SERIOUS QUESTION FOR THE NRA
PART 1 of 2
Dr. Edwin Vieira, Jr.,
June 14, 2016
As regular readers of my commentaries know, from time to time I have written about the National Rifle Association’s curious misreading of the Second Amendment—to wit, that the Amendment’s first thirteen words (“[a] well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State”) have no significance with respect to the interpretation and application of the Amendment’s last fourteen words (“the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed”). According to the NRA, the Second Amendment secures “the individual right to keep and bear arms”, to which “[a] well regulated Militia” is irrelevant.
I must describe the NRA’s fixation as a most curious misreading of the Second Amendment because, if “the individual right to keep and bear arms” is irrelevant to “[a] well regulated Militia”, then by dint of the NRA’s own linguistic logic “the individual right to keep and bear arms” must be equally irrelevant to “the security of a free State” to which the Amendment declares that such a Militia is “necessary”. If so, then the NRA’s reading of the Amendment is at odds with its contention that “the individual right to keep and bear arms” guarantees Americans the wherewithal to preserve “the Blessings of Liberty” promised by the Constitution in its Preamble. For, if “the individual right to keep and bear arms” is as irrelevant to “the security of a free State” as it supposedly is to “[a] well regulated Militia”, it passes understanding that it could guarantee any aspect of “a free State”, including especially the “Liberty” of that State’s citizens.
This apparent conundrum is, of course, not the product of the Constitution. For, according to the most basic rules of constitutional interpretation, the NRA’s construction of the Second Amendment is impossible. In general, “[i]t cannot be presumed, that any clause in the constitution is intended to be without effect”. Marbury v. Madison, 5 U.S. (1 Cranch) 137, 174 (1803). And “[i]n expounding the Constitution * * * , every word must have its due force, and appropriate meaning; for it is evident from the whole instrument, that no word was unnecessarily used, or needlessly added”. Holmes v. Jennison, 39 U.S. (14 Peters) 550, 570-571 (1840). Moreover, with respect in particular to the clause “[a] well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State”, “[i]t cannot be supposed that the framers of the Constitution did not use this expression with deliberation or failed to appreciate its plain significance”. Wright v. United States, 302 U.S. 583, 587-588 (1938). See also, e.g., Myers v. United States, 272 U.S. 52, 151-152 (1926); Knowlton v. Moore, 178 U.S. 41, 87 (1900); Blake v. McClung, 172 U.S. 239, 260-261 (1898); Reid v. Covert, 354 U.S. 1, 44 (1957) (opinion of Frankfurter, J.).
My emphasis on this peculiar situation is not simply a matter of constitutional pedantry devoid of practical consequences. For, by widely disseminating its misreading of the Second Amendment among the general public, the NRA lends credibility to a most dangerous misconception—to wit, that Americans can secure for themselves “the Blessings of Liberty” by purely individual actions alone, when every page in the book of American political and legal theory and history teaches that popular sovereignty, popular self-government, and the “Blessings of Liberty” that go with them necessarily entail, and can be achieved and maintained only through, collective endeavors by WE THE PEOPLE as a whole. No one who studies America’s Colonial Charters, the Declaration of Independence, the constitutions of the independent States, the Articles of Confederation, the original Constitution, and even the Second Amendment can come to any other conclusion.
I have tried, on more than one occasion, to call this matter to the attention of the NRA, for the purpose of encouraging the organization to reassess its position and become a proponent of revitalization of “the Militia of the several States”, as the only sure and certain means to provide for “the security of a free State” throughout this country. To date, however, these efforts have proven unsuccessful.
Perhaps my failures are exclusively my fault. But, then again, perhaps not. Inasmuch as my own estimation of cause and effect might be considered biased, I shall put it to my readers to judge for themselves. Below, I reproduce (with some minor redactions) a letter which I wrote several months ago to certain members of the NRA’s Board of Directors, explaining why the NRA should promote revitalization of the Militia, and soliciting their support to that end. To date, I have received not a single response. The question which perplexes me is, “Why not?” Is revitalization of the Militia a matter which is not to be taken seriously? Or am I, personally, not to be taken seriously? Or is the NRA’s championship of the Second Amendment not to be taken seriously?
It may be that some of the readers of this commentary will conclude that what I have recommended in the letter reproduced below makes sense, and that the NRA should pay some little attention to it. If so, they might consider contacting the NRA, and asking “Why not?” At some point, an answer needs to be had.
[LETTER TO NRA DIRECTORS]
25 January 2016
Rifle Association Directors * * *
c/o NRA Office of the Secretary
11250 Waples Mill Road
Fairfax, Virginia 22030
Re: The NRA’s necessary rôle in revitalization of “the Militia of the several States”
Dear NRA Directors * * * :
As a long-time member of the National Rifle Association * * * , I write in order to urge each of you, as members of the NRA’s Board of Directors, to bring to the Board’s attention the necessity for the NRA to recognize the urgency of the declaration in the Second Amendment that “[a] well regulated Militia” is “necessary to the security of a free State” at this critical juncture in the course of human events, and for that reason to become the leading participant in a nationwide movement to revitalize what the Constitution denotes as “the Militia of the several States”. I believe that it is particularly fitting for, as well as incumbent upon, me to make this request, as I have written several books on this subject—including Constitutional “Homeland Security”, Volume One, The Nation in Arms (2007); Constitutional “Homeland Security”, Volume Two, The Sword and Sovereignty (2012); Constitutional “Homeland Security”, Volume Three, By Tyranny Out of Necessity: The Bastardy of “Martial Law” (2014 and 2016); Three Rights (2013); and Thirteen Words (2013)—as well as numerous commentaries originally published at the website <www.newswithviews.com> since 2005 and now widely dispersed across the internet.
I have undertaken these efforts neither for my own entertainment nor with any realistic hope of financial gain from a lucrative publishing enterprise. Instead, my goal has been simply to elucidate the truth of the matter, to educate my fellow countrymen about it, to encourage them to become personally involved in the revitalization of “the Militia of the several States”, and to effect as much political and legislative movement in that direction within the States as possible as soon as possible—or, as I like to put it, immediately, if not sooner. I realize, however, that I cannot accomplish this goal simply by disseminating my work in “the free marketplace of ideas” without a significant measure of assistance from others better situated than I am to reach large numbers of Americans with this message. Therefore, this letter.
A. The revitalization of “the Militia of the several States” is critical for our country’s survival.
The first thirteen words of the Second Amendment—“[a] well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State”—constitute more than a merely hortatory pronouncement, hoary with the dust of a bygone era, that today has no practical relevance to the Amendment’s last fourteen words. Rather, those words constitute: (i) a finding of historical fact—to wit, that Americans secured “a free State” for themselves by virtue of their organization in “well regulated Militia”; (ii) a conclusion of constitutional law—to wit, that such Militia must always exist within every State in the Union, just as Article I, Section 8, Clause 15 and 16 and Article II, Section 2, Clause 1 of the Constitution presume that they will; and (iii) an admonition which the Founders of this country drew from both political theory and their own experiences—to wit, that “a free State” cannot long exist anywhere within this country without “well regulated Militia” everywhere throughout this country.
In the “well regulated” form which the Constitution requires, however, “the Militia of the several States” are nowhere to be found in America today: