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The 2nd Amendment and well-regulated horses

The 2nd Amendment to the United States Constitution is short and sweet… and confusing only to those who are willing to completely ignore traditional English sentence structure.

It reads:

“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.”

From that, the pro-gun control folk get the concept that the government has total control over every manner of “arms” that exists. And that these arms only can function within the purview of a “well regulated militia.”

Let’s take a closer look at that logic with a comparison to another militia necessity.

The importance of a horse in the 1700-1800s to army personnel was extremely high. It was their transportation, it was their luggage carrier, and if necessary, they could even eat it during a siege. Therefore, it was paramount to know that all the militia could show up with their horse in hand when called upon. So… the Founding Fathers put a clause in the Constitution that read something such as this:

“A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and ride horses shall not be infringed”

Now, based upon the interpretations of those who have difficulty understanding English, they would have us believe that only those who belong to the militia have the “right” to keep and ride a horse. No other people do. Not farmers. Not cowboys. Not horse racers. Not teamsters. Not stagecoach companies. Not little girls with their ponies. No one has the “right” to keep and ride a horse except someone who belongs to a “well regulated militia.”

And furthermore, those who have the “right” to keep and ride a horse must abide by the government regulations as to the particular, allowable breed of horse, the number of legs the horse must have, how old it must be, how tall it can be, the color of its hair, how long the mane can be, whether or not it is male or female, how often you can breed it, and if it is gelded. Not to mention the total number of horses one can buy, keep and ride, who you can buy it from, or the sum total poundage of the herd. Or how fast it can be ridden and how many miles in one trip.

If this seems exceptionally silly… that is because the basic argument of those who dismiss the 2nd Amendment as only applying to the militia is exceptionally silly. They really know that deep in their heart… which is why they generally just wave their hands and don’t try to actually defend their position.

9 thoughts on “The 2nd Amendment and well-regulated horses”

  • Rich

    The purpose of the 2nd Amendment is to ensure that the STATES have an armed & trained citizenry (the Militia) which can be used, when push comes to shove, to defend the STATES from the federal gov't and from the federal gov'ts disastrous policies [e.g. unrestricted immigration]. See, e.g., Federalist No. 46 (James Madison).
    States no longer have a Militia. With the Dick Act of 1903, the States surrendered the Militia (over which they had control) and allowed it to be federalized - put under federal control. The States' "national guard" are merely adjuncts of the federal military.
    The States did it for the money. Yes, they got federal funds for allowing the federal gov't to take over their State Militia.
    It is your State governments which sold you down the river.

    • admin

      Yeah, unfortunately the ratio of spam to honest replies is about twenty to one. I moderate solely to keep the spam down.

    • Kyle in Upstate NY
      Kyle in Upstate NY August 26, 2019 at 4:02 am

      The Second Amendment had nothing to do with the states. It protects an individual right. There were no state militias at the time and I don't believe any were ever created. There is a distinction written about repeatedly at the time between "select militias" vs "the militia" and "the militia at large." "The militia" was understood, and this is very clear from multiple parts of the Federalist Papers, to refer to the the general population capable of bearing arms. Obviously children, the mentally and physically disabled, and elderly are not going to be a part of the militia, even though they do still retain their rights including the right to arms.

      The Federalists, who did not even want a Bill of Rights as they saw such a thing as redundant (see Hamilton in Federalist #84), did not trust the concept of select militias, as they were seen as a way to keep the equivalent of a standing army on the cheap and thus could be used by a tyrant to enforce a dictatorship. Hamilton was an exception, and in Federalist #29 calls for the creation of "select corps of militia" to supplement the militia as he notes it is impossible to expect that the militia be able to have the military skill of "well regulated troops" (i.e. you can't expect the average Joe and Jane to maintain both their day job and daily life along with maintain the skill of a professional soldier). But then he also notes that this is just a suggestion and one that will likely not be accepted (it wasn't). Proposals to create a federal select militia were rejected by the Philadelphia Convention and the Third Congress.

      The anti-Federalists were even more distrustful, and saw the Federalists as desiring too powerful a government. The Bill of Rights was only added as they were promised one in order to get their support for ratification of the Constitution. NO WAY would they have supported any amendment that limited the right to arms to a select militia, when they were VEHEMENTLY against such in the first place. The anti-Federalists in fact even accused that the Congress authority granted in the Constitution for "organizing, arming, and training the militia" would lead to the creation of a select militia, something that the Federalists repeatedly denied.

      As such, one would expect a MASSIVE uproar to be found among the anti-Federalists over the language of the Second Amendment if it clearly at the time had been understood as protecting a right to arms only via a state militia, which would constitute a select militia. But yet no such uproar is found. There is nowhere where the anti-Federalists rail about the Second Amendment's limiting arms solely to those belonging to select militias. Some might respond with, "The anti-Federalists were against select federal militias, but not select state militias." The problem though is that the Constitution grants the government the authority to call forth "the militia" and if the right of possession of arms is now limited to select state militias, this would mean that the only militias the government can call forth in many instances would be select militias, thus meaning an indirectly nationalized federal militia. The anti-federalists would never have supported such a thing. Some also try to claim that the word "State" in the Second Amendment refers to individual states as opposed to a "state" as in a nation-state, but really, it is irrelevant. It could be referring to an individual state of the United States or a state in general as in a nation-state, but either way, the meaning of the word doesn't limit the right of arms to a select militia. If it meant individual states of the United States, it is still protecting the individual right to keep and bear arms.

      The other issue is that IF one wants to claim that the Second only applies to state militias, then this automatically nullifies all federal gun control legislation. Because the Federal government can't be dictating to the states how their militia members are armed when the Constitution is being interpreted as saying that the states have a right to maintain militias to check a federal tyranny.

      Furthermore, one only need look to the language of the Second Amendment to determine.that it protects an individual right. Take two examples:

      "A well-balanced diet being necessary to good health, the right of the people to produce and consume food shall not be infringed."

      "A well-educated electorate being necessary to the preservation of a free society, the right of the people to read and produce information shall not be infringed."

      In neither one of these would anyone interpret the right to food as being tied to a government-defined "well-balanced diet" or the right to read and write as being limited to being a member of a government-defined "well-educated electorate."

      When one looks at all the facts, we see that not only is the Second Amendment's language not cryptic or difficult to understand as so many in the media often claim, but rather to the contrary, it was quite a plain English statement. It's just that the meaning of the language has changed is all.

    • Roger Sherman

      Was the amendment created to protect a strong state militia or was it created to ensure an individual’s right to own a firearm?

      The very simple answer:

      It was created to protect a a strong state militia AND it was created to ensure an individual’s right to own a firearm. It was never an "either or" question".

      Pretty simple concept. The methodology employed to protect a strong state militia was to preserve a pre-exisiting individual right to have and use arms for individual purposes. In this way the framers knew that a large percentage of the population would not only have arms, but be familiar with their use so that in an emergency a "well regulated militia" could always be organized from the ranks of the citizens. That is the way it had always worked in the past.

  • Barry Hirsh

    Congratulations on being one of the rare organizations that quotes the Second Amendment with ONE comma. It is the only legitimate version, because it is the one that was ratified in 1789 and posted by then-SecState Thomas Jefferson.

    The two superfluous commas were added by God-knows-who afterward, and they wreak havoc to its original meaning.

  • Peter Laskarin

    In 1861, some States did exert their right to oppose the Federal government. After the conflict and invasion by Federal forces their actions were justified by Chief Justice Chase. That was the major start of the slippery slope to control of our government by powerful and wealthy entities.

  • Geoff

    ADMIN: I see you state you moderate comments, so I'm going to put a couple relevant links here.
    The meaning of the phrase "well-regulated" in the 2nd amendment
    A 2nd Amendment Grammar Lesson
    And about that 1 comma. The original document has 3, but the ratified version in 1791 has only the 1, but then somebody edited Wikipedia and put the other 2 back in the ratified version.

    • admin

      Yeah, I moderate to keep the spam down

    • Roger Sherman

      Actually, there were 14 "duplicate originals". One was retained and the other 13 sent to the states for ratification. Since each has hand written, they varied somewhat in capitalization and in punctuation. The one authenticated by Jefferson in his capacity of Secretary of State as being ratified by the states has one middle comma with only the leading word, "A", of the sentence capitalized. The enrolled version, officially adopted by Congress is identical to Jefferson's authenticated version except that the word "State" is also capitalized.. Here is a link to the official version found in the US Statutes at Large:

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