As we wait anxiously for the ruling in Heller v. DC that will either decide what the Second Amendment means or continue to muddy the waters. We have an interesting case study that illustrates the continuous need for a Nation of Riflemen (just for argument’s sake I do include women under that label). However to know what makes this case study so important, one needs to know the story behind it.
Established as the National Board for the Promotion of Rifle Practice by the War Department Appropriations Bill of 1903 and enthusiastically supported by Both President Theodore Roosevelt and the National Rifle Association the National Board for the Promotion of Rifle Practice had one mission. Teach Americans how to shoot and shoot well. At its first meeting the determined the best way to meet this goal was to establish rifle clubs. Two years later President Roosevelt signed Public Law #149, authorizing the sale, at cost, of surplus military rifles, ammunition, and related equipment to rifle clubs meeting requirements specified by the Board and approved by the Secretary of War.
In 1916 the National Defense Act created the Office of the Director of Civilian Marksmanship (DCM) managed by the U.S. Army with the authorization to distribute arms and ammunition to organized civilian rifle clubs under rules established by the Board, provide funds for the operation of government rifle ranges, and open all military rifle ranges to civilian shooters. To this day, many military ranges are still used by civilian clubs and associations for training, practice and competition.
In 1996 a concerted effort was undertaken by certain hoplophobic legislators to abolish the DCM. Instead the function was transferred to a new non-profit corporation called the Corporation for the Promotion of Rifle Practice and Firearms Safety, Inc. (CMP)To this day the CMP continues in the tradition of the DCM providing training, competition and arms to the American public. All without the benefit of Federal funding.
In 2001 as America entered the fight against Terrorism a shortage of skilled marksmen began to plague the services. While most services had a trained Sniper Cadre, this small group of individuals was not large enough nor were their mission parameters such that they would work inside as a part of large units on a mission. In 2004 the services decided the answer was to have Squad Designated Marksmen (SDM).
While the Sniper has the equipment and training to operate individually or in a small team to engage targets at extended ranges with precision fire. The SDM is equipped with a standard rifle and uses standard ammunition, the only real difference is his rifle is usually equipped with an optical sight. Like the Sniper the SDM must possess an understanding and mastery of the fundamentals of marksmanship, basic ballistics, range estimation, assessment of environmental conditions and the ability to compensate for those conditions by sight adjustment and/or windage hold-off. Unlike the Sniper, who must be able to do this with targets a half-mile away or more. The SDM’s maximum engagement range is limited to around 600 meters.
As is usual with the Armed Forces, marksmanship training had been largely neglected by Politicians who sought to use the money that would go towards marksmanship training as a “Peace Dividend” for pet Social Programs. Subsequently the Military found itself overwhelmed with requests for advanced marksmanship training. Fortunately for our men and women in uniform Lieutenant Colonel David Liwanag , the Commander of the USAMU, realized that there was a ready and willing pool of highly trained marksman that could assist in the training of SDMs.
The call for assistance went out to the CMP and the Riflemen of the CMP responded immediately with a resounding “Yes.”
Today the role of the CMP and the Military is reversed, with the CMP’s skilled riflemen teaching the Army how to shoot and shoot well. The mix of rifles found in the early days of training has been supplanted almost completely by match grade AR-15s mounting Trijicon TAO1 Advanced Combat Optical Gunsights (ACOG).
If it wasn’t for this program and the men and women who participate in it. American Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines would not have access to the training and experience the CMP has to offer and their jobs on the battlefield would be even more perilous than they are now.
To get involved in the CMP go to their website and look for a club in your area. While you’re at it you may want to join The National Rifle Association as most clubs want you to be a member of the NRA to join. Another good resource for learning marksmanship skills is the Appleseed Project
[The Constitution preserves] the advantage of being armed which Americans possess over the people of almost every other nation…(where) the governments are afraid to trust the people with arms.
—James Madison,The Federalist Papers, No. 46.
We established however some, although not all its [self-government] important principles . The constitutions of most of our States assert, that all power is inherent in the people; that they may exercise it by themselves, in all cases to which they think themselves competent, (as in electing their functionaries executive and legislative, and deciding by a jury of themselves, in all judiciary cases in which any fact is involved,) or they may act by representatives, freely and equally chosen; that it is their right and duty to be at all times armed;
—Thomas Jefferson to John Cartwright, 1824. Memorial Edition 16:45, Lipscomb and Bergh, editors
Before a standing army can rule, the people must be disarmed; as they are in almost every kingdom in Europe. 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 pretence, raised in the United States. A military force, at the command of Congress, can execute no laws, but such as the people perceive to be just and constitutional; for they will possess the power, and jealousy will instantly inspire the inclination, to resist the execution of a law which appears to them unjust and oppressive.
—Noah Webster, An Examination of the Leading Principles of the Federal Constitution (Philadelphia 1787).
Who are the militia? Are they not ourselves? Is it feared, then, that we shall turn our arms each man gainst his own bosom. Congress have no power to disarm the militia. Their swords, and every other terrible implement of the soldier, are the birthright of an American…[T]he unlimited power of the sword is not in the hands of either the federal or state governments, but, where I trust in God it will ever remain, in the hands of the people.
—Tenche Coxe, The Pennsylvania Gazette, Feb. 20, 1788.
[W]hereas, to preserve liberty, it is essential that the whole body of the people always possess arms, and be taught alike, especially when young, how to use them; nor does it follow from this, that all promiscuously must go into actual service on every occasion. The mind that aims at a select militia, must be influenced by a truly anti-republican principle; and when we see many men disposed to practice upon it, whenever they can prevail, no wonder true republicans are for carefully guarding against it.
—Richard Henry Lee, The Pennsylvania Gazette, Feb. 20, 1788.
[W]hen the resolution of enslaving America was formed in Great Britain, the British Parliament was advised by an artful man, who was governor of Pennsylvania, to disarm the people; that it was the best and most effectual way to enslave them; but that they should not do it openly, but weaken them, and let them sink gradually…I ask, who are the militia? They consist of now of the whole people, except a few public officers. But I cannot say who will be the militia of the future day. If that paper on the table gets no alteration, the militia of the future day may not consist of all classes, high and low, and rich and poor…
—George Mason, Virginia ratifying convention, June 2 through June 26, 1788.