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On nuclear weapons and the 'well-regulated militia'

by Vin Suprynowicz

Special to JPFO, reprinted with permission

August 1, 2001

Signing himself, "M.D., Ph.D.," a reader I'll call by the initials D.H. wrote in recently:

"Dear Vin, I have just finished reading your book 'Send in the Waco Killers'. Congratulations on writing such an interesting and provocative book. I also enjoy your columns, especially those on U.S. drug policy. You were right on to castigate the oblivious public for its complicity in shooting down the missionary and her daughter. The whole drug policy travesty/ scandal is a major reason why I've moved to Canada.

"I have a couple of questions. In your book, you seemed to sidestep the question of what the Founding Fathers (may they stop spinning in their graves) meant by "well-regulated" in relation to militias. Also, if you permit private citizens to possess heat-seeking anti-aircraft missiles as part of their 2ndA rights, as you suggest, why not nuclear bombs? Isn't it all a matter of degree? Or do nuclear bombs fit under the 2ndA as well?

"Keep up the great work."

I replied:

Hi, D.H. --

If you take a double rifle to a British gunsmith -- to this day -- and ask him to "regulate" it, he will ask not about government restrictions, but rather for what charge and weight of ball you want those two barrels "regulated." Those barrels are said to be "regulated" for a .45 caliber ball ahead of 70 grains of black powder if they will both hit the same target at a predetermined range (often, 60 yards) with that loading.

A "well-regulated" militia is one which is well enough practiced in the use of their weapons -- and accustomed to operating together in the field -- to be an effective fighting force.

Far from "sidestepping this question" (the victim disarmament gang only keep SAYING we ignore it -- it's a rhetorical trick, you see) I define the term directly at the bottom of page 424: "Well-regulated means well-trained ... in firing volleys, reloading quickly, and blowing things up. What do you think George Mason and George Washington were up to when they organized meetings of the Fairfax Country Militia in the mid-1770s -- trading ginger cookie recipes?"

Nor would the other Founders have told George and George, "You're only free to exercise your 'collective right' to bear arms by joining the uniformed mercenaries retained by the crown governor." Quite to the contrary, such "special militias" -- the 18th century equivalent of today's "National Guard" -- were a form of armed security the Founders specifically warned us AGAINST, insisting that the only guarantor of freedom was that "every man be armed; everyone who is able must have a gun." (Patrick Henry, who called this "the great object.") No, George and George did not seek the crown's permission to take up arms and form their Committees of Correspondence.

More importantly, I continually ask, both in my first book and in my subsequent writings, "If the other side wants to insist on the relevance of the non-binding introductory phrase, 'A well- regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state ...' let Janet Reno and company explain to me when and how and where I and my hunting buddies are SUPPOSED to go to practice our small-unit tactics with M-16s and a Model 58 or Model 60 Squad Automatic Weapon, the better to BECOME a 'well- regulated militia,' better prepared to shoot and kill the next tyrant to dispatch tanks against harmless civilians on American soil. We'll drive as far out into the desert or the woods as they like; just let them explain to us how we're supposed to legally practice such drills without being jailed for "conspiracy to violate the National Firearms Act of 1934."

The answer is that these scum are lying. For us to form "well- regulated militias," well able to resist federal tyranny or usurpation, is the LAST thing they want. Are they pestering Congress, asking the delegates to set sensible performance and readiness standards for the Michigan Militia and the Ohio Unorganized Militia and Arizona's Viper Militia -- standards which, once met, will allow these citizen militias to receive cargo planes full of free surplus Stingers and pack Howitzers from Washington, thus discharging Congress' duty to "provide for ... arming .. the militia" (Article I Section 8)?

They would shriek in horror at any such proposal. This "You forgot the militia clause, nyah nyah" mantra is nothing but a totally insincere Jesuitical posturing designed to get their chorus of bed-wetters nodding in unison as they were taught in their government youth propaganda camps, chanting "Right, no guns unless they're part of the militia, which really means the National Guard" -- that National Guard which the Founders warned us AGAINST, their warning term at the time being a "special militia," comprised of uniformed mercenaries paid by and loyal only to the seat of power.

Do those who insist "Now we have a National Guard so we no longer need a citizen militia" actually contend the National Guard is there to protect us FROM the government? Did the Texas National Guard race to the defense of the harmless and innocent Branch Davidians at Waco ... or did it loan its military helicopters to the federal killers, happily topping off their tanks and cheering them on their way?

As for nuclear weapons, language is important. Look at your own words: "If you permit private citizens to possess ..."

It is not the business or authority of Vin Suprynowicz to "permit" private citizens to possess or not possess anything ... and I certainly wouldn't FORBID them the ownership of anything except stolen property.

So, for starters, you probably mean: "If the federal government permits private citizens to possess ..."

But here we run into the same problem. All federal lawmaking authority is vested in the Congress, and is the Congress authorized to permit or ban or allow or infringe the private ownership of arms? Actually, two provisions apply: In Article I Section 8, as mentioned, Congress is given power to "provide for ... arming .. the militia." It may give us arms. But may it TAKE away those arms, or any other arms?

No. The Second Amendment bars any INFRINGEMENT of the right to keep and bear arms.

A "power to allow or not allow"? Not there. Nor anywhere else.

Is it appropriate for the federal government to own nuclear weapons? That is to say, has any federal official in the military chain of command -- from Harry Truman on down -- ever been put on trial for merely having control over nuclear weapons?


Therefore, shall we surmise the federal government and its agents have some proper and duly delegated right, power, or authority to possess such things?

If so, where did it or they get that right, power, or authority?

Fortunately, under our system of government, we know what the answer must be: The government can acquire no right, power or authority except those which are delegated to it by the people.

Can you delegate a right, power or authority which you do not already possess?


Therefore: The American people, both individually and as a group, have the right, power and authority to own nuclear weapons. No other condition can apply, unless you submit that we now live under a form of government where all rights and powers start with the GOVERNMENT MASTERS, who then bestow upon us (their peasants and slaves) only those lesser and included rights which our masters wish US to have.

On page 414 of "Send in the Waco Killers," I cite noted federalist and friend of Madison Tench Coxe to the effect that "Their swords, and every other terrible instrument of the soldier, are the birth right of an American. ... The unlimited power of the sword is not in the hands of either the federal or the state governments, but, where I trust in God it will ever remain, in the hands of the people."

It was only upon the receipt of such solemn, written promises as this that Madison's proposed Constitution was ever ratified.

What does "unlimited power" mean? If I possess "the unlimited power of the sword," who shall limit it?

Is the nuclear bomb one of the "terrible instruments of the soldier"?

How seductive is the old siren song: "Come on, prove you're REASONABLE; admit you don't have any NEED for a nuclear warhead."

But once we start down that road, won't they also wheedle and cajole and nag us into stipulating that we don't really "need" a tank ... a howitzer ... a shoulder-launched missile ... a machine gun ... a semi-automatic rifle ... anything, finally, beyond an unloaded black-powder ceremonial flintlock with a plugged barrel that we're allowed to take out of the police locker only long enough to carry in the Fourth of July parade?

How would we respond if asked to prove we "need" to go to church or temple as much as twice a week? Surely once a week is enough, isn't it? How about every OTHER week? Can you prove you "need" to speak to your God in prayer more than twice a month?

The only way to win that debate is to refuse to enter into it: Freedom of religion is my RIGHT, and a right exists without any requirement that I prove to your satisfaction my pragmatic "need" to exercise it. In even ATTEMPTING to prove to you that I "need" to be able to go to church when I please, or to publish any column I care to write ... or to own a nuclear bomb ... I lose the argument at the outset. "Need" simply doesn't come into it.

"The right of self-defense is founded in the law of nature, and is not, nor can be, superseded by any law of society," sayeth Sir Michael Foster, judge of the Court of King's Bench, in the late 18th century. If your enemy or oppressor has a bomb, then get yourself a bomb. "And he that hath no sword, let him sell his garment, and buy one," sayeth Jesus the Nazarene (Luke 22:36.)

Have you really read my chapter on "Demonizing the militias"? All those founding fathers -- re-read pp 412-418, for starters -- reassuring us that "The supreme power in America cannot enforce unjust laws by the sword; because the whole body of the people are armed and constitute a force superior to any band of regular troops that can be, on any pretense, raised in the United States" (Noah Webster)?

Is that the situation that prevails today? Government officials cowering in fear that if they try to enforce "unjust laws" they'll be shot down by a civilian populace that's got them thoroughly outgunned? Then why did medical marijuana patient (and former Libertarian gubernatorial candidate) Steve Kubby have to flee to Canada with his family just last week to avoid being jailed -- doctors say his adrenal cancer will quickly kill him if he's deprived of his "illicit" medicine -- YEARS after a clear majority of Californians voted to OK medical marijuana?

That facts and rights and truths are inconvenient or "inconceivable" means no more than to say that to a prisoner of some dank cell on Devil's Island, running 100 yards in a sunlit field is "inconceivable." It defines the limits of your perception and your expectations -- your ability to VISUALIZE LIBERTY -- not the limits of the world.

Plenty of nuclear weapons ARE possessed by all kinds of people, including the kind that wear turbans. Government "safeguards" are a joke. Think no hijacker could get past the Fred & Ethel Mertz Security System down at the local airport if they really tried? It took Capt. Marcinko only a matter of minutes to penetrate the supposedly ironclad "security" at the American embassy in London -- right through to its ultra-secure "code room." He simply sent a man in a Marine uniform, carrying a clipboard, walking boldly in the side "smokers' door." Last week, the Justice Department revealed that the FBI has lost 449 sidearms and submachine guns -- one of which was even used in a homicide. But we're supposed to believe they've NEVER lost enough plutonium to make a bomb? Noooo. After all, they're not mere fallible mortals. They're "the government." We can "trust" them.

The only reason the Soviets didn't nuke Washington is that Washington would have nuked them back. What is the only reason Washington wouldn't nuke US? Because they're "really nice guys" who "wouldn't go THAT far" to hold onto power?

I've said my right to bear arms is not DEPENDENT on demonstrating any "need." But I'll tell you one group of people that desperately "needed" a nuclear weapon: The innocent women and children of the Mount Carmel Church of Waco, Texas. If Uncle Sam spent most of the past 50 years negotiating with Soviet Russia rather than attacking them in cattle cars, don't you think Janet Reno's approach to a nuclear-armed David Koresh might have been a little more calm and polite?

Ditto the Florida relatives of little Cuban refugee Elian Gonzales.

Imagine it: Citizens well enough armed that our federal government would feel obliged to approach us with respect, ASKING whether we might be willing to help them out in a spirit of cooperation ... rather than busting down our doors, shoving German MP-5s up our nostrils, and asking questions later.

That facts and rights and truths are inconvenient is no excuse for turning our eyes away from them. If I have the skills to build or the money to buy one, I have a right to own a nuclear weapon, and so do you. How could it be otherwise? To say otherwise is to say I have no right to make myself a straw hat just because I have the straw, because the government has declared a monopoly for itself on hat manufacture, and I must first pay a tax for the privilege. This is like telling Mr. Gandhi that "making salt" was a British government monopoly. We all know where that got them.

And of any government which will not trust its own people with these weapons we need ask, "Then why should we trust YOU with them? Because you promise never to use them to cow us into servitude ... as you once promised, before Waco, never to use military tanks and armed helicopters against American civilians -- women and children -- on American soil? To enforce a mere $200 tax?"

Has the government in Washington City ever show any reluctance to use weapons of mass destruction against a civilian populace when it seemed necessary to get its way? Forget Nagasaki for a moment; Did Grant shell the civilian population of Vicksburg? Was he punished for wantonly killing those civilians ... or rewarded with his government's highest office?

No, D.H., it is not "all a matter of degree." Quite the opposite. Providing only that I don't use them to threaten, intimidate, rob, or murder other sovereign individuals, in terms of the right of government to infringe them, my liberties are not subject to being "weighed against the government's compelling interest in keeping people from smoking marijuana," or "weighed against the government's compelling interest in preserving the endangered sucker fish," or "weighed against the government's compelling interest in making sure little girls can go to bed at night without being frightened by the sound of gunfire," or ANYTHING ELSE. They are ABSOLUTE.

And the sound of rifles being sighted in on the 200-yard range is the sound of freedom.

It does not say "shall not be infringed, unless the weapon in question is really scary." They're SUPPOSED to be scary. The occupants of Washington City are supposed to go to bed every night, wondering if anything they've done today will get them what it got Charles the First in 1649, or Louis XVI in 1793.

To their oaths of office -- unless we decide to sweep those offices away entirely, as is our right at any time -- should be added, "And if this day you usurp the rights or liberties of the very least American, be afraid ... be very afraid."

Somehow, I doubt they're losing much sleep over my deer rifle. Do you think?

-- V.S.

Vin Suprynowicz is assistant editorial page editor of the Las Vegas Review-Journal. Subscribe to his monthly newsletter by sending $72 to Privacy Alert, 1475 Terminal Way, Suite E for Easy, Reno, NV 89502. His book, "Send in the Waco Killers: Essays on the Freedom Movement, 1993-1998," is available at 1-800-244-2224, or via web site

Vin Suprynowicz, The Vinsends list is maintained by Alan Wendt in Colorado, who may be reached directly at The web sites for the Suprynowicz column are at, and The Vinyard is maintained by Michael Voth in Flagstaff, who may be reached directly at