Old mill in MA illustrates Second Amendment spirit

AP Photo/Lisa Marie Pane

The Second Amendment preserves our right to keep and bear arms, a right the Founding Fathers acknowledged predated the founding of this country but that they also knew needed special protections. After all, the first thing a tyranny needs in order to flourish is a disarmed populace.


But the Second Amendment did something else, something I don’t think the Founders realized when they ratified it. It serves as a rallying point, a way for those who respect the right to keep and bear arms to see as a guidepost when all around them are saying guns should be restricted.

Take Massachusetts, for example. It’s a notoriously anti-gun state with a long history of infringing on people’s gun rights.

Yet inside that state, about an hour and a half away from Boston, an old mill stands as a testament to the Second Amendment spirit.

The former elastic mill in this small town northwest of Boston looks like a relic, a labyrinth of creaking hallways, staircases, and dead-ends, badly in need of a paint job.

But to gun enthusiasts, “The Mill” is a Shangri-La; the place where you can find just about anything among the scores of gun vendors inside, from ordinary pistols to flamethrowers and World War I antiques — and, especially, all manner of ways around the state’s strict gun laws.

Massachusetts banned assault weapons in 1998, but you’d never know it on a visit there. Some vendors sell decades-old military-style rifles and large-capacity magazines that were grandfathered in by the ban, while others offer newer assault weapons, which they say are modified to make them legal. It’s also easy to buy all the parts to assemble an AR-15 at home.

And the place is growing like gangbusters. The number of gun vendors in the Mill has soared from three to at least 80 in just the last eight years, becoming the single largest collection of federally licensed gun manufacturers and dealers in the country.


And this is in Massachusetts.

Of course, like many states, Massachusetts and its anti-gun fervor isn’t universal. It tends to center around urban areas while pro-gun sentiment is in small towns like Littleton. The problem there is that cities like Boston overpower the rural parts of the state.

Littleton is full of people who respect the Second Amendment.

More importantly, though, it’s full of people who recognize the spirit of the Second Amendment. Yes, they likely are all conforming to state law–something they need to do to stay out of prison–but they’re only conforming to the letter of the law, not the spirit of it.

See, the state’s assault weapon ban was meant to stamp out ownership of AR-15s and similar firearms. However, folks there simply look at the letter of the law, build ARs that conform to those requirements, and get back to the business of selling the guns that people want.

They don’t allow their anti-gun state’s desires to keep them disarmed to actually impact them any more than they have to in order to stay out of prison.

The Second Amendment’s spirit means we don’t just meekly accept disarmament just because the authorities say we should. It means we find a way, no matter what obstacles the government tries to lay before us.


This old mill is full of people hoisting a middle finger to the state of Massachusetts, and I, for one, and thrilled to see it.

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