Let’s Get Legal: Gary Wills on the Right to Bear Arms

This is from a 1995 NYReview of Books piece by Garry Wills. In American law, the right to bear arms, originally about the military, has been extended and expanded to the right of every citizen to own, use and even publicly display a gun.

There are other possible (though less plausible) reasons for the omissions—e.g., to prevent tautology. What is neither warranted nor plausible is Halbrook’s certitude that these words were omitted deliberately to preclude militia-language. The whole context of the amendment was always military. Halbrook cannot effect an alchemical change of substance by bringing two words, “common defense,” near to, but not into, the amendment.

1. Bear Arms. To bear arms is, in itself, a military term. One does not bear arms against a rabbit. The phrase simply translates the Latin arma ferre. The infinitiveferre, to bear, comes from the verb fero. The plural noun arma explains the plural usage in English (“arms”). One does not “bear arm.” Latin arma is, etymologically, war “equipment,” and it has no singular forms.16 By legal and other channels, arma ferre entered deeply into the European language of war. To bear arms is such a synonym for waging war that Shakespeare can call a just war “just-borne arms” and a civil war “self-borne arms.”17 Even outside the phrase “bear arms,” much of the noun’s use alone echoes Latin phrases: to be under arms (sub armis), the call to arms (ad arma), to follow arms (arma sequi), to take arms (arma capere), to lay down arms (arma ponere). “Arms” is a profession that one brother chooses as another chooses law or the church. An issue undergoes the arbitrament of arms. In the singular, English “arm” often means a component of military force (the artillery arm, the cavalry arm).

Thus “arms” in English, as in Latin, is not restricted to the meaning “guns.” The Romans had no guns; and they did not limit arma to projectile weapons (spears, arrows). It meant weaponry in general, everything from swords to siege instruments—but especially shields. That is why the heraldic use of “arms” in English (the very case Stephen Halbrook invokes) refers to shields “coated” (covered) with blazonry.

Of course, even the Latin arma ferre can be used figuratively, metaphorically, poetically (bear arms in Cupid’s wars, animals bear arms in their fighting talons or tusks). But these are extensions of the basic meaning, and the Second Amendment is not a poetic text. It is a legal document, the kind in which arma ferre was most at home in its original sense; a text, moreover, with a preamble establishing a well-regulated militia as the context.

Standard Modelers try to get around this difficulty by seeking out every odd, loose, or idiosyncratic use of “bear arms” they can come up with—as if the legal tradition in which the Second Amendment stands must yield to marginal exceptions, in defiance of the solid body of central reference. Or they bring in any phrase that comes near “bear arms” without being that phrase. Stephen Halbrook cites a law concerning deer hunting that refers to “bearing of a gun” in the hunt.18 Not only is the context different from the amendment’s, but “bearing of a gun” is not the canonical formulation with a plural noun. In Latin a hunter could be seen to carry a bow (arcum ferre) without that altering the military sense ofarma ferre.

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  • Larry Barber

    So, if I understand Mr. Wills correctly, the purpose of the 2nd amendment is to give soldiers the right to carry weapons? And the founders thought that was worth writing down?

  • scotmcknight


    No, not quite: the citizens would need to be armed so they could participate in the military. Read the whole piece, as it is engagingly well written. Here’s 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.

    Notice, the right to bear arms is given in the context of the militia.

  • Kenton

    Larry Barber FTW!

  • Steve Sherwood

    Wills makes excellent sense here. The amendment DOES seem clearly to be more geared toward a “militia” as opposed to private gun ownership. If my elementary school civics serves me correctly, wasn’t the whole issue that the colonies had been semi-autonomous parts of the Empire with their own militia, but as they became restless under British rule, England had tried to disband and disarm the local militias? Couldn’t you make the case that Wills is arguing we do the same thing with the 2nd amendment that we typically do when reading our own issues and contexts into the Bible, rather than starting with the context at hand when it was written?

  • Josh

    Lol. Larry Barber wins the comment section right off the bat.

  • Great…except the author is forgetting that almost everyone in the US at one point owned a gun for both provision of food and protection of life and property.

    The problem isn’t with guns the problem is with people. Just as the vast majority of people do not drive drunk and kill a bunch of people…the vast majority of people don’t use their guns to kill people. I don’t hear a bunch of people asking to bring back prohibition every time someone drives drunk and kills 15 people in a van.

    So, we shouldn’t start trying to get rid of guns because one person made a poor decision.

  • Larry Barber

    Scot, according that reading, then its a constitutionally guaranteed right for citizens, “the people”, not just those in the military or militia, to own military grade weapons (including handguns). But if your going to allow those, what would be the point of banning most anything else? Maybe small handguns could be banned, but that’s about it

    Don’t get me wrong, I think the 2nd amendment is rather anachronistic. In 1776 a typical citizen would likely have a better weapon hanging over his mantle than soldiers usually carried. The British “brown bess” was hardly a masterpiece of gunsmithing, there is a reason the military strategy of the time favored massed formations of soldiers blasting away at one another in the open, at close range. In 2012, though, a typical citizen can’t afford to outfit himself in the manner of a typical soldier, even if the equipment were legal, which, according to your reading of the 2nd amendment, it should be, but isn’t. And this just covers the small arms and personal equipment, a citizen soldier/revolutionary would still find himself up against Abrams tanks, Good luck with that.

    I’m all for gun control, as long as it starts at the top. Governments, including our own, have murdered more people throughout history than criminals. What is the difference between happened in Aurora and our President launching drone strikes against innocent civilians, some of then US citizens (just not in Colorado)?

  • John

    The founding fathers would not have wanted the American people to not be able to own guns. Period. No matter how you spin it, in Latin, French, Spanish or English. Whether for hunting for food, or to be ready to protect the free state as a militia, the founding fathers would want Americans to be able to own guns and not be regulated by the government to not do so. The main gun used in Aurora was a Remington 870, the most common shotgun every made. I use one safely each and every fall to hunt waterfowl (which I eat) with my sons. I live in a very urban area (Chicago), I have a FOID card, a gun safe, and trigger locks. Shall the government take my gun away or make it more difficult for my children to own one someday as a reaction to what some deranged man did in Colorado? More, or tighter, gun laws will not stop lawbreakers and evil people from killing the innocent. Shall we get rid of surgical scalpels or make them a lot harder to buy, because they are used in abortions?

  • Scot McKnight


    I’m with you, but I think the implication of Wills’ piece would be that we don’t need the right since the Feds/military will now provide the “arms.” That’s how I’m reading it anyway.

  • TDS

    I’m glad to have read this. All this talk about “right to bear arms”…
    And all this time, I thought somebody was proposing we outlaw sleeveless shirts and dresses.

  • Let’s apply a Bible interpretation tool to the Second Amendment: go to the text.

    “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.”

    Someone wanted to sound a little 16th century, methinks…. 🙂 Let’s translate that into 21st century grammar:

    Since a well-regulated Militia is necessary to a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms shall not be infringed.

    There is an explanation and a power clause. “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State,” is an explanation. A free state only works when the primary defenders of the people ARE the people themselves. At the risk of making a call to authority, most of the Founders would condemn us as sheep for having the largest standing army and uniformed police service (as percentage of population) in the history of mankind.

    The Militia Act of 1798 clearly defined the militia as all able-bodied men of the country, who were required to maintain their own military-grade firearms, powder supply, and bullets. The modern equivalent would be the Swiss requirement that all young men serve in the military, and then maintain their service firearms and ammunition supply at home as long as in reserve status. (Translation: around 10% of Swiss citizens have access to fully automatic weapons at all times.)

    By a strict reading, if the government is going to provide the arms, when may I pick up my M4? 🙂

  • scotmcknight

    TDS, that would be the right to “bare” arms.

  • Greg Smith

    A few points regarding the Second Amendment. First, the military context is the one referred to by this amendment as has been discussed. However, I wish to point out that one common misconception (though I have not seen it here) is easily dismissed. That is this: “the militia refers to the state’s right to maintain an armed force. It is a right guaranteed to the state, not to the individual.” This cannot possibly be the intent of the Amendment since the Bill of Rights is careful in referring to both the states and the individual citizens. This is seen clearly in the Tenth Amendment where rights not specifically given to the federal government are reserved for the states and the people, i.e., the individual citizens. The Second Amendment guarantee is for the individual citizen, not the state.

    Second, the militia described is a reference to the whole body of adult males who would be of fighting age. The Virginia Declaration of Rights, approved in 1776, has a similar but expanded version of this Amendment. It clearly defines the militia as I have just done. This is also stated even more clearly in Num 46 of The Federalist Papers where Madison expounds on this very issue. The militia was made up of private citizens who would be called upon in the event of need. They must be armed if they are going to fight in a military role so their right as individuals to bear arms was guaranteed by the Constitution.

    But now we come to the heart of the matter, something alluded to in an earlier comment. The militia might be called on to fight against a foreign invader but when you read Madison (Num 46) he is clearly concerned not with a foreign power but with his own government turning against the people. The militia was there primarily to protect against tyranny from the federal government. Read Federalist 46!

    As ugly as it is to contemplate, the Second Amendment is in place so the people can protect themselves from their own government. The need for this has not gotten less in the intervening 200+ years. The 20th century certainly showed us that people have far more to fear from their own governments than from foreign powers.

    Returning to the Aurora incident, if we strip the James Holmes’ of the world of their weapons, we may have reduced the impact of the problem but we have not eliminated it. That because it resides in Holmes, not in his weapons. But if we do that, history shows us that the price is too high. It will result in tyranny. Maybe not right away but eventually. The founding fathers knew this. They complained about the Stamp Act and taxation without representation. They had fun with their Boston Tea Party. But it was when the British came to confiscate arms at Lexington and Concord that the first shots were fired.

    We need to find a way to deal with people like James Holmes and Anders Breivik and their ilk. But vacating the Second Amendment is not the answer.

  • scotmcknight

    Kentucky Packrat, pretty clever, I’ve got to admit. The issue at hand, as I read Wills, is that the guns are for military purpose. That’s the right — and the issue was the fear of a king or some dictator so the people needed to have recourse to usurpation. Times have changed: guns won’t cut the mustard of the modern military, nuclear capacities. We have taken the “right” to include anyone who wants a gun for any purpose at all… and that seems to be what Wills is pushing against. (So would I.) Now, where do we stand?

  • Matthew D

    If I may chime in: comparing alcohol and scalpels to a gun is a false analogy. The main purpose of a tool — be it alcohol, scalpels, or guns — would be the stronger point for analogy. Alcohol is not primarily used to kill something, nor is a scalpel. That these tools can be used in such a way as to kill is not without precedent — but is also not without the understanding that this use is a deviation from its purpose.

    Turning these analogies on their head: how will a gun be used for something other than its main purpose? Isaiah reminds us that one day, “they will beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks” (Isa. 2.4b).

  • gingoro

    “to own, use and even publicly display a gun”

    Even worse to my mind is hidden carry. Someone I know who is a high Calvinist pastor advocates hidden carry so people can protect themselves (in Church etc) from gun wielding crazies. Totally beyond my comprehension.

    While the right to bear arms is a legal issue, to my mind it is much more a moral issue for a Christian.

  • EricG

    But the Supreme Court already decided the issue against Wills’s argument several years ago, in Heller. I’m no gun fan (quite the opposite). But the legal question has now changed – it is no longer whether there is an individual right to bear arms, but instead what the limits should be. That is the question those of us in favor of gun control should be focused on (unless you want to try to influence Supreme Court nominations over this one issue, but that usually doesn’t get you anywhere).

  • MWK

    Yes, the SCOTUS dispatched this argument in Heller.

  • scotmcknight

    EricG, I’m not historian of constitutional law nor even of the 2d Amendment, but I knew that at the least the interpretive tradition had expanded the “right.” My contention is both narrow and broad: narrowly, Christians can establish a better way and are not in fact entirely constrained by the SCOTUS decisions, and a Christian option for me is to eschew all guns in order to create a shalom kingdom in our midst as a witness to King Jesus and his ways (which then means the grace of conversion); broadly, I would support legislation and candidates who have the courage to say it is in fact Time to open this discussion in new ways.

  • JamesH

    In areas of high poverty and unemployment, guns are not only easily accessible, they are a substitute for involving the police. Often, that’s because those in danger are involved in criminal activity as a substitute for high unemployment. Hence, conceal and carry is common. Whether it’s legal or allowed under the constitution, guns are as common as sidewalks. In an interview with a criminologist, I recorded this concern. As areas of low crime begin to believe they are under increasing threat (no statistical sign of this, but a perception), conceal and carry is beginning to become increasingly popular and defended by 2nd amendment advocates. His view was that communities will find that legal copying of illegal conceal and carry will demonstrate the same risks of violent outcomes of poor areas. Imagine the irony.

  • Napman

    I agree that Wills disagrees with the Supreme Court. But since the Suopreme Cout is the authoratative interpreter of the Constitution with regard to matters of law, it hardly sets an appropriate context for discussing the legal reforms of control while ignoring the actual Constitutional limits already defined. It is like asking what legal reforms should be made to the practice of abortion while ignoring Roe and its progeny,
    In this country individuals have a right to bear arms, subject to reasonable restrictions. Whatever we think of the argument of Wills, it and ones like it were rejected by the Supreme Court in Heller.

  • Matt

    In the District of Columbia vs Heller “The Second Amendment protects an individual right to possess a firearm unconnected with service in a militia, and to use that arm for traditionally lawful purposes, such as self-defense within the home.” So no, the intent is not for military use only.

  • EricG

    Thanks Scot. I would very much support such legislation and candidates too, along with a shift in culture led by Christian voices.

  • Mike M

    I’m pretty sure Isaiah meant for individuals with “kingdom hearts” to turn their weapons into garden tools and not for the government to outlaw then confiscate the weapons and remanufacture them.
    Maybe a more modern update would help, like “and turn their handguns and rifles into computers and cash registers.”

  • Kenneth

    Citizens have guns to protect them from tyrants (government). I wouldn’t feel safe (or free) if “the right to bare arms” meant that I would be issued weaponry by the government to defend their causes. I feel much safer knowing that a government-enforced military police state is pretty near impossible seeing how millions of citizens are armed. As our federal government grows bigger and stronger everyday, the power that bad men would have (should they find themselves in government leadership positions) over Americans grows bigger and stronger everyday. I am uncomfortable knowing that the government has full-auto weapons and I can’t. Just look at Syria.

  • Kenneth

    Bear not Bare…ha!

  • Tim

    Arms into plowshares, anyone?

    Right to bare arms for citizens of the Empire? Fine. Followers of the King? We practice another Way.

  • Caleb G.

    The government needs to keep wackos from obtaining guns. The 2nd amendment cannot mean that the James Holmes’ in this country have the right to “bear arms” (a.k.a in the NRA sense). It is not about banning guns. Take the example of Israel (http://www.theworld.org/2012/07/gun-laws-israel/). There guns are prominent, but overall gun ownership is far less than in the United States. If our gun laws were as strict as Israel’s, the Colorado shooting and many others would never have happened. Passing of such laws will require a cultural shift. Our society glorifies violence. And the rugged individualism dominating our country (especially in the West) does not help matters. I see it as very difficult to pass laws advocating stricter gun control as long as Congress is in bed with the NRA and the media promotes explicit violence through movies and video games. What can we do to shift our culture from one of violence to peace? I don’t know the answer to that question. It has been done in Australia. Considering that gun sales are up in Colorado after the shooting (which statistically will only lead to more gun deaths), I fear what it will take to wake up the USA from its gun-drunk stupor.

  • Mark h

    Can I just say that I have a gun that I use to hunt, as well as a bow, all acquired legally. But if someone would attack me and/or my family with a gun, we lose. My shotgun is disassembled, and my bow useless. I don’t have them for my defense, I have them for sport.

    You take away the semi-automatic assault rifles, and someone will use a shotgun, like this guy in Aurora. Now I’m in favor of taking them away. I am also in favor of gun laws. I live in a state with the toughest gun laws I’ve ever seen, which at the same time has the city with the highest murder rate in the country. Let’s try. Let’s talk about it. Let’s write more laws, make it tougher to purchase guns.

    And let’s not forget to pray for the victims, and the murderer. It is also what we, as those following in the way of Jesus are called to do.

  • I’m not a gun guy. Never owned one, don’t want to. Can’t shoot one, don’t want to learn. Maybe that’s naïve. I don’t know, but I don’t think so. However, I do know dozens of people that do own guns, and use them very responsibly. I’m comfortable around them and with them. I would be extremely surprised if their actions caused death or injury to anyone, intentionally or even accidentally.
    Conversely, I do own several cars, and am licensed to drive them. I have never killed or even injured anyone with my car. But I do know people that, if it were up to me, would never be allowed to drive a car ever again. They are far too aggressive and irresponsible when on the road. They may not have killed or injured anyone yet, but it will not come as a surprise to me if they do, even accidentally, one day.
    The sad reality is this: this world is full of sin. Sin causes people to do wrong things; murder, theft and a host of other things too numerous to mention here. Remember, we have laws that punish theft, but thefts occur. We have laws that punish murder, but murders occur (even without guns). We have laws that penalize other sinful acts, but they do not prevent those acts from occurring. We can outlaw guns and cars, and we would not stop sinful people from doing what they want, when they want and how they want with those items. We may make it more difficult to enact those behaviors, and may even find more stringent penalties for them (something I strongly favor), but until and unless there is a change of heart as only God can perform, they will occur. Sin guarantees it. We trust in God’s righteousness and believe He will ultimately punish sin.
    But Christians need to remember that this is not our final home. Paul reminds us that if we view this world in that way, we should be pitied (1 Corinthians 15:19). We cannot effect any significant change to our environment. We can, and need to, continually call men and women to repentance, grace and lifestyle change. As people allow God to transform their hearts, we will see societal change that may make this world more palatable, but that is far from certain.

  • Deets

    I’m with Tim. Maybe the question for Christians isn’t about how do we interpret the 2nd Ammendment? but how do we change it?

  • Kenneth

    Caleb and Mark,

    I can’t believe you guys. I actually can’t believe the number of people who follow this blog that support gun “control”. I think it’s really a shame. I mean you do understand that only “law-abiding” citizens will follow our all-wise government’s gun control laws right? If more citizens were actually exercising their 2nd amendment right, then the James Holmes’ of the world would A: think twice before deciding to attack armed people; or B: be stopped way sooner when they do attack people. It was NOT a good idea that no one had a weapon to stop this guy. It is a shame that people actually think that my right to defend myself and my family should be hindered or removed…not seeing that only the Out-Laws will have guns when guns are out-lawed!

    Making guns tougher to purchased has never saved anyone’s life! Also, when our President one day decides that he will now be a dictator what will you do? Wait for Israel to arm us?

  • JamesH

    May I add one more thought? I’ve read too often about ‘the media’, and the ‘Hollywood elite.’ Do they have any more influence than pro-gun advocacy groups who maintain, it’s not the gun, it’s the human. It’s either us, or it’s them. We watch the stories and then complain about them. We rent the films or go to the theaters and then feel we’ve lost our moral ways. Freedom of speech. If there weren’t advertisers who thought they were getting their monies worth, either in film or radio or news, we wouldn’t have ‘the media.’ The media is us. We watch and respond and advertisers take note. According to the NRA, it’s not the gun. It’s us. They are correct. Our position on gun use is not moral…unlimited access with few denials of use, purpose, or mentality of the user. But that position does reflect what we think is true. That we will abdicate our responsibilities as citizens by not being involved, and that our armed forces will turn against us and commit atrocities. We have no other place to run than our own homes, churches and communities. And a feeble few armed against extreme regimes will only end in horrible bloodshed. I see no holiness in cynicism. Unlike Syria, Afghnaistan, Myanmar, and other extreme political states, it is up to us to support those who can shake hands for the good of all. While we don’t have that at the moment, that should be our goal. There is no greater realization than ‘God is Love.’ And there is no great challenge than to live that truth.

  • Kentucky Packrat, pretty clever, I’ve got to admit. The issue at hand, as I read Wills, is that the guns are for military purpose. That’s the right — and the issue was the fear of a king or some dictator so the people needed to have recourse to usurpation. Times have changed: guns won’t cut the mustard of the modern military, nuclear capacities.

    Libya and Syria are the latest groups showing how Fourth Generation Warfare is turning modern warfare on its ear. Planes and missile systems do very little to a single sniper who shoots one person and then blends back into a population center. Just like the British couldn’t reconquer the US even though they held every major metropolitan area, the US central government could not hold the entire US from dedicated rebels using 4GW techniques. Nukes, bombers, etc. don’t help unless you’re willing to kill your own people.

    Please don’t get me wrong, I have no desire to see the US government overthrown. (I am still not convinced that the US Revolution is a Just War per Aquinus, much less advocating a new one.) However I agree with Jefferson: the government is supposed to fear the people. Even if guns did not help more people than they harm (which they do), performing this function in private hands would be justification enough under our current Constitutional system.

  • Andy

    In the USA, you have that many guns in circulation already that restricting supply will only leave criminals armed. How could the genie be jammed back in the bottle? In an ideal world, and NZ, Australia, and the UK are probably closer to it, guns would be rare, used for hunting, or for police side arms, but how do you convince criminals to give up their weapons?

    A well armed militia might need long guns such as rifles or shot guns to oppose tyranny, but i don’t see the need for (for example) 50 calibre pistols.

    The limits of self defence would be another thing to look into. what is reasonable and what is not.

  • Christine

    All I can say as an outsider from downunder, the genie was let out of the bottle a long time ago and it appears that there’s an unwillingness to even attempt to stuff it back in. The USA has created a society where weapons of all sorts are available to anybody it would seem, with no or very few checks & balances in place. It’s all very well for politicians to be shocked and shed tears and offer prayers, but essentially it’s about having the guts to do something about it. If there is an unwillingness to address the issue then get used to mass shootings being part of the American landscape because they will continue to happen. The rest of us will continue to be very glad about the so called “infringement of our liberties” that prevent gun ownership of the type allowed in the USA.

  • #36 Christine, absolutely. As a US expat, seeing this through the eyes of someone who lives and works in Japan now, (the second safest country in the world) it truly seems bizarre. No wonder so many of my friends around Asia comment so much about how violent the US is. And since they see the US as predominately “Christian” well we aren’t setting a very good example of “Christian” behavior, and those questions have been asked quite a bit recently as well.

    Also of note is the “religious fervor” of the US protection of guns. Strange world. When more people (in my feed anyway) post their support for their interpretation of the second amendment than post that they are praying for Colorado.

    Meanwhile the US still has mass shootings every year that in one day (12) equal the number Japan lost to gun related homicide in a year (11). I’m not saying the US should become Japan or Australia. I am saying maybe they should learn from them.

  • #32 Kenneth, I don’t think more people being armed would make someone like James Holmes think twice; these maniacs usually do expect to be killed themselves, and often take care of that themselves. As for the argument that more people with guns in the theater would have meant that Holmes would have been stopped sooner: do you really think that is likely? Holmes didn’t target specific individuals, he could just shoot into the crowd in a theater with poor visibility. Any would-be defender with a gun would have been at a decided disadvantage, and a very likely outcome would have been some people killed by Holmes and some by stray bullets from well-meaning armed citizens.

    And if the President one day decides to be a dictator, and if indeed he manages to persuade the military to support him in this, citizens would need something other than hand guns, shot guns or even assault rifles to oppose such a move. So are you advocating privately-owned tanks, missile launchers, nuclear warheads, etc to guard against that possibility?

    But on a very different topic: what were a good number of people with youngish children doing in that theater at that time of night watching that particular movie? People who identify as Christians, no less? Not a very prudent thing to do, it seems to me. Doesn’t seem to fall under the things listed here: “Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.” (Phil 4:8). And young children belong in bed, at that time, not in a movie theater.

  • Andy Halpin

    “The rest of us will continue to be very glad about the so called “infringement of our liberties” that prevent gun ownership of the type allowed in the USA”.
    Hear, hear! I too am very glad to live in a country where our ‘freedom’ to own guns is restricted and regulated by a ‘tyrannical’ government (which we, the people, elected), where our police force is unarmed and our army has never fired a shot in anger at any other army. It seems to me that the people of the USA are paying a very high price for this so-called ‘freedom’ and, whatever may or may not have been the intention of the original drafters of the Second Amendment, you really need to question what benefit there is in keeping it.

  • Another Patheos perspective:


    A father’s reluctant response to this push for more gun cotnrol laws.

  • phil_style

    @Larry Barber, comment number 1:

    So, if I understand Mr. Wills correctly, the purpose of the 2nd amendment is to give soldiers the right to carry weapons?And the founders thought that was worth writing down?

    Why is that hard to believe? Of course they would want to write this down, having just fought against a King, who was the ONLY person with the right to raise an army. It was a direct repudiation of the powers of monarchy.

    It’s one of the most obvious historical transitions from absolute monarchy to democracy.

  • Josh T.

    I agree about the idea of the amendment relating to citizens’ right to defend against their own potentially tyrannical government, but I don’t see how that is remotely possible now, even if every citizen had fully automatic firearms. Even so…

    I’ll take a couple of tanks, a fighter jet (an F-22 Raptor might be nice, armed with missiles of course), and perhaps an IRBM or two (don’t need an ICBM if I’m not fighting a foreign power).

    Sounds a bit silly to think we could resist the military nowadays. If the government wants to wipe any of us off the map, they could do it quite easily.

  • Mike M

    Josh T: unfortunately, the government has wiped two of us off the map already. Kamal Derwish & Anwar al-Alwaki were U.S. citizens who were killed without the right to stand trial first. Maybe drones were used instead of F-22 Raptors but death is still death and pretty hard to reverse.

  • TJJ

    I fully support anyone who does not like or want to own firearms, and who wants to vote for political candidates who oppose gun ownership.

    However, I do own firearms (2 handguns, one hunting rifle with scope). I vote for candidates who support gun ownership.

    I am all for background checks, restrictions on some high powered automatic high fire rate weapons, but otherwise think gun ownership should be left Alone.

    If I had been in the theatre in Aurora Co. I may or may not have been able to take down the shooter with my concealed hand gun. But I can promise you I would have risked my life to do all that I could to do so. I am not a violent person. I have never physically harmed another person ever. But in that situation, where someone is shooting woman and children, I believe I would be willing to take all and any action necessary to stop such carnage. I think most registered gun owners would do the same.