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.What does this mean? To some, it's an individual right to keep and bear arms. To others it's a right for the states to organize and arm their own militias.
Right to Keep and Bear Arms is a DKos group of second amendment supporters who have progressive and liberal values. We don't think that being a liberal means one has to be anti-gun. Some of us are extreme in our second amendment views (no licensing, no restrictions on small arms) and some of us are more moderate (licensing, restrictions on small arms.) Moderate or extreme or somewhere in between, we hold one common belief: more gun control equals lost elections. We don't want a repeat of 1994. We are an inclusive group: if you see the Second Amendment as safeguarding our right to keep and bear arms individually, then come join us in our conversation. If you are against the right to keep and bear arms, come join our conversation. We look forward to seeing you, as long as you engage in a civil discussion.
Well, how 'bout we start with 'well regulated' as it was used back when the Bill of Rights was penned?
Alexander Hamilton, Federalist 29:
The project of disciplining all the militia of the United States is as futile as it would be injurious if it were capable of being carried into execution. A tolerable expertness in military movements is a business that requires time and practice. It is not a day, nor a week nor even a month, that will suffice for the attainment of it. To oblige the great body of the yeomanry and of the other classes of the citizens to be under arms for the purpose of going through military exercises and evolutions, as often as might be necessary to acquire the degree of perfection which would entitle them to the character of a well regulated militia, would be a real grievance to the people and a serious public inconvenience and loss.Does this read like he meant 'full of regulations' or well trained?
Then there's the original GW:
I am unacquainted with the extent of your works, and consequently ignorant of the number or men necessary to man them. If your present numbers should be insufficient for that purpose, I would then by all means advise your making up the deficiency out of the best regulated militia that can be got.Again, does this sound like well trained militia to you or something highly restricted and regulated?
Speaking of militia, what (and who) are the militia? The National Guard is definitely a part of the militia, but they do not make it up in its entirety. According to US Code:
(a) The militia of the United States consists of all able-bodied males at least 17 years of age and, except as provided in section 313 of title 32, under 45 years of age who are, or who have made a declaration of intention to become, citizens of the United States and of female citizens of the United States who are members of the National Guard.Looks like I'm considered part of the unorganized militia and so are quite a few others in this country. Even if you'd rather not.
(b) The classes of the militia are—
(1) the organized militia, which consists of the National Guard and the Naval Militia; and
(2) the unorganized militia, which consists of the members of the militia who are not members of the National Guard or the Naval Militia.
So we've defined well regulated and militia. But does the prefatory part of the second amendment actually restrict those who can keep and bear arms?
The well regulated militia section of the amendment is an example of why the right of the people to keep and bear arms should not be infringed. Quite a few people say that there is no other Bill of Rights amendment that has such a thing. They would be correct. But if you look at other state constitutions of the time, you'll see quite a few.
New Hampshire, 1784:
In criminal prosecutions, the trial of facts in the vicinity where they happen, is so essential to the security of the life, liberty and estate of the citizen, that no crime or offence ought to be tried in any other county than that in which it is committed . . . .Massachusetts, 1780. New Hampshire, 1784. Vermont, 1786:
The freedom of deliberation, speech, and debate, in either house of the legislature, is so essential to the rights of the people, that it cannot be the foundation of any accusation or prosecution, action or complaint, in any other court or place whatsoeverEven if you want to jump forward in time (to 1842) you will find something similar in Rhode Island:
The liberty of the press being essential to the security of freedom in a state, any person may publish his sentiments on any subject, being responsible for the abuse of that liberty . . . .There are more examples at the link above.
The sentence structure in the amendments above doesn't restrict or limit individual rights. Am I fighting for no restrictions on the RKBA enshrined in the second amendment? No. There are restrictions currently at the state and federal level (some I agree with, some not). I am, however, pointing out that the group right view (only able to exercise RKBA when in a well regulated militia) is wrong.