The Second Amendment to our Constitution is not only a right, but it has another "R": The "responsibility" of states to establish and maintain a well-regulated militia, the first line of protection for our country.

As the founding fathers considered use of a "standing army" not a good idea because of their experiences with the British Army "standing" on the colonists, they wanted a militia ready to be mobilized, "ready for action." The second line of defense was the "volunteers" who would come to the aid of their country if called to support our state militia. The last true volunteer unit was probably Teddy Roosevelt's cowboy "Rough Riders" during the Spanish-American War.

The Second Amendment does not stop there, as "responsibility" of all able-bodied citizens was to develop and maintain expertise with the skill sets of soldiers for their country. Back then, muskets were the basic infantry weapon and most households had at least one for family protection and hunting for food. I originally did not favor the use of the AR-15 in civilian shooting. I prefer the M-14 rifle, not the M-16. However, in light of the previously stated requirement, the AR-15 most closely meets that requirement.

Use of a semi-automatic pistol like the M1911 Colt also falls into this "responsibility" of citizenship. I read an article last week that said the U.S. Army is having trouble training new recruits because they possess no skill with weapons and they have to conduct longer training than before to bring them up to their fathers' and grandfathers' standards. Maybe if the citizen must acquire proficiency with a military-style weapon before they can vote or drive, some attention would be paid to that responsibility. They could also volunteer by joining one of our active or reserve U.S. military services and get free training in their responsibilities and education credits.

The last honest U.S. Army infantry rifle was the M-14 in .308 Winchester or 7.65mm NATO. This is copied for commercial production as an "M-1A" for civilian use. Both use 20-round magazines, but there is a "hunting" five-round magazine available. It may or may not have a bayonet lug under the muzzle of the barrel. It is not an "assault rifle." The ATF considers any modified U.S.-issued M-14 receivers as illegal because they were "originally made as a full automatic rifles." This is a lie because more than 95 percent of M-14s were all made as "semi-automatic rifles" that replaced the semi-automatic M-1 Garand Rifle of WWII/Korea fame.

The M-14 could be converted by an military armorer to full automatic with the U.S. Army issued kit to arm the one "automatic riflemen" in each rifle squad. These surplus receivers could be modified by welding/machining by the Civilian Marksmanship Program (CMP) or others as only semi-automatic and economically used by citizens to develop and maintain skills with our basic issue infantry rifles. They still use the M-14 as a basis for a scoped sniper rifle. My youngest son, James, carried one to Afghanistan a few years ago with the First CAV after he qualified as high expert, just like I did with the U.S. Marine Corps back in 1962. The M-1A and converted M-14 were used by competitive marksmanship participants firing the Infantry Rifle Course Matches.

The Civilian Marksmanship Program is dedicated to the Second Amendment to allow private citizens to acquire and maintain their skills with basic infantry weapons issued to our active military and reserve (militia) forces. The original constitutional concept for defending our country during wartime was based on the well-trained militia being immediately called up for active duty - no standing army - and the volunteers to further fill the ranks when war was declared. The draft of other able-bodied citizens was the next step in mobilization for war.

I was an expert rifle shot before I volunteered for the USMC back in 1962 because of much practice with rifles and pistols while I was growing up in Oklahoma. I fired high expert as a recruit in USMC Boot Camp because of this self-marksmanship training as a young boy, born and raised in Oklahoma. I qualified as expert rifleman (M-14 & M-16) and pistol shooter (M-1911 & Beretta).

S.L. Hackworth lives in Tahlequah, and is a retired U.S. Army Reserves military intelligence officer and U.S. Marine Corps non-commissioned officer "sniper."

Recommended for you