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GUN LOBBY STRETCHES MILITIA DEFINITION

There are scholars - not necessarily lawyers - who front for the gun nut lobby and proclaim that the Second Amendment to the Constitution makes every gun owner his or her own "militia."

And now, in the wake of the Oklahoma City bombing and arrests linked to militia bands, it is suggested that the Second Amendment protects a wide range of "militia" goings-on.With every gun nut a "militia," the scholars would have us believe, it's all covered, from loners with basement arsenals to armed units.

In its entirety, the amendment says: "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."

In typical hugger-muggery, the experts of the gun lobby went to their own elastic definition of "militia."

Trimming the facts to fit their argument, the Second Amendment experts insist "militia" means just armed citizens - alone or in bunches - and it doesn't mean National Guard or reserve units that could be thought of as government-organized militia.

To bolster bedrock gun nut arguments that the amendment stands against laws, rules or regulations for gun control and that every man's a militia, the experts quote widely from whoever might have spoken at the close of the 18th century.

And it's not often emphasized by gun nut scholars that in those perilous days militia preparations looked to the threatening prospect of renewed hostilities with the British and the need to maintain security for the new nation.

There is other authority on the "militia" that's rarely quoted by the gun lobby experts. It's authority that defies suggestions that the "militia" can range from an individual with a handgun to societies of camouflaged gun lovers playing war games in the woods.

It's an authority right there where the framers wrote it in the body of the Constitution, in Article 1, Section 8, under the enumerated "Powers of Congress."

The text of Subsection 15 instructs that one of the powers of Congress is: "To provide for calling forth the militia to execute the laws of the union, suppress insurrections and repel invasion."

The companion congressional power in Subsection 16 is: "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 of the militia according to the discipline prescribed by Congress."

There doesn't appear much room for confusion there, certainly not for the gun nut insistence that every man is his own militia and any collection of let's-pretend commandos is also the militia.

It seems to say very clearly in the Constitution that it's a congressional responsibility that militia units be trained, armed and tightly disciplined and available for service as necessary.

It was in 1792, three years after adoption of the Constitution, that the first 10 amendments were adopted as the Bill of Rights. And whatever its effect, the Second Amendment didn't cancel out what went before in subsections 15 and 16 of Article 1, Section 8.

It reads more like a guarantee that, with Congress providing for trained, armed and disciplined militia units, the right of those people serving in the militia units to keep and bear arms would not be infringed.