At constitution.org, you will find this:
The following are taken from the Oxford English Dictionary, and bracket in time the writing of the 2nd amendment:
1709: “If a liberal Education has formed in us well-regulated Appetites and worthy Inclinations.”
1714: “The practice of all well-regulated courts of justice in the world.”
1812: “The equation of time … is the adjustment of the difference of time as shown by a well-regulated clock and a true sun dial.”
1848: “A remissness for which I am sure every well-regulated person will blame the Mayor.”
1862: “It appeared to her well-regulated mind, like a clandestine proceeding.”
1894: “The newspaper, a never wanting adjunct to every well-regulated American embryo city.”
The phrase “well-regulated” was in common use long before 1789, and remained so for a century thereafter. It referred to the property of something being in proper working order. Something that was well-regulated was calibrated correctly, functioning as expected. Establishing government oversight of the people’s arms was not only not the intent in using the phrase in the 2nd amendment, it was precisely to render the government powerless to do so that the founders wrote it.
From these examples we can establish the proper context of “well regulated”, ie. trained, disciplined and/or in proper working order. So, a trained, disciplined militia that is in proper working order is essential to the security of a free state. What is a militia, or again, what did our Founders consider to be a militia?Â
“I ask, Sir, what is the militia? It is the whole people. To disarm the people is the best and most effectual way to enslave them.”
George Mason, Co-author of the Second Amendment during Virginia’s Convention to Ratify the Constitution, 1788 “A militia, when properly formed, are in fact the people themselves “ Richard Henry Lee, writing in Letters from the Federal Farmer to the Republic, Letter XVIII, May, 1788
Now, keeping the original intent intact and updating the wording, the republic having a trained and disciplined citizenry is essential to the security of a free state. When you add the final part of the second amendment, it all becomes clear, “A trained and disciplined citizenry, being necessary to the security of a free state; the right of the People to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.”
What about people who aren’t trained and disciplined, you ask? Well, the way the second amendment is written does NOT require training and discipline to keep and bear arms, but does state that trained and disciplined armed citizens are necessary to our security. Training and discipline with arms was a normal part of life then. Merely through hunting and personal defense the vast majority of Americans easily maintained the skills necessary if ever called to active duty in the militia. To maintain that training and discipline today, we need to reintroduce arms training into the school system so that those who do not get the needed proficiency training at home can still maintain the required skills necessary to maintain a secure State.
Here is another way to look at it. This sentence is structured identically to the second amendment: “A well educated Electorate, being necessary to self-governance in a free State, the right of the people to keep and read Books, shall not be infringed.” The goal is a well educated electorate, the mechanism is unrestricted access to books for ALL of the people. Does it mean ONLY the educated may keep and read books? If so, then how would one become educated? Does it mean that only the well educated can vote? Of course not, but we aspire to a well educated electorate by making books (education) available to all. Just as we strive to achieve a trained and disciplined armed citizenry for the security of a free state by making arms available to all. In doing so they are able to provide for themselves (hunt), defend themselves (from criminals) and train for the protection of our freedom (from tyranny). In both cases, electorate and arms, EDUCATION is the key. Do you see the idiocy of the other side’s arguments yet?
The 2nd Amendment went completely unquestioned in its meaning for well over a hundred years. It was not until the 20th century that people began to question its intent. So, what is the source of this confusion, revisionism and debate? Actually, it can be traced back to the Constitutional Convention itself. There were two opposing doctrines at the time, Federalism and Anti-federalism. The Anti-Federalists were staunch advocates for theÂ rights and power of the states and feared the creation of standing armies at the federal level in America. Due to their knowledge of history and recent experiences with the tyranny of King George, there was a palpable distrust of “standing armies” that could possibly be used in the future to enforce tyrannical corruption, even in the Constitutional Republic they were creating. When asked what kind of government they had created, Benjamin Franklin replied, “A Republic, if you can keep it.”
One approach to protect against this was the militia approach, maintaining militias on the state level that could only be called into active duty in times of foreign wars and only for the duration of such wars. Thereby they would eliminate any peacetime standing army that could be used against the states or the people. In the end, the Federalist school of thought won out and the federal government was empowered with control of the armed forces AND the militias. The reasoning was that the militia system would not be able to react quickly enough to sudden emergencies and that it would require civilians to engage in regular UNPAID military training which would take away from their labors in their normal life and pursuit of happiness, which was something that Americans of the time would never have accepted.
So, again, why include that phraseology in the 2nd Amendment? The mention of the militia and it’s necessity to the security of a free state was a compromise to unite the two factions. The founders recognized multiple levels of the militia and its importance in both supporting the professional military branches and defending against the abusive use of those armies. They recognized first that the militias were composed of “the whole of the people” in both an organized and unorganized manner. The phrase “A well-regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state…” illustrates the GOAL of the 2nd Amendment. That goal being a body of “the people” able to support, AND DEFEND AGAINST, standing armies. An armed citizenry would be capable of supplementing the professional armed forces if the need arose and would discourage those elected to govern from ambitions of self-promotion through force of arms against those same citizens. To achieve that goal, the 2nd amendment continues with the expressed right of the individual to keep and bear arms as the mechanism by which the well regulated militia can be achieved. Having given the federal government full control over the armed services and the militias, the 2nd amendment serves only ONE purpose. It sets a strict limitation on the one area in which the government CANNOT control the militia, organized or unorganized. The federal government can “regulate” the militias in any manner it deems to be “well regulated” EXCEPT disarming the citizens from which the militia is constituted. Even with the militia reference at the beginning of the 2nd amendment, it is quite clear that an armed citizenry was the Founders first and foremost intent. From that armed citizenry many variations of militia and military forces could be assembled for the “security of a free state.”
So, when others try to make the argument that the 2nd amendment does NOT protect an individual right to own weapons AND to bear those weapons, keep in mind that you cannot draw any kind of effective or well regulated militia from an unarmed populous. An unarmed citizenry is not a free people and we cannot secure a free state without a free people. Do not allow anyone to rewrite our founding documents merely by changing the meanings of words over time. We must always remember and retain the original intent or we lose everything through the mere publication of a new dictionary with the words redefined. If you would like to delve more deeply into the subject, I have found two excellent scholarly works that far exceed my capability to explain. They are extensive and informative, but they are NOT light reading by any stretch of the imagination. However, if you truly want to understand and defend the 2nd amendment, they are both MUST READS! The Right of the People or the Power of the StateÂ Bearing Arms, Arming Militias, and the Second Amendment by Stephen P. Halbrook
A Primer on the Constitutional Right to Keep and Bear Arms by Nelson Lund, J.D., Ph.D
Jon Britton aka DoubleTap is Chief Operating Officer of CDH, Inc., a regular contributing author and regularly involved in most aspects of their social media. “Writing was never a goal or even vaguely contemplated as a career choice, it just happened, an accidental discovery of a talent and a passion.” A passion that has taken him in many directions from explorations of the zombie subculture and zombie stories to political advocacy. Joining the U.S. Air Force right out of high school, Jon had the opportunity to experience many different parts of the world and different cultures. His post military career path, both white collar and blue collar, allowed him to work alongside both CEOs and average Joes. As a founding member Cold Dead Hands his study of human nature and writing ability found a purpose. His zombie roots provided a variety of issues from prepping to human behavior under crisis to firearms that he applies to his advocacy for gun rights. A ravenous appetite for the study of history combined with his current events political junkie addiction led to him writing an e-book Gun Sense: Past, Present and Future.