What the Second Amendment really means
The order of the sentence is critical — the need for a ‘well-regulated militia’ is mentioned first, then the logical extension that as a member of that militia, a citizen has the right to bear arms. The twisted perversion currently held up by the right as the ‘Second Commandment’ is just that…a perversion.
A reader commenting on Andrew Sullivan’s Daily Dish put the matter about the best I can recall reading. Comments are anonymous there, so I can only link to it and tip my hat:
If your reader is interested in knowing what the Founders actually considered a “well regulated militia” to be, I refer him or her to the Militia Acts of 1792 passed by the second Congress, in which a good number of those Founders were sitting and knew perfectly well what they meant by “well regulated”. […]
Those acts conscripted every able bodied white male between 18 and 45 years of age in the country (with some exceptions based on occupation) into the militias. It mandated they be organized into divisions, brigades, regiments, battalions and companies organized by the state legislatures. It required all members in those militias to provide specific items of equipment (musket, ammo, knapsack, bayonet, gunpowder, etc.). To regularly report for muster and training. Militia members were subject to court martial for disobeying orders. And they were at the call of the president to either defend the nation against invasion or to enforce the laws of the nation if he felt it necessary to employ them to that end. One example is the Whiskey Rebellion, when President Washington personally marched 13,000 militia out to Pennsylvania to inform a bunch of farmers threatening tax collectors that, oh yes, they WOULD pay their taxes.
THAT is what the Founders idea of a well-regulated militia was. We know because they created them. The idea that it was any yahoo with a rifle who wanted to call himself a member of “the militia” is a modern invention created by people like the NRA.
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