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The 2nd Amendment

The Second Amendment states, in its entirety: "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." A militia is defined as "the whole body of physically fit civilians eligible by law for military service." It has been argued that the term "militia" refers to the National Guard and not the individual citizen. When the Bill of Rights was ratified 15 December 1791, the National Guard as we know it today, did not exist. America's first permanent militia regiments, among the oldest continuing units in history, were volunteer and organized by the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1636.

Today's National Guard is the direct descendent of the volunteer militias of the thirteen original English colonies. The first English settlers brought many cultural influences and English military ideas with them. For most of its history, England had no full-time, professional Army. The English had relied on a militia of citizen-soldiers who had the obligation to assist in national defense.

The first colonists in Virginia and Massachusetts knew that they had to rely on themselves for their own defense. Although the colonists feared the traditional enemies of England, the Spanish and Dutch, their main threat came from the thousands of native Americans who surrounded them.

Americans recognized the important role played by the militia in winning the Revolutionary War. When the nation's founders debated what form the government of the new nation would take, great attention was paid to the institution of the militia.

The framers of the Constitution reached a compromise between the opposing point of view of the federalist's and anti-federalists. The federalists believed in a strong central government and wanted a large standing Army with a militia firmly under control of the Federal government. The anti-federalists believed in the power of the states and small or non-existent regular Army with state controlled militias. The President was given control of all military forces as Commander-in-Chief, but Congress was provided the sole power to raise the taxes to pay for military forces and the right to declare war. In the militia, power was divided between the individual states and the Federal government. The Constitution gave the states the right to appoint officers and supervise training, and the Federal government was granted the authority to impose standards.

In 1792, Congress passed a law, which remained in effect for 111 years, requiring all males between the ages of 18 and 45 to enroll in the militia. Volunteer companies of men who would buy their own uniforms and equipment were also authorized (the citizen-soldier).

The War of 1812 demonstrated that despite its geographic and political isolation from Europe, the United States still needed to maintain military forces. The growing number of volunteers (as opposed to mandatory enrollment) increasingly filled the militia component of the military force. Many states began to rely completely on their volunteer units, and to spend their limited Federal funds entirely on them.

Even in the mostly rural South, these units tended to be an urban phenomenon. Clerks and craftsmen made up most of the force; the officers, usually elected by the members of the unit, were often wealthier men such as lawyers or bankers. As increasing numbers of immigrants began to arrive in the 1840s and 1850s, ethnic units such as the "Irish Jasper Greens" and the German "Steuben Guards" began to spring up.

Militia units made up 70% of the U.S. Army that fought the Mexican War in 1846 and 1847. During this first American war fought entirely on foreign soil, there was considerable friction between regular Army officers and militia volunteers, a friction that would reappear during subsequent wars. 'Regulars' were upset when militia officers outranked them and at times complained that the volunteer troops were sloppy and poorly disciplined.

But complaints about the militia's fighting abilities declined as they helped win critical battles. The Mexican War set a military pattern, which the nation would follow for the next 100 years: the regular officers provided military know-how and leadership; citizen-soldiers provided the bulk of the fighting troops.

In 1916, 125 years after the 2nd Amendment was ratified, an act was passed, guaranteeing the state militias' status as the Army's primary reserve force, and requiring that all states rename their militia "National Guard". The National Defense Act of 1916 prescribed qualifications for National Guard officers and allowed them to attend U.S. Army schools; required that each National Guard unit would be inspected and recognized by the War Department; and ordered that National Guard units would be organized like regular Army units. The act also specified that Guardsmen would be paid not just for annual training, but also for their drills.

So, it is evident, our founding fathers determined that each citizen shall have the right to keep and bear arms. The National Defense Act of 1916 did not infringe upon the right of the people to keep and bear arms. Today it would be argued by some that the law-abiding citizen does not have this right. We must muster and defend our right as the founding fathers intended it should be – the right of the people to keep and bear Arms shall not be infringed!

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