Paul Craig: Gun control debate a fractured discourse


NES Member
Dec 13, 2006
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I don’t know if it’s irony, farce, comedy or tragedy. But, in the debate over gun control and ownership, some people insist that only members of the militia can “keep and bear arms.” And they restrict the “keep” part to armory storage.

Additionally, these people insist no ordinary citizen can own a “military-style weapon,” especially the dreaded “assault rifle.” That this term was concocted by an anti-gun zealot in the late 1960s — drawing on, he said, the ignorance, fear and emotions of the public — is ignored.

The military M-16 is derived from the civilian AR-15, not the other way around. And, “AR” does not stand for “Assault Rifle.” It comes from the Armalite company that invented the AR-15 and likely stands for “Armalite Rifle.”

Unfortunately for the militia-only line of discourse, the militia is the “entire body of the people,” as the men who wrote our Constitution and then its Bill of Rights fully understood. Practically, this means that all male citizens between the ages of 15 to 45 would be called to “bear arms” for the national defense or to keep civil order.

Thus if the standard military rifle is the M-16, all these militia men must individually keep an M-16 with all it accoutrements and ammunition in their homes and be ready to bear them when the militia is called to duty. Also, these men of the militia must be “well regulated”; that is, they must be fully trained in the use and upkeep of their rifles.

Equally important, each town militia must collectively own the same weaponry that the national army would have, which in 1790 meant artillery. Each state had inspectors general who visited town armories to ensure they kept their cannons, powder and ball in good repair.

The gun control debate exemplifies today’s fractured discourse. It feeds on ignorance of history (witness the flap over our state flag design), a zealous disregard of fact, insistence that only my way of thinking can be right, and the substitution of rational narrative with emotional hyperbole

Paul M. Craig

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