To Maintain a Ready Militia

By Rev. Sandie Richards

Nothing sparks a passionate argument more than the subject of gun violence in the USA. As the list of mass shootings grows, and we’re terrorized  in our schools, our malls, and our places of worship - the Second Amendment is thrust front and center into our national debate. 

In this debate, I have my treasured position.

And you have yours. 

Recently, I learned something that changed my perspective. I’d always heard that the purpose of the Second Amendment was to maintain a ready militia, so that we could protect our young country from attack. 

Wow, was I wrong. 

It turns out that the ‘ready militia’ in the Second Amendment is about arming white men against uprisings of Indigenous and enslaved people. I learned this by reading Roxanne Dunbar Ortiz’s excellent treatise, Loaded: A Disarming History of the Second Amendment.

In the body of the Constitution (Article I, Section 8, Clause 15 and Article II Section 2), the President is given the power to gather a militia. The  Second Amendment, supported by James Madison, as an Eastern Virginia slave owner, was intended to allow for civilian militias. These civilian militias were then used to overthrow Indigenous populations and seize their lands as well as to subdue enslaved persons.

I have dear friends who are hunters and/or who keep a gun or guns around for self-protection. These friends are not out to injure people of color; nevertheless, our history does prove to keep repeating itself in terms of who is injured by gun violence, and by whom.

Now that I know the origins of the Second Amendment, I clearly see the racially-charged roots of our modern-day incarnations of this ‘ready militia.’  

As we grapple with the obvious racist beginnings of the Second Amendment, my prayer is that we can come to our senses about ending gun violence in all its incarnations. 

Join me.

-Rev. Sandie Richards

TAKE ACTION:  You can join any of the excellent anti-gun violence organizations, from The Brady Campaign to End Gun Violence to Moms Demand Action to Everytown for Gun Safety. The Community Justice Reform Coalition works within communities of color to aid in ending the scourge of gun violence.

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