian militia men could not carry firearms.
Second Amendment defenders brush off the idea that writing of the amendment took slave patrols into account. Defenders refuse to believe that militias protected slavery. How about other places in the Constitution? Obviously, the issues of protecting slavery influenced the Constitution because other places had to do with slavery:
- The Constitution counted slaves as three-fifths of a person in the counting of state population when calculating U.S. Representatives and votes for the President.
- The Constitution prohibited the banning of slavery for 21 years, until 1808.
- The Constitution prohibited free northern states from protecting escaped slaves.
The Second Amendment purpose – protecting militias
Excluded from the Constitution is the need to possess firearms for personal protection. This was because the regulations of firearms was a state and local matter. No need to include it in the Second Amendment.
Because of the exclusion of personal protection, governments at any level can restrict firearms. A parallel example is to think of illegal drugs. The Constitution excluded the right to possess drugs. Therefore, illegal drugs can be regulated. The same goes for firearms. Since individual rights are excluded, states and communities can regulate gun laws as they see fit.
A study of American history shows, the struggle of the constitution framers was to determine states verse federal rights. Some recounts of history summarize the struggle as being small states against large states. This interpretation doesn’t explain the pivotal role Virginia played, a large state, in negotiating protections for southern states. Their need to protect slavery from the north explains it.
Since the word “militia” in the Second Amendment means states can have a militia, their National Guards meet the militia requirement. They are a militia under the control of each state.
The NRA Myth of Individual Rights
Back to the NRA. To increase firearm sales, they altered history by eliminating the history of slave patrols and ignoring the first half of the Second Amendment:
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.
For 200 years, until an activist majority in the Supreme Court changed it, the Second Amendment gave states the right to maintain their own well-regulated militia. Nothing more.