Military service doesn’t legitimize anti-gun positions

From time to time, gun rights advocates find themselves in a discussion of the Second Amendment with someone who claims to be a military veteran that supports gun control. Most of the time, it’s easy to dismiss these people as pretenders or whatever, though military service doesn’t make one automatically pro-gun.

That’s the case with Lt. Col. Robert Bateman in a piece over at Esquire:

People, it is time to talk about guns.

My entire adult life has been dedicated to the deliberate management of violence. There are no two ways around that fact. My job, at the end of the day, is about killing. I orchestrate violence.

I am not proud of that fact. Indeed, I am often torn-up by the realization that not only is this my job, but that I am really good at my job. But my profession is about directed violence on behalf of the nation. What is happening inside our country is random and disgusting, and living here in England I am at a complete loss as to how to explain this at all. In 2011 the number of gun deaths in the United States was 10.3 per 100,000 citizens. In 2010 that statistic in the UK was 0.25. And do not even try to tell me that the British are not as inclined to violence or that their culture is so different from ours that this difference makes sense. I can say nothing when my British officers ask me about these things, because it is the law.

Bateman makes his desire for gun control amply clear throughout the rest of the piece, yet he manages to make Army officers as a whole look like complete and total idiots. After all, he can’t understand basic sentence structure:

Five of the nine members of the Supreme Court agreed that the part in the Second Amendment which talks about “A Well Regulated Militia, Being Necessary To The Security Of A Free State…” did not matter. In other words, they flunked basic high school history.

The lengths to which Justice Scalia had to go in his attempt to rewrite American history and the English language are as stunning as they are egregious. In essence, what he said about the words written by the Founding Fathers was, “Yeah, they didn’t really mean what they said.”

You have got to be fking kidding me. Seriously? You spent nearly 4,000 words to deny the historical reality of thirteen words? That, sir, is an embarrassingly damning indictment not just of you, but of an educational system that failed to teach history.

Yes, the phrase “A Well Regulated Militia, Being Necessary To The Security Of A Free State…” does, indeed exist. I don’t believe that anyone is really arguing that it doesn’t. What is being argued is that it essentially doesn’t matter.

The phrase that Bateman seems incapable of understanding is “The Right Of The People To Keep And Bear Arms Shall Not Be Infringed.” The phrase that he seems to want to focus his attention on is a modifying clause, absolutely. However, the amendment doesn’t state that the right of the militia to keep and bear arms in unassailable, but the people as a whole.

Of course, Bateman is fascinated with the militia in the same way a cat is fascinated with a laser pointer. They can’t look away, even though they don’t understand what it really is:

Which is why, in 1903 Congress passed the Militia Act. Friends, if you have not read it I’ll just tell you: As of 1903, the “militia” has been known as the National Guard.

They are “well regulated,” and when called to do so as they have been these past twelve years, they can fight like demons. I am proud of them. And I am ashamed that Justice Scalia thinks that they do not exist.

Actually, while the National Guard is, indeed, part of the “well regulated militia,” it’s not all of it. You see, the rank and file American is considered part of the militia as well. You and I are, most likely, considered part of the militia as well. Sure, we’re the last case scenario, but we’re there. We are part of a SHTF military mobilization plan, should it ever become necessary. If it is, we had damn well better come armed, because there won’t be enough weapons in military storehouses at that point to arm us all.

In addition, Bateman is hung up on the phrase “well regulated.” Linguists familiar with terminology from the late 18th century generally agree that the phrase simply means “properly functioning.”

Of course, getting back to the militia terminology, let me quote another Lt. Colonel. Lt. Col. Tom Kratman wrote in a post on his blog:

Concerning the National Guard, the organized militia, one must repeat that it is merely a part, a small part, of the militia as a whole. Nor is it an entirely satisfactory part if it is expected to serve as a potential means of revolution. With under half a million men and women, and at one weekend a month and two weeks in the summer, the Guard is both too small and too indifferently trained to serve as a counterweight to federal reserve and regular forces numbering in the range of two million.

Of course the unorganized militia is not merely poorly trained, it is essentially untrained. Nonetheless, with something like one hundred million men (and potentially a like number of women), the unorganized militia is a terribly strong counterweight to Federal forces so long as it possesses the means and the will to preserve liberty.[3]

This is so even if one does, as one should, include the National Guard under Federal force rather than state militia. Consider: the Federal government pays the individual members of the Guard, pays their retirement checks when they reach age sixty, and pays for their training. The Federal government owns the Guard’s arms and equipment and can withdraw them at will. The Federal government presides over the structure - combat or non- combat - of the Guard’s units. The legal commanders-in-chief of the various National Guards, the state governors, can no longer even withhold their National Guards from Federal service.

In short, in no way does the National Guard any longer serve the purpose of the Second Amendment, to preserve the means of effective revolution in some hands other than the Federal government’s.

Kratman includes footnotes, allowing the reader to follow where he has gotten much of this.

Meanwhile, Bateman has made no case that the Founding Fathers ever intended for the civilian population to ever be disarmed. It’s absolutely ridiculous to ever think so. They had just fought a war, one where armed citizens played an important role (though that role is often overstated in this day and age). They wanted an armed populace, and actually were skeptical of a standing military. Yet, Bateman isn’t calling for an abolition of the United States Armed Forces, now is he?

Of course not.

Bateman’s diatribe is nothing more than typical anti-gun talking points, dressed up in his military rank. The truth is, the United States military isn’t some monolithic entity where everyone thinks the same. There are divergent views on any given subject, and Bateman is just an example of that.

Of course, utilizing his rank in his byline is nothing more than cheap parlor trick to make it appear that he speaks with more authority than he really does. While he does go on to say in his closer that he isn’t speaking for the United States military, many won’t register that. In their mind, “the troops” are calling for gun control, and that was the point all along.

Lt. Col. Bateman? You, sir, are a disgrace. Using your rank in an effort to infringe the civil liberties of Americans is absolutely disgusting. I’m just glad you are actually the minority of military personnel when it comes to this issue.


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