Most Americans with any interest in their Constitutional rights, are at least familiar with the wording of Amendment II. It's pretty straight-forward: "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."
Today there are those who would argue the semantics of the Second Amendment, while ignoring its intent. How does one define a "well regulated militia"? That depends upon where one looks for their definition of the word "militia" (the "well regulated" part could easily be construed as a reference to the inclusion of prunes in their diet)...
Merriam-Webster's Dictionary Definition of MILITIA
a : a part of the organized armed forces of a country liable to call only in emergency
b : a body of citizens organized for military service
2 : the whole body of able-bodied male citizens declared by law as being subject to call to military service
However, current federal law defines "militia" thusly:
§ 311. Militia: composition and classes
(a) The militia of the United States consists of all able-bodied males at least 17 years of age and, except as provided in section 313 of title 32, under 45 years of age who are, or who have made a declaration of intention to become, citizens of the United States and of female citizens of the United States who are members of the National Guard.
(b) The classes of the militia are—
(1) the organized militia, which consists of the National Guard and the Naval Militia; and
(2) the unorganized militia, which consists of the members of the militia who are not members of the National Guard or the Naval Militia.
The government therefore basically defines the "militia" (after cutting through and eliminating all the political smoke) as being composed of: "all able-bodied males at least 17 years of age and, except as provided in section 313 of title 32, under 45 years of age who are, or who have made a declaration of intention to become, citizens of the United States..." and blah, blah, blah. Paragraph 311(b)(2) essentially says the "unorganized militia" are those able-bodied males, ages 17-45 whose only other qualification is that they are not members of the National Guard or Naval Militia. Ageism aside, today that's roughly 61 million males that qualify as "militia"!
The Japanese had no real desire to invade the United States during WWII. Why? Because, as Isoroku Yamamoto, Commander-in-Chief of the Imperial Japanese Navy during World War II, said, "You cannot invade the mainland United States. There would be a rifle behind every blade of grass." His statement was an acknowledgment that because of the Second Amendment the American people are well-armed, and we have significant experience in the use of firearms. The Second Amendment is also the only one that insures we retain all the other freedoms granted by the Bill of Rights! But, enough about the Constitution. Just believe, as I do... that, if the Second is modified or repealed, all the others will be in constant jeopardy. Here's what the U.N. thinks about our "right to keep and bear arms":
"As you enter the Plaza you will see one of the UN's signature pieces of art, a gun with a knot in the barrel."
The Second Amendment fits hand-in-glove with the Fourth Amendment: "The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized."
Now you have not only "the right to keep and bear arms", but also "the right to be secure in your person, house, papers and effects", but the Fourth is primarily a prohibition of government searches and seizures. Logically extending that prohibition, if the government can't do it then neither can some crack-head burglar! So, what do you do to protect yourself and your family? To insure a level playing field, and perhaps gain a lifesaving advantage, you may buy a gun. But, before you do that, there are a few questions you need to answer:
1. Do I have the mindset necessary to actually use a gun, in an action that - quite possibly - could result in my taking the life of another human being? (If you cannot truthfully answer Yes to this question, do not buy a gun. Go to your local Big 5 sporting goods store and buy a Louisville Slugger baseball bat.)
2. If I must use a gun in the protection of myself and/or my family or others, am I willing to face the consequences of my actions? (Once again, Yes is the only acceptable answer to this question. There probably will be some consequences. How many, and exactly what those consequences may be will vary from state to state. Expect, as a minimum, some intensive questioning from one of your local law enforcement agencies. At the other end of the "scales of justice", expect long-term housing to be provided for you by the state, and possibly an early death by execution.) The laws vary from state to state as to what constitutes "appropriate and necessary use of deadly force". Be very familiar with the laws of your state of residence!
If you answered No to either of the above questions, you may stop reading now and go hug Nancy Pelosi or Hillary Clinton. The rest of you may now move on to a few practical questions.
What type of gun do I need? There are several types of guns from which to select the one that's right for your intended purpose. The fall into two general categories: "long guns" - which are rifles and shotguns, and "handguns" - pistols and revolvers. What you need is entirely up to you, but it must be a gun with which you are comfortable, and one with which you can repeatedly hit your intended target. Here are what I consider to be the main characteristics of firearms...
For use as in-home defense, either a long gun or a handgun will do the job. There are also advantages and disadvantages to all of them. Rifles and shotguns weigh considerably more than most handguns, and may prove to be unwieldy in confined spaces such as hallways. Generally speaking, rifles are also more powerful than most handguns, and over-penetration may result. That means that, even if you hit your intended target, the projectile may pass through and strike someone not involved in the burglary/robbery/home-invasion. If you miss your target, the projectile will, in all probability, penetrate one or more walls, increasing the possibility of striking an innocent bystander. For home defense maneuverability, a carbine-length barrel (generally accepted as a rifle barrel under 20" in length) will improve maneuverability. However, caliber-for-caliber the potential for over-penetration remains the same. Long-barreled shotguns present the same problem for maneuverability in tight areas, but less possibility for over penetration. A short-barreled shotgun (also known as a "riot gun"), loaded with almost any upland bird shot would be a good choice for in-home defensive use. The unnerving sound of a shotgun chambering a round is almost universally recognized, and may make an intruder decide upon an immediate departure from your premises. Using pellet-filled shells, the need for precise accuracy is eliminated, and due to their dispersion pattern the potential for "collateral damage" is minimal. Most shotguns produce significant recoil, which some people find disconcerting, if not injurious.
Handguns for in-home defense have the advantage of high maneuverability, and work very well in confined spaces. They do, however, present an entirely different set of problems. There are two divisions of handguns; the auto-loading pistol (popularly, but incorrectly called "automatic pistols"), and the revolver. Auto-loaders have the advantage of increased ammunition capacity per load. Generally, an auto holds from 7-19 rounds of ammunition per magazine, whereas most revolvers hold 5-6 rounds of ammunition per cylinder load. Handguns take significantly more practice in order to gain marksman-like proficiency, than do a rifle or shotgun. Auto-loaders may be almost impossible for people with weaker hands to actuate the slide, which is necessary to make the pistol ready to fire. Many women, and men with arthritis (or even relatively minor hand injuries), find this to be true - after they have purchased an auto-loading pistol. Auto-loaders also have somewhat of a reputation for being less reliable than revolvers, although if properly maintained today's quality auto-loaders are extremely reliable. On the other hand, revolvers, if properly maintained, have fewer moving parts to fail, and are at least theoretically more reliable.
Think about these things while I work on Part Two - How Much Gun Do I Really Need?