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May 18, 2009

It's About Citizenship

Many of you are aware that CSGV Executive Director Josh Horwitz has a book coming out this month, Guns, Democracy and the Insurrectionist Idea, that “recasts the gun debate” by “demonstrating how reasonable gun control is essential to the survival of democracy and ordered liberty."

Josh is not the only person thinking about this topic in the wake of last year’s District of Columbia v. Heller decision, however. Frequently, I will receive emails from a nonprofit organization, The Potowmack Institute, whose motto is, “It’s not about guns…it’s about citizenship.”

A recent missive from the Institute contained some very provocative ideas:

We are in the midst a crisis in gun violence and gun trafficking that is no longer simply national. It has become international … These crises can no longer be ignored … The [Senate] Judiciary Committee will have confirmation hearings on a Supreme Court nominee. It is not usual to ask nominees questions on cases, but the Parker [v. District of Columbia]/Heller gun rights cases do offer possibilities on the most fundamental concepts…

The vital arguments [have been] ignored … The substantive discussion begins with something very simple: What James Madison was really describing in Federalist Paper No. 46 was not a civil right of private individuals. It ends with something equally simple. The Parker/Heller cases were a devastating defeat for gun rights ideologies [in part because those decisions affirmed that a wide range of gun control regulation is both constitutional and permissible and because they refused to adopt a strict scrutiny standard for future regulations]. If the gun lobby does not accept the opinions of the courts, the constitutional challenge to them is to launch a campaign for a constitutional amendment. The cynical business of defeating legislation does not secure a constitutional right.

The hearings have to be directed toward the formulation of national policy. The only really important goal of national policy is to control the illegal traffic of guns between and among jurisdictions and now, between and among nations. That is empowerment policy for local jurisdictions. The Federal Government need do little more. That goal can only be accomplished by registration of ownership and reporting of private sales...

[The solution] is very simple: Resurrect the original militia concept and practices as manifest in the “Militia Act of 1792.” Registration for militia call-up—regardless that a call-up ever takes place—is a matter of military preparedness. It can have the added benefit of controlling the illegal traffic [in firearms]. We can call it the “Homeland Security Militia Reserve Act.”

The constitutional authority for such a national firearms policy is not the much overused Commerce Clause, but the militia clauses and the Second Amendment. Militia duty was conscript duty. Privately owned weapons were a public resource [used for] public duty. They were placed on inventories and reported to the president of the United States ... Can the Judiciary Committee conduct a badly needed national civics lesson? There are no libertarian individual rights in a conscript military organization. After the Parker/Heller opinions there can be no constitutional objections.

The gun rights ideologues would, I think, be very eager to get a hearing for their rights. The business of serious political leadership is to keep them honest and hold them accountable.

A policy that actually entails some real responsibilities for those who consistently clamor about their “rights”? Sounds like a great idea to me...


  1. hahahahaha....

    so i'll get issued an M-16 at my first militia callup, right? the last possible thing you people want to do is call up the militia, getting us all in one place to talk politics and guns.


  2. Unfortunately a militia system would require a complete retooling and reorientation from the top to bottom of the US military-industrial-congressional complex.

    People would not be keen on militia service to go fight wars for special interest lobbies.