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What does that mean? Well let us examine it and see. It is a fairly simple and short statement. It has two clauses or sections. The second states that a particular right of the people shall not be infringed. The first states why the second clause is necessary.
Lets examine the second clause first. I am going to use Noah Webster's 1828 dictionary to define words. It codified and assembled the language and thought processes of that time period. A dictionary of today would not give the meaning of most of those words as written. Our language has been changed and in many cases subverted to support and make illegitimate agendas appear legitimate.
the right - the dictionary defines a right as that which justly belongs to one. It is something that inherently belongs to you. It is not a privilege to be granted or taken away by a government.
of the people - I think we all know what people are. I am sure we all know people and interact with them every day. And every other place the term the people is used in the constitution, it refers to the people. Not the government, not the army, not the National Guard, but the individual citizens. For example, the right of the people peaceably to assemble or The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects.
to keep - Again pretty simple. To hold; to retain in one's power or possession; not to lose or part with. If we keep something we don't sell it or give it away. We hang on to it.
and bear - to bear means simply to carry. To carry; to convey; to support and remove from place to place.
arms - I like the dictionary's definition of arms, Weapons of offense. Of course the weapons of main concern to the founders and to us is guns.
shall not be - shall in this context implies a promise, command or determination. So shall not be infringed is promising or commanding or determining that the right not be infringed.
infringed - means Broken; violated; transgresses. So if we are not allowed to keep and bear arms, our rights and the constitution are being violated.
OK now lets look at the first clause.
A well regulated - Here is where some of the misunderstanding begins. Does regulated mean overseen or controlled by or a part of the federal government? What does the dictionary say? Adjusted by rule, method or forms; put in good order; subjected to rules or restrictions. It just means to be orderly, to have rules and restrictions to be effective.
Militia - Right here is where the main argument begins. What is the militia? I won't list the total definition in the dictionary since it is rather long. Here is the important part. The militia of a country are the able bodied men organized into companies, regiments and brigades. I added the underlining because that part is important. Notice also that it says are instead of is. Is would imply a single unified body such as our current National Guard. However the plural are implies the militia is made up of individuals. Also the is very important. If it just said the militia are able bodied men, that would be one thing. But the militia are the able bodied men says somethng much different. It basically says the able bodied men are the militia.
At this point I think a little history lesson is in order to help to define what the militia is.
Here are some quotes from the founders. Many others could be listed but these clearly show their intent.
Tenche Coxe: “Who are the militia? Are they not ourselves? Is it feared, then, that we shall turn our arms each man against his own bosom. Congress have no power to disarm the militia. Their swords, and every other terrible implement of the soldier, are the birthright of an American… The unlimited power of the sword is not in the hands of either the federal or state governments, but, where I trust in God it will ever remain, in the hands of the people.” – Tenche Coxe, The Pennsylvania Gazette, Feb. 20, 1788.
Patrick Henry: “The people have a right to keep and bear arms.”
Thomas Jefferson: “No free man shall ever be debarred the use of arms.”
Richard Henry Lee: “To preserve liberty it is essential that the whole body of the people always possess arms and be taught alike, especially when young, how to use them…”
Richard Henry Lee: “A militia, when properly formed, are in fact the people themselves…and include all men capable of bearing arms.”
George Mason: “I ask you sir, who are the militia? They consist now of the whole people.” (Elliott, Debates, 425-426)
George Washington: “A free people ought not only to be armed and disciplined but they should have sufficient arms and ammunition to maintain a status of independence from any who might attempt to abuse them, which would include their own government.”
So the founders were obviously referring to the people themselves, more specifically all able bodied men as the militia. There were many other quotes by founders that also bear this out. And also notice that they weren't concerned that people would need weapons for hunting or personal defense. To the founders it was a given that they would always have those. They wanted the militia to be well enough armed to oppose a tyrannical government. And that is why they wanted it to be well regulated, so it would be an effective force against a tyrannical government.
The next step in defining the militia was the Militia Act of 1792. It codified and defined the militia as all (emphasis mine) able bodied men from 18 to 54 years of age. It also gave the specifications of the weapon they were required to have. And they were to provide their own weapon. It was not supplied by the government. They were also required to report for training twice a year. But these requirements were not enforced.
The militia operated under the Militia Acts of 1792 until 1903. The president could call up militia but they didn't have to go. For instance during the War of 1812 the New York militia refused to take part in operations against the British in Canada. Because the issue of state versus federal control was not resolved, the federal government resorted to the creation of volunteer units when it needed to expand the size of the Army. One such volunteer unit was Teddy Roosevelt's Rough Riders during the Spanish-American War.
Due to the failure of the Militia Acts of 1792 and of some militia units failing to perform their objectives when used, the Militia Act of 1903 was passed. This law repealed the Militia Acts of 1792 and organized the militia into two groups: the Reserve Militia, which included all able-bodied men between ages 17 and 45(emphasis mine) and the Organized Militia, which included state militia (National Guard) units receiving federal support. The Miltitia Act of 1903 started the creation of the National Guard as we know it today. The National Guard as we know it today was finalized in 1933.
One more definition of the militia.
So today, if you are an able bodied male between 17 and 45 and a citizen of this country or have made a declaration of intention to become a citizen or if you are a female citizen of this county and are a member of the National Guard, you are a member of the militia!
All of this is to show that when the Second Amendment says the people, it means the people. Not some military arm of the government. But if anyone still wants to insist that it does mean some military arm of the government,I have shown that the people actually are a military arm of the government. We are the militia!
being necessary to the security of a free State - this just states that a well organized and effective militia is necessary to ensure the security of the country by helping to repel invasions and to keep a check on the government.
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