Myth 2 – The Right to Bear Arms only applies to militias and/or does not include certain types of weapons.

I encourage you to read the Federalist Papers.  In them, our Founding Fathers presented their ideas related to the new government that they were forming.

In Federalist 28 (, Alexander Hamilton stated: “If the representatives of the people betray their constituents, there is then no resource left but in the exertion of that original right of self-defense which is paramount to all positive forms of government…”

In Federalist 29 (, he discusses the militia: “To oblige the great body of the yeomanry, and of the other classes of the citizens, to be under arms for the purpose of going through military exercises and evolutions, as often as might be necessary to acquire the degree of perfection which would entitle them to the character of a well-regulated militia, would be a real grievance to the people, and a serious public inconvenience and loss. It would form an annual deduction from the productive labor of the country, to an amount which, calculating upon the present numbers of the people, would not fall far short of the whole expense of the civil establishments of all the States. To attempt a thing which would abridge the mass of labor and industry to so considerable an extent, would be unwise: and the experiment, if made, could not succeed, because it would not long be endured. Little more can reasonably be aimed at, with respect to the people at large, than to have them properly armed and equipped;…” In other words, keeping a “well regulated militia” is not practical, but the general population should be armed and equipped.

In Federalist 46 (, James Madison wrote: “Extravagant as the supposition is, let it however be made. Let a regular army, fully equal to the resources of the country, be formed; and let it be entirely at the devotion of the federal government; still it would not be going too far to say, that the State governments, with the people on their side, would be able to repel the danger. The highest number to which, according to the best computation, a standing army can be carried in any country, does not exceed one hundredth part of the whole number of souls; or one twenty-fifth part of the number able to bear arms. This proportion would not yield, in the United States, an army of more than twenty-five or thirty thousand men. To these would be opposed a militia amounting to near half a million of citizens with arms in their hands, officered by men chosen from among themselves, fighting for their common liberties, and united and conducted by governments possessing their affections and confidence. It may well be doubted, whether a militia thus circumstanced could ever be conquered by such a proportion of regular troops. Those who are best acquainted with the last successful resistance of this country against the British arms, will be most inclined to deny the possibility of it. Besides the advantage of being armed, which the Americans possess over the people of almost every other nation, the existence of subordinate governments, to which the people are attached, and by which the militia officers are appointed, forms a barrier against the enterprises of ambition, more insurmountable than any which a simple government of any form can admit of. Notwithstanding the military establishments in the several kingdoms of Europe, which are carried as far as the public resources will bear, the governments are afraid to trust the people with arms. And it is not certain, that with this aid alone they would not be able to shake off their yokes.”  So he is saying that a centralized army is not a threat to the liberty of the citizens, because they are armed and much more numerous than the size of the army could be.  Obviously, our founders could not foresee modern weapons and machines of war.  While the citizens still have a numbers advantage, the US Armed Forces have a huge force multiplier due to tanks, bombers, etc.  So while we cannot know how are Founding Fathers would feel about owning certain types of weapons, it is my interpretation that would want the citizens on equal footing or else their safeguards have failed.

We can also look to the Supreme Court in the period following the Constitution and Bill of Rights.  St. George Tucker was a legal scholar and U.S. District Court judge appointed by James Madison in 1813. Tucker has been cited in dozens of supreme court cases.  William Rawle was a U.S. District Attorney appointed in 1791.  Justice Joseph Story served on the Supreme Court from 1811 to 1845.  All three men have published opinions in favor of an individual right to bear arms (Google is your friend). Rather than delve into their opinions, let’s look at a modern opinion.  On June 26, 2008 in District of Columbia v. Heller, Justice Scalia delivered an opinion on whether the wording was meant to apply to individuals or only the militia. (  “The Second Amendment is naturally divided into two parts: its prefatory clause and its operative clause. The former does not limit the latter grammatically, but rather announces a purpose. The Amendment could be rephrased, ‘Because a well regulated Militia is necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms shall not be infringed.’…There seems to us no doubt, on the basis of both text and history, that the Second Amendment conferred an individual right to keep and bear arms.”