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.
The Second Amendment has not to a great degree been brought under judicial review, but the right to bear Arms has sure been in the news of late.
When looking at the 2nd Amendment, we should look at the times in which it was written and any arguments in the ratification process to give us any clue as to the intent of their words.
The men of the late 18th Century lived in a wilderness, not only facing wild animals some of which were hunted for food, they faced Indians and or certain tribes who were once allied with the French against the British. Colonists were surround by 3 empires.
“A well regulated Militia,” is what they were talking about, necessary to maintain the security of a free State. Nowhere can I find any commentary during the Constitutional Convention and ratification arguments that talked about a general right to bear arms. Rules were meant to be left to the states to organize their own militias.
The Constitution itself leaves to Congress the power to: provide for the common defense, to declare war, to raise and support armies, to provide and maintain a navy.
Militias of the day leading up to the Revolutionary War were made up of citizen part-time soldiers. We had no standing army until a Continental Army was raised to fight along with the colonial militias the British. Except for 2 regiments the army was disbanded at the end of the war.
Our citizen part time militias had interesting names as did regiments in the Continental Army. We had Haslet’s Delaware Regiment, we had the Green Mountain Rangers, we had colorful and different uniforms. The point is that it was a time when our militias and Continental Regiments were made up of citizen part time soldiers who were from all walks of life, not professional soldiers.
In point of fact one of the sources of disagreement over whether to ratify the Constitution was the issue of the perils of having a standing army. Under Congressional power the words self defense are used, not for offensive pre-emption, but for self defense.
It is hard to imagine how we got from having a militia like the national guard to having Americans be armed and dangerous. Perhaps the right to bear arms exists under the 10th Amendment or under the Privilege or Immunities clause of Section 1 of the 14th Amendment. The point is that the 2nd Amendment did not state that there was a general right to bear arms other than banding together for self defense to withstand anything other than maintaining the security of a free state.
The Virginia Bill of Rights written in 1776 by George Mason expressed the common held beliefs of the majority of the colonists when he stated, in Section 13 of their bill of rights the following: That a well-regulated militia, composed of the body of the people, trained to arms, is the proper, natural, and safe defense of a free state; that standing armies, in times of peace, should be avoided as dangerous to liberty; and that in all cases the military should be under strict subordination to, and governed by, the civil power.
We can see the danger in modern times. When you have a large standing army that costs a lot of money, someone just might want to use the army to justify the army’s existence. Maybe we would all be better off if we were like Switzerland where there is universal service, all men and women serve in their own type of militia the Swiss Army. No wars and no standing army exists and they do not kill each other indiscriminately.