"What, Sir, is the use of a militia?
It is to prevent the establishment
of a standing army, the bane of liberty. ...
Whenever Governments mean to invade
the rights and liberties of the people,
they always attempt to destroy the militia,
in order to raise an army upon their ruins."
by:
Elbridge Gerry
(1744-1814) of Massachusetts, Signer of the Declaration of Independence and Member of the Constitutional Convention
Source:
spoken during floor debate over the Second Amendment,  I Annals of Congress at 750, August 17, 1789
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Reader comments about this quote:
I thought I'd never agree with one from Massachusetts on guns again!
 -- Peter, Detroit     
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    It is worth noting that our government has done away with our militia, and we are currently under the power of the standing army.
     -- Johnson, Gainesville, FL     
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    If militias are good in the United States, why are we destroying militias in Iraq?
     -- Joe, Rochester, MI     
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    Again, the standing army in the US is not considered "politically reliable" to effect forcible civilian disarmament. That will have to be done by some sort of a "special federal police force" (an extension of BATFE, perchance?). It is not a standing army that threatens liberty today - it is the expansion of police forces with a political agenda and the enactment of laws that criminalize the use, practice and possession of militarily suitable arms by the people that theatens liberty.
     -- Sarge, KS     
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    The militia is still there. Both organized and unorganized. The unorganized militia is the most important part and it exists in fact and in law. It is just a matter of whether or not we each get our backs up enough to push that reset button on the Constitution. And once a gain Sarge, you are eminently correct.
     -- helorat, Milton     
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     -- R C Burns, Southampton, NJ      
    Note that the Constitution authorizes a federal army for no more than 2 years -- except under a state of emergency. Since 1934 the US has been under a constant state of national emergency, therefore allowing the US military to become the giant that it is now, ready to invade any country except China -- and what can the people do? Nothing. The militia is no more -- and is now a dirty word, just like 'constitution' and 'rights'.
     -- E Archer, NYC     
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    The US Military is a threat to the very survival of this world. If we don't gain control of it and disband it in favor of state Militias, it will be used against the American people in the future. All you have to do is see how it was used to disarm peaceable people during Hurricane Katrina to see that they would be used at our detriment. Elbridge Gerry is being proven correct in his ascertainment.
     -- Mark, Harrison     
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    To Sarge, From another former "Sarge", I must say I think you articulated your point perfectly. And there are more of us former Sarges than there are current Sarges, that's for sure. And those who would trample Liberty are few and outnumbered. Never fear, guys. There are more of us then there are of them.
     -- Snakedoc67, Boston, MA     
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    I agree with most of what has been said, but what is not made clear in the above is the meaning and intent of the Second Amendment. The full debate in the House and articles in several of the Anti-federalist publications of the time clarify it. Also, Secretary of War (General) Knox's plan for organizing the militia, which was never put into practice, gives an excellent understanding of the purpose and intended organization of the militia. The founding fathers had a great distrust of standing armies because they saw its use by monarchs over the centuries to suppress citizens. The Second Amendment gives up its meaning when understood in terms of preventing the rise of a standing army by having initial recourse to the militia. "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 purpose of the guarantee of access to arms is to guarantee the viability of the militia, which without arms would be useless. The term regulated in Colonial times refers to a regular or regulated force. The term regulars was sued in referring to the British regulars that the colonials fought. A regulated force is one that is organized, trained and armed. Note that the Second Amendment states that a well regulated militia, not just a haphazard group of men, was intended. The term well regulated obviously infers an organized, well trained and equipped group. Also, note that the Second Amendment refers to the security of a free state. The militia might be used to defend the state, the nation, if necessary, as part of an army called to action, but the initial purpose of the Second Amendment's militia is to protect a free state; to prevent the freedom of the state, to keep it free. The founding fathers were very specific in their use of terms in constructing the Second Amendment, as it was the most highly debated Amendment. Even Hamilton, an evil centrist, states in the Federalist papers that the Revolution could not have been won with the militia alone, but neither could the army have won the war without the militia. The Federal army was intended to consist of "experts", professionals who would form the basis of the army, a small standing army; but a second force, the militia, which was to be well regulated (read well trained and armed ) was to be at the ready to support the core army in time of national emergency. Their existence was to prevent the need for recourse to a permanent standing army, which the colonials distrusted. What we have today is the worst of all situations. We have a mercenary force, an all volunteer force, a standing army, much like some of the forces that the British used during the revolution. The Hessians are an example. Compare the recent situation in Egypt, where almost the entirety of the population has served in the army. There the army is a standing army, but it is reflective of the army that we had through the Viet Nam period. That reason is why the ant-war protests during Viet Nam were much longer in duration than the protests over Iraq and Afghanistan. The soldiers then were conscripts, average citizens called to duty. Today, we have an army that is professional and mercenary. I cannot imagine an American tank commander allowing an American citizen to sleep between the treads of his tank. There just isn't that connection between the citizens and the current Army, regardless of how their ties to their families and the community is portrayed. American soldiers today are trained at population control, which in an uprising would be their primary role. Incidentally, I find it very pleasing to see the Gerry quote being discussed, as I sold it for years printed on a t-shirt through an ad in Shotgun News, and will soon be selling it from a site on the web.
     -- Joel Goodman, Johsnson City     
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