An aging U.S. Army Lieutenant Colonel named Robert Bateman embarrassed himself in the pages of Esquire yesterday, in a screed entitled, It’s time to talk about guns and the Supreme Court.
Bateman seems to have a frothing hatred of the Heller decision in general, Justice Antonin Scalia in specific, and perhaps the poorest grasp of American history and law that I’ve ever seen from someone of his rank, which is particularly stunning considering he claims to be a historian. The “Peter Principle” seems to be alive and well in the U.S. Army.
Bateman claims—incredibly—that in the Heller decision, Scalia ignored the first half of the Second Amendment, which reads “A well Regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state…”
In so doing Bateman purposefully misreads Heller, betrays his ignorance of what the phrase “well-regulated” meant in the historical context in which it was written and what it still means today, and intentionally ignores the roles and types of militia in America law, culture, and history as it suits his whims.
What is particularly rich is that in his false accusation that Justice Scalia was cherry-picking which parts of the Second Amendment to support (a conclusion that can only be arrived at by a willful misreading of Scalia’s opinion), Bateman himself cherry-picks how U.S. Code defines the militia.
Which is why, in 1903 Congress passed the Militia Act. Friends, if you have not read it I’ll just tell you: As of 1903, the “militia” has been known as the National Guard.
Bateman is quite selective in his definition of what constitutes the militia, because the militia has always be so much more than the National Guard, a fact codified into U.S. Code:
10 USC § 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 National Guard is the smaller sub-set of a two-part militia system, in which the unorganized militia has always been the much, much larger group.
In his dotage, Bateman then chooses to pretend that the Second Amendment applies only to ancient muskets and/or modern hunting arms (his arguments as to which applies, and why, seems quite muddled; poor fellow), and suggests that an arbitrary 400% ammunition tax is not a clear infringement on the right to keep and bear arms. His list of what he would and would not allow if he were king is truly astonishing to behold.
Unfortunately for Bateman we remain a nation of laws where the ramblings of staff officers at the end of their careers are to be viewed as mere curiosities, and not to be taken seriously.