When debating the Second Amendment, gun-grabbers will often argue that the founders could have never imagined modern military weapons and they would have never wanted them in the hands of “ordinary people.” But they ignore the fact that Congress actually required every able-bodied man in American to own what at the time were modern military weapons.

The Militia Act of 1792 was one of the very first acts passed by Congress, the law required all able-bodied free men between the ages of 25-45 to serve in the state militia. Further, the act mandated that they provide their own arms and munitions as follows:

A good musket or firelock, a sufficient bayonet and belt, two spare flints, and a knapsack, a pouch, with a box therein, to contain not less than twenty four cartridges, suited to the bore of his musket or firelock, each cartridge to contain a proper quantity of powder and ball; or with a good rifle, knapsack, shot-pouch, and powder-horn, twenty balls suited to the bore of his rifle, and a quarter of a pound of powder

Within the historical context, the Act of 1792 required the average American man to personally own standard modern military weapons and equipment. At the time, all rifles were either flint or matchlock, rifled or smoothbore, and bayonets were a standard issued secondary weapon British redcoats used with deadly effect during battles. Twenty four cartridges fired three times per minute (at best) provided roughly eight minutes of continuous gunfire – 12 minutes if only two shots per minute.

This seems primitive by modern standards. But translated into today’s standard infantry setup, this would be the equivalent of possessing a semi-automatic or automatic rifle capable of eight to 12 minutes or three-round bursts or continuous gunfire. The powder-horn and 20 additional balls would be the modern equivalent of extra high capacity magazines.

Another important distinction is that the law required – not allowed – Americans to possesses these weapons. It was not a bill giving them the authority to purchase them because prior they were forbidden from owning them. It didn’t say “this wasn’t allowed before, but because we need you to be ready for war we’re allowing you to own them.” It was a universal requirement understood as necessary under the militia clause in the Constitution.

The inference is that it was already legal to own them; the Act of 1792 went further by mandating ownership.

As the law has never been scrutinized by the Supreme Court, its constitutionality and the underlying assumptions surrounding it regarding the de facto right to own these weapons have never been questioned.

The conclusion: The Militia Act of 1792 is yet further proof that federal laws restricting firearms possession are illegal and contrary to the spirit of that law, not to mention the Second Amendment itself.

TJ Martinell

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