The Right to Keep and Bear Arms

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.

There are many ways to approach the gun question. One is through horror stories. Awful things do happen. A story is told. The moral might be, "If only the criminal didn't have a gun," or perhaps "If only the victim had been able to defend herself." This site does not deal much with the horror stories. There are too many such stories on either side. We have enough emotion, enough extremism. The flames need not be fanned higher.

One perspective on guns is that of values. Some believe themselves responsible for their own security and safety. Others believe the government responsible, and wish any measure taken such that the government can do their job more effectively. Is an armed People the natural defense of a free state, or does the state owe the people a free ride? One's values influence the horror stories one listens to and tells. However, values are seldom altered by fact or debate. Values stick deep in the heart. Web pages should not hope to alter people's values. This is a futile exercise. Even knowing this, one can not help but try.

A third perspective on guns is statistical. In different places, in different times, under different laws, what are the effects of gun laws on crime? There are ways to arrange the statistics that favor any position one might wish. States with strict gun control have crime problems, but does gun control cause crime, by rending the victims defenseless? Or does crime cause gun control, as states with crime problems are the ones that try quick fixes? One can easily show two places or two times have different crime rates, but establishing the importance of gun control laws in altering the crime rates is far more difficult. Most of the statistical arguments used on either side of the debate are far more propaganda than fact. This site's section on the statistics is thus entitled "Liars Sure Figure." Bottom line, John Lott's More Guns Less Crime is the best word on statistical analysis, though not necessarily the last word. His study clearly favors the ancient and honored natural right of self defense. Still, logic and fact do not trump emotion and horror stories. Lott's study has raised the standard for analysis of crime and deterrence, but many have no interest in listening.

The final perspective is law. Was the Second Amendment intended to guarantee an individual right to keep and bear arms in defense of self and community? What weapons are protected? Are the states bound to honor the right? The bulk of this site advocates the academic "Standard Model," favoring an individual right. However, it is clear that the courts have not always respected the views of the founding fathers. The courts have respected even less the modifications to the Constitution made by the Civil War era's Radical Republicans. A understanding of how the founding fathers and Supreme Court parted company is essential to following legal aspects of the debate.

This is a pro gun site, but not primarily a pro gun site. The central focus is on rule of law. The point is that the Supreme Court can and has abandoned its role as protector of the Rights of the People, as a check on the power of Congress and the executive, and as defender of the Constitution. This site should provide a solid introduction to the gun question, including a few of the better gun control arguments and pointers to gun control sites. The concern, however, is larger than simply the gun question.

The concern is for rule of law.

Millennial Flashback

These pages are anything but the latest word on the gun debate. They were originally put together in the late 1990s, a time well before the Supreme Court's District of Columbia v. Heller case essentially made the 'Standard Model' interpretation advocated in these pages the law of the land. At the time these pages were first published, an awful lot of people did not believe in an individual right. As a result, the tone of the work is more strident than what I'd rewrite today.

The gun question is hardly well settled. There is a clearly established individual right at the federal level. The details will be worked out in the courts over the next decade or so. While individuals might have a basic right to carry a weapon to defend themselves, the DC v Heller case left lots of room for limits. States might require guns to be registered so long as the permits are not denied arbitrarily or capriciously. The sizes of magazines might be limited. The question of concealed carry can be addressed.

Refining these problems will take time, but some semblance of sanity seems to have returned. Many of these questions ought to be solved using democracy, rather than nine old men making arbitrary decisions.

I am less concerned for rule of law than I once was.


This site keeps growing on me. There is more here than most casual web surfers will wish to deal with. My recommendations...

The Cruikshank decision. After the Civil War, at the end of the Reconstruction, to assure white supremacy, the Supreme Court eliminated the federal government's ability to enforce the entire Bill of Rights. The intent of the collective rights interpretation of the Second Amendment was to allow the southern states to disarm blacks. To understand the true merit of the "state's rights" interpretation of the Second Amendment, one has to read Cruikshank as the north's surrender to the south at the end of the Reconstruction. The Supreme Court repealed the Fourteenth Amendment, and essentially the entire Bill of Rights.

The Commonplace Second Amendment. In the state constitutions, written about the same time as the US Constitution, justification and operative clauses were used quite frequently. This is the same structure used by the Second Amendment. A convincing academic paper on how to read the text.

Liars Sure Figure. An introduction to the use and abuse of statistics in the gun debate. Presents four statistical arguments, two pro control, two pro gun, including Lott's More Guns Less Crime.

US v Emerson. There are many papers on this page advocating the academic 'standard model,' presenting the Second Amendment as an individual right. Judge Cummings's is the one that counts. It was delivered from the bench to decide a live case. His decision, currently under appeal, is as good a review of the 'standard model' individual rights theory as any. The appeals of US v. Emerson, which seem likely to reach the Supreme Court, ought to transform the gun debate.

On Violence in America. - Bill Bradley, for his millennial presidential campaign, produced a strong and entirely representative pro gun control argument. Rebuttals are inserted. This should cover most of the key points of law, history and statistics from both perspectives.

War Gaming Columbine. Much emotion was raised by the tragedy, and the gun control lobby has used the deaths to press for infringement. My own analysis of the tactical situation raises questions on the tactical merits of the proposed legal remedies.

Pop Quiz

First, an exercise in reading comprehension. Values are a funny thing. One sees what one wants to see, hears what one wants to hear. The Pop Quiz attempts to force one to really read what the Second Amendment is saying rather than what one wants it to say.

As very very few people actually answer the above as a reading comprehension test, I'll repeat with emphasis. I am not interested in personal opinions. I'm curious as to how many people that find these pages are reading with an open mind.

Legal Papers and Rebuttals

The US Senate's Version : This is my favored article length argument for what the academics call the "standard model," supporting an individual right to bear arms. If you search for "Right to Keep and Bear Arms" or "RKBA" on a good web search engine, you will find a number of variants on this theme, along with a reasonable supply of survivalists and gun nut pages. This is a report from the Senate Committee on the Constitution. One of its members is that ultra right wing rigid conservative, Ted Kennedy.

The Embarrassing Second Amendment : This one is one of the early "standard model" articles, published in the Yale Law Review. At the time it was published it created quite the stir. Going back and reading it again, it almost seems tentative compared to the Senate's version and similar newer efforts. It has the advantage of presenting alternate views, however.

The Commonplace Second Amendment. Focused on how to read the text. Lists other examples of justification clauses followed by operative clauses. It is the operative clause that counts.

Have You Seen Your Militia Lately? is a pretty good match in form, style and substance for the US Senate Report above. This is one of many papers found on Gun Control Incorperated's (GCI's) web site. It covers much the same ground as the Senate report, with opposite spin. This is a well researched attempt at shooting down the Standard Model. The paper correctly emphasizes that the Right to Bear Arms has never been absolute, and tries to extend this to a claim the Right to Bear Arms does not exist. It also brings up considerable history since the Bill of Rights, ignored by the Senate.

Spin Cycles : This is my own second effort. It attempts to focus on the differences between the Senate Report and Have You Seen Your Militia Lately. If you get bogged down in the properly annotated, researched, and lengthy Senate and GCI position papers, I tried to be short and to the point.

Senate Report II This is another report focusing on the Post Civil War era, and the intent of the framers of the XIVth amendment, which was intended to extend the Bill of Rights, including the Right to Bear Arms, to black citizens in the south.

Some Statistical Arguments

Liars Sure Figure - An Introduction to the gun law statistical arguments.

The Classic Cases

There are at least three interesting questions regarding the Second Amendment. The Supreme Court has spoken on some of them, as does the Standard Model.

U.S. v. Miller: This is one of the most quoted court cases in the gun debate. Is has been used to justify most anything except the USSR's claim to the Moon. Don't trust other's interpretation of this case. Read it yourself.

On Miller's Shotgun: I of course read Miller too. Just in case you have formed your own opinion, I'll give you mine.

Sick Puppies: United States v. Cruikshank Et Al and Presser v Illinois are two of the most quoted cases in the gun control debate. This is correct. One can find strong statements for a collective right to bear arms here. However, one can also find justification for the states nullifying the Bill of Rights. While these cases use dated and voided approaches to the First and Fourteenth Amendments, they are still considered valid on the subject of the Second. Would they stand the scrutiny of a modern Court? One should really read the full opinions before taking any out of context references seriously.

US v. Emerson - Not classic yet - this one hasn't yet reached the Supreme Court - but this case likely to answer the question of whether the Second Amendment establishes an individual right.

US Militia Law One of the critical issues is the meaning of a well drilled militia. Gun control advocates must define the militia is part time troops such as the National Guard. The Standard Model indicates the militia is all able bodied males. The US code agrees with the the Standard Model.

Venting Steam

Pop Quiz Results: No big surprises, but a lot of folks are blowing question three.

War Gaming Columbine - A look at the tactics and psychology of the Columbine incident. Some lessons learned on police doctrine, with possible implications on the legal side.

Enemy of the Court - No, not me. They are their own worst enemy. Should the enumerated powers of Congress be taken as seriously as the Bill of Rights?

Horror Stories - NEW! On an Internet political debate page, I got a bit tired of the "another person has died, isn't it time to do something" argument. What do the horror stories actually demonstrate?

Founding Fathers v. U.S. Supreme Court Eventually, I got tired of taking the issue seriously. One can only get so mad, so long, before one has to lighten up a bit.

Old Introduction : A very short position statement. This was my opening argument for several years.

My First Effort : My conclusions mesh fairly well with the NRA's. This is shorter than many versions of the academic "standard model," but tries to hit the major points hard.

A Draft - If you have read most of my other efforts above, this will be quite repetitive. It was my lead article for one day, but came to like a new version better.

Major Players

NRA Homepage

NRA Founding Father's Quotes

NRA court cases effecting the second amendment, with spin. I will try to find a similar page from the gun controllers side, with opposite spin.

The Second Amendment Foundation - Covers the legal aspects extensively.

Gun Control Inc. home page. In the legal action section, under articles related to the Second Amendment, you will find additional position papers from the gun control side.

Gunfree home page. Another major organization advocating gun control.

ACLU Home Page and position paper.

LawCrawler A search engine for legal cases. It might find you the full text of other cases.

Minor Players

The Ashley Mantone Memorial Gun Control Webring - Based on a brief search, the only gun control Webring, far outweighed by RKBA and shooter's rings. Ashley was 13 years old. She died in a gun accident, killed by another 13 year old. While the issue is not to be decided by horror stories, horror stories are real. I am appalled at Ashley's death. I am appalled that a father with a child didn't feel enough concern for his children to secure his gun. I am more appalled by the thought that it would take an Act of Congress to require parents to secure their guns.

Darwin Awards - Darwin Awards celebrate Charles Darwin's theory of evolution in action by commemorating the remains of individuals who contributed to the improvement of our gene pool by removing themselves from it. Normally, I would not propose such an award for those who remove their children's genes from the pool. However, I would make an exception for parents who do not secure their guns.


While I haven't received any real awards for this effort, I discovered that Montgomery College in Maryland is using this page and a dozen others in training it's teachers to evaluate web sites. The referencing page is titled, "The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly." My only question? Which category does this effort qualify under?

E-Mail Me