Meaning of the Second Amendment
This will most certainly not settle the argument about the Second Amendment that has been festering for many years now. However, let’s attempt to explain what the 2nd amendment says, and what it means. Here is the verbiage as it appears in the Bill of Rights, that document that contains the first ten amendments to the original Constitution:
A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the People to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.
On December 15, 1791, the Bill of Rights (the first ten amendments to the Constitution) was adopted, having been ratified by three-fourths of the states. This is the Second of those amendments to the original Constitution.
Perhaps the second thing to establish would be the dictionary meaning of the word ‘militia’.
a body of citizens enrolled for military service, and called out periodically for drill but serving full time only in emergencies.
a body of citizen soldiers as distinguished from professional soldiers.
all able-bodied males considered by law eligible for military service.
a body of citizens organized in a paramilitary group and typically regarding themselves as defenders of individual rights against the presumed interference of the federal government.
State defense forces in the United States are military units that operate under the sole authority of a state government; they are partially regulated by the National Guard Bureau but they are not a part of the Army National Guard of the United States.
As noted, the militia is an organization of each individual state; citizen soldiers—not members of any branch of the professional Armed Forces. Since the United States has a regular military force whose sole responsibility is to protect and defend the United States from all enemies—that unit being first formed by the Congress authorized by the Articles of Confederation and, almost from its inception, commanded by General George Washington—it would have been redundant, not to mention completely unnecessary, to formulate a unit for the protection of the nation.
The Constitution of the United States gave limited powers to the Federal Government. ALL OTHER authority was to be entrusted to the individual states, whose rights were not to be abridged by the Federal Government.
What the Founders feared was not the encroachment of States rights into the Federal realm. No, the concern was that the Federal Government would overreach and usurp those rights originally relegated to the States. The militia was for the purpose of the States having some means of protecting the rights not given them by the Federal Government, but every other aspect of governance that was not specifically enumerated by the Constitutionto that Federal entity.
Protection from whom, you might ask? Perhaps from other states; say, over boundary disputes or matters of unfair trade practices of neighboring states. Maybe some other forms of encroachment. Primarily, however, the militia is the State’s defense against unlawful usurpation by the Federal Government of rights not specifically afforded them by the Constitution.
How did the United States rid itself of the oppressive rule of England toward our several colonies? We went to war with the British, and won our freedom.
Why did we do that? All you need to understand in that regard can be found in reading the first paragraph of the Declaration of Independence:
“When in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation”.
THAT’S why the people of America jealously defend the right to keep and bear arms—to protect ourselves from decisions by well-meaning idiots at the Federal level (Congress) that are inimical to the security, safety and moral character of our nation and its people. In some ways our American Congress is more separated from the realities of everyday Americans lives than was King George at the time the Declaration of Independence was written.
It might be instructive to read the delineation of grievances against King George that the colonists thought to be ‘unbearable’. They are in that Declaration of Independence. Read the entire document someday. The similarity to grievances then and now might surprise you!