One of liberals’ favorite arguments for the impermanence of the Second Amendment is the argument that, because the prefatory clause of the amendment discusses “a well-regulated militia,” the right to keep and bear arms is only protected in a militia context (read our debunk of that theory here). Now it appears that at least one local official in a deep blue state tried to put that theory to the test and failed. From the Westford Eagle of Westford, Massachusetts:
A gun control debate that was meant to bring discussion to the Town Meeting floor fizzled in Westford last night (Feb. 20) when Selectman Robert Jefferies withdrew his warrant article seeking to amend the town’s firearms bylaw.[…]
An ongoing debate that began in December when Jefferies called for the formation of a militia in town and then filed a bylaw amendment limiting certain firearms and feeding devices, ended tonight with hundreds of Second Amendment supporters filing into the Stony Brook School to voice opposition, dozens from neighboring towns.
But their voices were silenced when Jefferies said he was withdrawing the article.
“This was meant to be a discussion,” he said. “But it’s no longer a discussion.”
The idea to create a militia while simultaneously imposing an assault weapons ban is, one has to admit, novel. However, Jeffries’ attempt to start a discussion eventually crashed down to earth when actual gun rights supporters intervened quite forcefully against him:
Among the complications was how to appease members of the Westford Sportsmen’s Club—many of whom live in other towns and transport their guns over the town line. A violation of the bylaw could have resulted in a fine of $100 for the first offense, $200 for the second, and $300 for the third and subsequent offenses.
There is no doubt that Jefferies’ intent in making the original proposal was to implicate the Second Amendment’s section on a “well regulated militia.” A letter to the editor in the Westford Patch from last month confirms as much:
Westford Selectman Bob Jeffries recently offered a very interesting and provocative idea, when he called for the establishment of a Westford Militia at a recent meeting of the Town’s Board of Selectmen. Responding to concerns raised by the horrid tragedy in Newtown Connecticut, Mr. Jeffries is advancing this idea in the hope of achieving a more consistent application of the “well regulated militia” clause, contained in the Second Amendment. Through this, he hopes to increase control and regulation of weapons owned by residents of the town. This approach is at best redundant. At worst, it could be interpreted by some constitutional purists as “seditious.”[…]
Let’s have the discussion on gun ownership that Mr. Jeffries wants. It is an important one to have. But on the question of a militia, I recommend that we all let sleeping dogs lie. There is only one militia in Massachusetts and that militia has been perpetually on call since 1638 AD.
So along with opposition from gun rights supporters, Jefferies also faced opposition from people with knowledge of the obscure Massachusetts State militia. Such a group of opponents understandably frustrated his goals. Nevertheless, one wonders what Westford, Massachusetts’ militia would have actually looked like, and just how “well regulated” it would have been.
You can watch video of the actual hearing where the motion was withdrawn here: