...being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.
So states the text of what was originally the Fourth Amendment. The Bill of Rights originally had 12 Amendments, but the first two did not get ratified, thus we ended up with ten and the Fourth Amendment became the Second Amendment. There has been much argument as to the meaning of the Second Amendment. The Heller decision (DC v. Heller 2008) was the first Supreme Court decision to declare that the Second Amendment protects an individual right to keep and bear arms for self defense.
- "(1) The Second Amendment protects an individual right to possess a firearm unconnected with service in a militia, and to use that arm for traditionally lawful purposes, such as self-defense within the home. Pp. 2–53.
- (a) The Amendment’s prefatory clause announces a purpose, but does not limit or expand the scope of the second part, the operative clause. The operative clause’s text and history demonstrate that it connotes an individual right to keep and bear arms. Pp. 2–22.
- (b) The prefatory clause comports with the Court’s interpretation of the operative clause. The “militia” comprised all males physically capable of acting in concert for the common defense. The Antifederalists feared that the Federal Government would disarm the people in order to disable this citizens’ militia, enabling a politicized standing army or a select militia to rule. The response was to deny Congress power to abridge the ancient right of individuals to keep and bear arms, so that the ideal of a citizens’ militia would be preserved. Pp. 22–28.
- (c) The Court’s interpretation is confirmed by analogous arms-bearing rights in state constitutions that preceded and immediately followed the Second Amendment. Pp. 28–30.
- (d) The Second Amendment’s drafting history, while of dubious interpretive worth, reveals three state Second Amendment proposals that unequivocally referred to an individual right to bear arms. Pp. 30–32.
- (e) Interpretation of the Second Amendment by scholars, courts and legislators, from immediately after its ratification through the late 19th century also supports the Court’s conclusion. Pp. 32–47.
- (f) None of the Court’s precedents forecloses the Court’s interpretation. Neither United States v. Cruikshank, 92 U. S. 542 , nor Presser v. Illinois, 116 U. S. 252 , refutes the individual-rights interpretation. United States v. Miller, 307 U. S. 174 , does not limit the right to keep and bear arms to militia purposes, but rather limits the type of weapon to which the right applies to those used by the militia, i.e., those in common use for lawful purposes.
- (2) Like most rights, the Second Amendment right is not unlimited. It is not a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose: For example, concealed weapons prohibitions have been upheld under the Amendment or state analogues. The Court’s opinion should not be taken to cast doubt on longstanding prohibitions on the possession of firearms by felons and the mentally ill, or laws forbidding the carrying of firearms in sensitive places such as schools and government buildings, or laws imposing conditions and qualifications on the commercial sale of arms. Miller’s holding that the sorts of weapons protected are those “in common use at the time” finds support in the historical tradition of prohibiting the carrying of dangerous and unusual weapons. Pp. 54–56."
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. We think we know what these words mean today, but what was the common usage in 1789? To determine this I used Samuel Johnson's 1792 edition of "A Dictionary of the English Language."
In those days a "militia" was defined as "the trainbands" or trained band of men. Specifically, a company of trained civilians, in England or America, from the 16th to the 18th century.
"Regulate" was defined as "to adjust by rule or method" and "to direct".
"Arms" were defined as "weapons of offense" and "war in general", so the Miller decision which restricted they type of weapons a person could own was incorrect as it was expected that citizens could own, provided they were not insane, any such weapon used in warfare.
Now let's look at the Second Amendment as the verbiage was understood by the men who wrote it:
"A well directed band of civilians, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and carry weapons of offense used for war in general, shall not be infringed.
In Heller, the Supreme Court did get right that the Second Amendment was there to prevent tyranny and that "the right of THE PEOPLE" was also an individual right.
The specifier "being necessary to the security of a free State" is critically important because it separates a militia from the government. Civilian militias can be used to assist the government in times of emergency, such as if the British are invading, but the specifier clause has a different duty for the militia.
There is a famous quote by Thomas Jefferson to wit:
"The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants." Here it is in context:
"The British ministry have so long hired their gazetteers to repeat and model into every form lies about our being in anarchy, that the world has at length believed them, the English nation has believed them, the ministers themselves have come to believe them, and what is more wonderful, we have believed them ourselves. Yet where does this anarchy exist? Where did it ever exist, except in the single instance of Massachusets? And can history produce an instance of a rebellion so honourably conducted? I say nothing of it's motives. They were founded in ignorance, not wickedness. God forbid we should ever be 20. years without such a rebellion. The people can not be all, and always, well informed. The part which is wrong will be discontented in proportion to the importance of the facts they misconceive. If they remain quiet under such misconceptions it is a lethargy, the forerunner of death to the public liberty. We have had 13. states independant 11. years. There has been one rebellion. That comes to one rebellion in a century and a half for each state. What country ever existed a century and a half without a rebellion? And what country can preserve it's liberties if their rulers are not warned from time to time that their people preserve the spirit of resistance? Let them take arms. The remedy is to set them right as to facts, pardon and pacify them. What signify a few lives lost in a century or two? The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants. It is it's natural manure. Our Convention has been too much impressed by the insurrection of Massachusets: and in the spur of the moment they are setting up a kite to keep the hen yard in order. I hope in god this article will be rectified before the new constitution is accepted." - Thomas Jefferson to William Stephens Smith, Paris, 13 Nov. 1787."
Thus, the importance of "being necessary to the security of a free State" is that the Second Amendment was specifically written to allow the militia to detach itself from the State and overthrow the government that has become tyrannical by the use of force. The militia then goes from a team player whose function is to assist the government to the ultimate check of destroying the government.
UPDATE: Some additional commentary. For additional clarification, it is the word "free" in the clarifier sentence that is important. As defined, "being necessary to the security of a non-tyrannical/non-oppressive State"(I.E. free State) as opposed to, "being necessary to the security of the State" makes the Second Amendment essentially a command for the militia to overthrow an oppressive government rather than an equivocal suggestion.
Also, based on the definition of "Arms" at the time, ANY weapon of war would be permissible to own.(Voiding the 1934 National Firearms Act) The definition also includes the phrase "and armor for defense" so MRAPS can be sold to civilians, who aren't insane.
TO ARMS!!!! TO ARMS!!!! It's fast approaching now or never.