One Solution to the Gun Problem: Enforce the Whole Second Amendment

The one thing that President Obama and the National Rifle Association seem to agree on is that the U.S. needs to develop a more effective firearms policy. Over the past month, both sides have offered suggestions: Obama has proposed a four-part plan to ban assault weapons, protect schools, implement background checks, and screen out mentally ill potential gun purchasers. As for the NRA, spokesman Wayne LaPierre proposed the "National Model School Shield Program," a plan to train teachers in the use of firearms and enlist volunteers to patrol school grounds.

Both proposals have severe shortcomings: Obama's assumes the passage of extensive gun-control legislation -- wishful thinking, given Congress' severe disfunction and the lobbying power of the NRA. As for the NRA, its notion of elementary schools being patrolled by armed volunteers and militarized math teachers is harrowing at best.

To develop a third, better alternative, one might consider looking back to the specific wording of the Second Amendment.

Getting Back to Basics

The trouble is, the Second Amendment is notoriously confusing. Stating: "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," the amendment guarantees the right to keep and bear arms, but does so with a caveat, qualifying the right by couching it in terms of a military organization.

Today, activists on both sides of the gun divide argue about what the Founding Fathers meant by "well-regulated militias." Gun opponents claim that the Second Amendment's wording referenced a power struggle between state militias and a federal army -- the resolution of which renders much of the amendment moot. Meanwhile, gun proponents argue that "well-regulated" essentially meant "well-armed," suggesting that there should be few limits on gun ownership.

The battle between these perspectives will never be decisively resolved, but the militia caveat may offer a way to bridge the firearm divide: Put simply, a well-regulated, centrally-controlled corps of citizen militias could be the solution to the question of how America can guarantee -- and regulate -- the right to bear arms.

Militias in the Past ... and Future

In America's early days, citizen militias were key to its military strategy. Composed of civilians attempting to defend their communities, these militias trained together, and -- during the Revolutionary War -- fought the British together. In so doing, they established a standard for community involvement and engagement that remains a proud part of America's history.

Today, gun rhetoric often flies in the face of this sense of community and national identity. The NRA, for example, aggressively positions gun ownership as a means of protecting oneself against other members of the community. Some gun advocates go even further, suggesting that ownership is necessary for protection against the federal government.

A modernized version of citizen militias could tamp down this rhetoric -- and help to rebuild community spirit in America. Open membership would ensure that diverse portions of the community would be put in a position to work together. Militias, in turn, would ensure that their members were trained, effective, and invested in the community.

Members would have to undergo extensive firearm training, and would have to prove their mastery of each firearm they own. Within the militias, members would answer to militia leaders, who would have the power to oversee their gun ownership and usage. These leaders would be responsible for insuring that all members were well-trained, well-drilled, and mentally stable. If a member demonstrated irresponsible behavior, his or her militia leaders would be able to withdraw that individual's right to bear arms.

Militia leadership would be a full-time, paid position, and leaders would report to regional heads, who would report to state leaders, and so on, up a chain of command to the federal government. Ultimately, all militias would be administered through an executive federal department, such as the Department of the Interior, the Department of Defense, or the Department of Homeland Security. The whole program could be paid for by a small tax on firearm and ammunition sales.

Such citizen militias could prove a useful addition to our communities, too. Certainly, when it comes to searching for lost children, dealing with natural disasters, and performing other community service functions, a strong, dedicated, community-based group could be hugely valuable.

Militias in Other Countries

While this system hasn't been tried in the U.S., versions of it exist in other countries. Israel, which the NRA's LaPierre has cited as an ideal example of a well-armed society, has an extremely centralized gun structure that is directly controlled by the government. Private gun owners have to undergo extensive training and testing, and must get recertified every three years. Israel rejects 80% of applicants for private gun licenses and largely restricts private gun ownership to people who live in dangerous areas, like the West Bank or near the Lebanese border.

Switzerland is an even better example: The Swiss government subsidizes ammunition sales, sponsors marksmanship competitions and actively encourages firearm usage. Most young men are called up for compulsory military service, and the country sponsors public firearm training. After leaving the military, Swiss men remain part of the militia until age 30, and keep their military-issued rifles in their homes. After age 30, gun owners have to apply for a permit from the government, which closely monitors firearms conduct.

The community and government-based gun control systems in Switzerland and Israel have been fairly successful in limiting gun violence. In 2010, the U.S. had 3.6 firearm homicides per 100,000 people. That same year, Switzerland had 0.52 firearm homicides per 100,000. In 2008, the last year for which figures are available, Israel had 0.83.

More to the point, Switzerland's gun system actively encourages community support and engagement. Gun owners are respected and vital members of society, tasked with protecting their homes and their neighbors from external enemies. So Switzerland's system encourages its gun owners to support their country, rather than destabilize it. This, in particular, is one area where America could take a lesson.

In America, neither the left nor the right has a strong answer to the problem of gun violence. In the absence of gun control regulation, widespread firearm ownership will be dangerous at best. On the flip side, centralized firearms control would be hard to enact, expensive to enforce, and would alienate many gun owners. The solution I've proposed, while not ideal, would be less expensive, more popular, and would supply an element that has been sadly missing from both sides of the debate: personal responsibility.

Read more in AOL's special series, Guns in America:

Bruce Watson is a senior features writer for DailyFinance. You can reach him by e-mail at, or follow him on Twitter at @bruce1971.

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Hmm... Interesting. A possible solution, however I would like to contribute my idea.
I agree that guns should be kept away from the mad men/women that would seek to do harm with them.
I also agree that the whole population shouldn't be punished for the actions of the few.
My proposal is some type of licence system. One would apply for a gun licence and would have to take some form of test. The test would take into account the person's age, responsibility with guns and most of all sanity. People of psychopathic disposition shouldn't be able to purchase guns, but the every-man who likes to go to the shooting range shouldn't have to give up his rights.
The Gun licencing would keep guns away from people who are at risk of harming themselves, or other people. One would require a licence to purchase guns, ammo, and modifications. Let me know what you guys think of this idea.

October 24 2013 at 11:19 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
robert dailey

In our government it is the people who have the ultimate power. The White House is the peoples house. The capital is the peoples building. Therefor it is the people who are the prime authority in this land. We do not need our representatives to subvert our supreme authority. The 2nd amendment, IMO, means that the peop[le have a right to bare arms to protect themselves from their government, whether the people belong to a militia or not.

February 07 2013 at 1:09 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

The problem with this whole article and the thinking behind it is that the 'bad guys' who pose a threat to society are not now and will not under such 'restrictions' and guidelines following or even caring about what the laws mandate or state. This article may give Mr. Watson some perceived measure of clout or appearance of knowing the original intent of the 2nd Amendment in 'that' particular time and setting but it has little to no relevance for today as outlined.

*Finally, knowing or even considering the gun laws and systems of Israel or Switzerland or any other place is irrelevant for America. America has a whole and completely different system and culture. The laws that govern and regulate society on America in so many ways have an influence on the topic at hand. In fact you could not possibly implement in America what works in other countries without first/also changing literally a countless number of laws first and then and only then at some future time hope to change the culture of the whole country to have any hope of similar laws and regulation(s) working in the US...

In short this article has absolutely no merit as regards any kind of solution or practical relevance...I did enjoy reading it though for what it's worth... *smile*

January 23 2013 at 8:37 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

The real problem here is that the right to keep and bear arms is NOT intended to be militia only. Otherwise it would have said 'a well regulated miltia to keep and bear arms'. The framers were very clear in making the distiction between a "well regulated miltia" and the "right of the people to keep and bear arms SHALL NOT BE INFRINGED..." If you need further proof, in the time when the clause was written, the government recognized the "militia" as being free citizens and NOT an Army, they were very different. That is the whole amendment please shut all this stupidity down. We all know and so do you sociopath liberals that this is a problem of the monster YOU ALL created in your BS treatment of sociopaths and psychopaths who get ILLEGAL weapons and go and kill good people.

January 23 2013 at 4:40 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

The National Guard was intended to be the militia. Stop sending the National Guard overseas and the NRA would get on board

January 23 2013 at 3:24 AM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to RichardKanePA's comment

Sorry no you are incorrect.

January 23 2013 at 4:41 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Sounds like a "Company Union".

January 23 2013 at 2:19 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Every one of these mass murders using guns is perpetrated by folks with real, palpable, mental health problems. What sense does it make to restrict the firearms freedoms of law abiding 'non-mental' folks? Is that fair? It seems the reasonable response is to reform our mental health system based on the evidence of experience. Of course, our Govt does not well-regulate guns in regards to mental health patients and guns but instead goes after folks who do not misuse firearms and our not mental health threats. In the history of the 2nd Amendment, It was necessary that every man be able to "keep and bear arms" so as to be ready and able to protect "the security of a free state." This necessarily entailed weapons suitable for military use, which is where the rub comes today. In the 18th century, military weapons were pretty much interchangeable with "sporting" ones, and we didn't have the kind of so-called "assault" weapons of today. One's militia weapon looked like one's personal turkey shooter. Folks had their militia weapon and their own personal guns. For instance, George Washington had a gun collection. Unless we change the 2nd Amendment there's not much more that we can do than very limited measures to restrict guns.

January 23 2013 at 2:13 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

""Militia leadership would be a full-time, paid position, and leaders would report to regional heads, who would report to state leaders, and so on, up a chain of command to the federal government. Ultimately, all militias would be administered through an executive federal department, such as the Department of the Interior, the Department of Defense, or the Department of Homeland Security. The whole program could be paid for by a small tax on firearm and ammunition sales.""

And there you have it, one more moronic liberal idea and one more way for the federals to circumvent the rights of the people. We already have THE NATIONAL GUARD...And every gun in the country is ONE executive order from confiscation.
Thomas Jefferson:
"The strongest reason for the people to retain the right to keep and bear arms is, as a last resort, to protect themselves against tyranny in government."

"Th The beauty of the Second Amendment is that it will not be needed until they try to take it."

January 23 2013 at 1:24 AM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply

our founders used fists , feet ,teeth , clubs , knifs , axes , 1 shot pistols & rifels , & if our technology was where it is now they would have used ar's too , then would everybody understand the 2nd

January 23 2013 at 1:02 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

This guy cannot seem to find ANY topic about which he has any credentials to write. We must therefore assume that DailyFinance uses him to fill space...and we all know that trash expands to fill the space provided for it.

January 23 2013 at 12:41 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply