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Battleground America: Pt 2-Gun Control Prior Industrial Revolution

**Click here for part 1.  

The history of gun control and the second amendment, though they appear to coincide with the fear of political extremes and the existence of dangerous men with assault weapons laying claim to the right to have them, in most cases since the Revolutionary War, seems to only correspond to initiatives by those in authority; under the guise of liberalism, to introduce more legislation to limit what constitutionally cannot be limited. It usually takes the form of news that there are more guns in the hands of the citizenry than the ability of law enforcement to deal with it. The original intent of the law was to ensure that citizens had access to guns to fill the ranks of miltia regulars in the narrow view that the government would never be able to employ and maintain a professional army.

Prior to the American Revolution there was neither budget nor manpower nor government desire to maintain a full-time army. Therefore, the armed citizen-soldier carried the responsibility. Service in militia, including providing one’s own ammunition and weapons, was mandatory for all men—just as registering for military service upon turning eighteen is today. Yet, as early as the 1790s, the mandatory universal militia duty gave way to voluntary militia units and a reliance on a regular army. Throughout the 19th century the institution of the civilian militia began to decline.

In the intervening years since the birth of the US Constitution, universal gun ownership has created quite a dilemma for law enforcement since rounding up posses in the boom towns of the great American west had lent credence to this argument. As the local and federal governments became more established and structured, they were able to form what the founding fathers never conceived possible—paid; full time, a military and local police. Frontier justice and vigilantism to mete it out were suddenly replaced by a system of courts and law enforcement departments. Universal gun ownership prior the civil war had lead to almost feudal conditions—where families and business interests staked out their own territories and established their own particular brand of justice based on special interests—remnants of which, after the US war of succession.  Guns were not something everyone had or carried around with them like their house keys or purse, but now special accessory only necessary on occasion (hunting, gaming, etc). Most people (in most places) were satisfied with a justice system based on what they were told was constitutional law. A series of laws by states and federal governments began to be implemented to limit gun use by people designated as ‘criminals’ with the reasoning that these were the people who tended to use guns for unlawful activity. With law and order now maintained by impartial professionals, it no longer became necessary for individuals and groups to defend their rights and liberties through armed advocacy. Rather than dueling (or feuding) via firearms, people began to settle their disputes in courts. It became commonly believed that universal gun ownership lead to lawlessness.  This  fear was epitomized and confirmed in the infamous family  feuds of the Hatfields and the McCoys of  West Virginia (requiring federal troop intervention); the Chicago gangland territory wars during the prohibition era of early 1900; local popular support for racial segregation during the civil rights movement as well as recent activities of heavily armed drug gangs.  Overwhelming public sentiment seemed to override the possible unconstitutionality of such laws.

There was a collective belief that the government‘s role was to honor and protect the American people; therefore it was the citizen’s duty to obey their officials and law enforcement. Unfortunately, changes brought about by the industrial revolution and an unforeseen partnership with private enterprise and the American political system rapidly changed the way Americans saw their government.


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About J. E. Millington, Jr.

An American writer and currently a contributing blogger to many sites including saudi life and middleeastposts, currently John resides in Saudi Arabia.

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