The Esquire contributor’s lack of some of the high-reaching connections to the military-industrial machine which were previously noted in this article, however, in no way alters the tone.
“We will pry your gun from your cold, dead, fingers. That is because I am willing to wait until you die, hopefully of natural causes. Guns, except for the three approved categories, cannot be inherited. When you die your weapons must be turned into the local police department, which will then destroy them. (Weapons of historical significance will be de-milled, but may be preserved.)” — Lt. Col. Robert Bateman writes in his Esquire piece, “It’s Time To Talk About Guns And The Supreme Court”
Last week, Lt. Col. Robert Bateman, who has billed himself as “an infantryman, historian and prolific writer,” wrote a blog post for Esquire, breathlessly exclaiming that a comprehensive gun-grab in the United States is long overdue. The author claims that the Supreme Court has gotten the definition of “well-regulated militia” completely wrong and offers his suggestions for abrogating the 2nd Amendment as it stands today.
Bateman attributes his utter “embarrassment” of the Nation’s highest court, writing:
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.
Bateman then appeals to his military history background to inform his readers that the “well-regulated” portion of the 2nd Amendment was further emboldened by the 1903 passage of the Militia Act, which created the National Guard.
Bateman’s argument is that Congress saw the need for the Act because less “well-regulated” militias formed throughout the Nation’s early history were “sloppy things.”
But just so we are all clear on this, let me spell it out for the rest of you. During the American Civil War, a topic about which I know a little bit, we had a system of state militias. They formed the basis of the army that saved the United States. For most of the first year, and well into the second, many of the units raised by the states were created entirely or in part from militia units that predated the war. But even when partially “regulated,” militias are sloppy things. They do not always work well outside their own home states, and in our own history and in our Revolutionary War, it was not uncommon for militia units to refuse to go out of their own state. In the Spanish-American war the way around this limitation was for “interested volunteers” to resign, en masse, from their militia units and then sign up — again en masse — as a “volunteer” unit. It was a cumbersome solution to a 123-year-old problem.
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.
Bateman’s logic hinges on the assumption that the 2nd Amendment is irrelevant because government has provided the people with a State-controlled “militia.” To accept his point of view however, one must accept that the Amendment never contained any words beyond “a well-regulated militia.”
Lost on Bateman, it seems, is that the historical context surrounding the creation of the United States Constitution — and especially the portion that is the Bill of Rights — is very important to 2nd Amendment advocates. And it doesn’t take a massive leap of logic to deduce that the men who signed the Constitution might have had a bit of trouble in seeing the benefit of a completely Federalized militia (the National Guard) to the people of a free State.
The Nation’s Founders weren’t averse to the idea of government being able to provide for the defense of the Nation with a military machine. But the Constitutional answer to whether a Federal army should exist was undoubtedly a compromise.
Anti-Federalists saw dangers in the creation of a standing military presence on U.S. soil. In his Political Disquisitions (1774), anti-Federalist James Burgh called peacetime standing armies “one of the most hurtful, and most dangerous of abuses.” And Brutus, a series of essays that voiced opposition to ratification, asserted that standing armies “are dangerous to the liberties of a people… not only because the rulers may employ them for the purposes of supporting themselves in any usurpation of powers, which they may see proper to exercise, but there is a great hazard, that any army will subvert the forms of government, under whose authority, they are raised, and establish one, according to the pleasure of their leader.”
On the other side, Federalists such as Alexander Hamilton supported government’s military power. He wrote in Federalist No. 23: “These powers [of the Federal government to provide for the common defense] ought to exist without limitation: because it is impossible to foresee or define the extent or variety of national exigencies, or the correspondent extent & variety of the means which may be necessary to satisfy them.”
The resulting compromise exists in Article 1 Section 8 of the Constitution:
The Congress shall have Power…
…To raise and support Armies, but no Appropriation of Money to that Use shall be for a longer Term than two Years;
To provide and maintain a navy;
To make rules for the government and regulation of the land and naval forces;
To provide for calling forth the militia to execute the laws of the union, suppress insurrections and repel invasions;
To provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining, the militia, and for governing such part of them as may be employed in the service of the United States, reserving to the states respectively, the appointment of the officers, and the authority of training the militia according to the discipline prescribed by Congress;
This section of the Constitution, providing guidelines for Congress, is what provided the authority Congress needed to pass the Militia Act, which Bateman believes should nullify the purpose of the 2nd Amendment. But there’s a problem with Bateman’s assumption.
The Article, giving Congress the power concerned with the general welfare of the collective States, the Republic bound by the Constitution, has nothing to do with the rights of the people. The Constitution’s pointed concern for the Nation’s individual persons appears in the Bill of Rights, which was the answer to fear over the possibility of tyranny of government.
Bateman, who so haughtily accused certain Justices of flunking history class, evidently missed the lessons during his own education that explained how The Bill of Rights provides States and individuals protections against the Federal government.
That would explain why the anti-gun advocate is blind to the importance of the collection of words following, “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.”
Bateman can have his National Guard in all of its Federal glory. But he certainly cannot claim that the existence of the National Guard supersedes the American individuals’ right to bear arms. The very existence of the Bill of Rights (remember: meant for the people and the States as a protection against Federal overreach) provides that, in the Founders’ vision, the creation of the National Guard could arguably be considered a threat to “the security of a free State.”
Yes, the Governor of a specific State is generally considered to be in command of the State’s guard units. But placing those units under Federal orders is a not-too-difficult process for Washington, thanks to defense authorization legislation.
Bateman has gotten it wrong in claiming the Federal government has the right to take guns since the Federal government has provided its own answer to “well-regulated militia.” He’s also not flattering his credentials as a historian if he is asking Americans to believe that there is no chance that they will ever be threatened by tyranny from leadership. Bad things happen, and world history has proven that sometimes the wrong people get in charge with overwhelming populist support. When the supporters realize their folly, it’s usually too late.
But let’s give Bateman the benefit of doubt and examine his gun control proposals for common-sense solutions to violence in America.
Without further ado, Bateman’s suggestions:
1. The only guns permitted will be the following:
a. Smoothbore or Rifled muzzle-loading blackpowder muskets. No 7-11 in history has ever been held up with one of these.
b. Double-barrel breech-loading shotguns. Hunting with these is valid.
c. Bolt-action rifles with a magazine capacity no greater than five rounds. Like I said, hunting is valid. But if you cannot bring down a defenseless deer in under five rounds, then you have no fking reason to be holding a killing tool in the first place.
2. We will pry your gun from your cold, dead, fingers. That is because I am willing to wait until you die, hopefully of natural causes. Guns, except for the three approved categories, cannot be inherited. When you die your weapons must be turned into the local police department, which will then destroy them. (Weapons of historical significance will be de-milled, but may be preserved.)
3. Police departments are no longer allowed to sell or auction weapons used in crimes after the cases have been closed. (That will piss off some cops, since they really need this money. But you know what they need more? Less violence and death. By continuing the process of weapon recirculation, they are only making their jobs — or the jobs of some other cops — harder.)
4. We will submit a new tax on ammunition. In the first two years it will be 400 percent of the current retail cost of that type of ammunition. (Exemptions for the ammo used by the approved weapons.) Thereafter it will increase by 20 percent per year.
5. We will initiate a nationwide “buy-back” program, effective immediately, with the payouts coming from the DoD budget. This buy-back program will start purchasing weapons at 200 percent of their face value the first year, 150 percent the second year, 100 percent the third year. Thereafter there will be a 10 year pause, at which point the guns can be sold to the government at 10 percent of their value for the next 50 years.
6. The major gun manufactures of the United States, less those who create weapons for the federal government and the armed forces, will be bought out by the United States of America, for our own damned good.
It’s relatively safe to assume that, by the standards of Americans with any respect for the Constitution — and private property and civil liberty in general, for that matter — Bateman’s suggestions are outright offensive. It almost seems as though Bateman is, as the Internet likes to say, trolling gun-rights advocates.
“Guns are tools. I use these tools in my job. But like all tools one must be trained and educated in their use. Weapons are there for the ‘well-regulated militia.’ Their use, therefore, must be in defense of the nation,” he stated in his piece.
Bateman differs from 2nd Amendment supporters in being fully comfortable with disarming American citizens and putting full faith in Washington and the military-industrial complex.
If, as he claims, Bateman was “tripped” on to his soapbox by a recent headline involving a senseless shooting and his anti-gun crusade is really about encouraging less American violence and death, he should:
- Re-read his Constitution, and
- Use his newly found knowledge of the government’s limited power to question his friends in the defense community about what authorizes all the violence and death carried out by the Federal government, oftentimes when no imminent threat to Americans exists, on a rolling basis.
In the meantime, Americans who appreciate the Constitution will continue to hang on to their guns with great vigor. Among many of those Americans, efforts by people less concerned with the Constitution to remove individual and State rights listed in the Nation’s supreme law will never be fully embraced, providing the unsettling potential to encourage revolutionary zeal. And in a reality where defense of the Constitution against enemies of freedom at home can no longer be accomplished politely, Bateman’s silly “cold, dead, fingers” comment would take on a new and very dangerous meaning.
Historical examples of those permitted to posses firearms– tools which Bateman suggests belong only in the hands of people following government orders– ruthlessly oppressing unarmed masses must be moot in the anti-gun advocate’s mind.
Reading his Esquire piece, one could conclude that Bateman belongs to a group of people who certainly cannot imagine a reality in which tyranny prevails and must be taken on by the citizenry following decades of quiet government efforts to increase top-down control.
At this point, it should again be noted that Bateman’s criticism of a perceived lack of history knowledge among the Nation’s Supreme Court Justices is sorely misdirected.
But there’s also the possibility that Bateman’s disdain for gun ownership comes from a more sinister place than ignorance. Perhaps he has imagined the tyranny scenario. Perhaps many people in positions of political and military power have.
Could it be that a rather obvious interest in disarming citizens and nationalizing firearms manufacturers exists in furthering the expansion of government power with limited rebellion? It wouldn’t be the first time in history.
In fact, by the time the 2nd Amendment was written, that unarmed people are easier to control had been a fairly widely understood concept among oppressors for centuries. The Founders of this Nation understood that; and being interested in protecting the security of a “free State,” they guaranteed the right of “the people” to bear arms to keep tyrants at bay.
*Esquire provides a bio of Bateman, which describes the 2nd Amendment critic thusly:
Robert Bateman is a professional Army officer and former infantryman and now a strategist, currently serving overseas. He has taught at Georgetown University, George Mason University, and the United States Military Academy at West Point. His most recent book is No Gun Ri: A Military History of the Korean War Incident. You can write to LTC Bateman here.