Erik Ramsay posted this on a Facebook group I’m in and gave permission to share it far and wide.
The Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution states:
“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.”
When this was written it was considered to be in plain language, but language can drift over time; meanings change, words fall in and out of common usage, and so the meaning of a phrase can be obscured over time. Take a look at that same concept, but applied to books:
“A well educated electorate, being necessary for the success of a free state, the right of the people to keep and read books, shall not be infringed.” Who in that sentence has the right to keep and read books? Only the well educated electorate? Or the people? Further, does it say only an electorate that was educated by the government?
The right of the people to keep and read books exists so that a well educated electorate could arise from it. The way the 2nd Amendment is worded is identical. The right of the people to keep and bear arms exists so that a well regulated (in good working order, i.e. well-equipped because they already have the guns that a militia would need) militia (a military force that is raised from the civil population to supplement a regular army in an emergency) may rise from it.
Let’s break this down a bit so that we can understand the meaning of this amendment as it was originally understood:
“A well-regulated”: At the time the Second Amendment was written, “regulations” were not just laws, but detailed how something was to work. Baron von Steuben’s Regulations for the order and discipline of the troops of the United States (1779) details how the army and militia were to be set up and run, including what armaments, ammunition, etc. they were required to have to be effective; so in this case “well-regulated” doesn’t mean that the militia has a lot of laws about what they can and can’t do, it means that they know how to fight effectively, and are equipped to do so; the best comparison to today would be “well-equipped.”
“militia”: According to US Code, the militia is “all able-bodied males aged 17-45, and females that have joined the National Guard:”
TITLE 10 / Subtitle A / PART I / CHAPTER 12
10 USC Ch. 12: THE MILITIA
From Title 10—ARMED FORCES
Subtitle A—General Military Law
PART I—ORGANIZATION AND GENERAL MILITARY POWERS
CHAPTER 12—THE MILITIA
§246. Militia: composition and classes
(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.
(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.
The “organized militia” is those that have joined the National Guard and/or Naval Militia, and the “unorganized Militia” is the rest of us. As an able-bodied male between 17-45 that is not in the National Guard or Naval Militia, I am a member of the “unorganized militia,” per US law.
“being necessary to the security of a free state,”: This one if pretty self-explanatory, but just in case someone needs it, this means that this concept is necessary to ensure the freedom of this country, both from outside invasion, and from a tyrannical government, like the one that the U.S. had just won a war against.
“the right of the people”: The wording here is really important: notice how it doesn’t grant anything, but references “the right of the people;” this is a pre-existing right that pre-dates the Constitution.
“to keep”: to keep is to own
“and bear”: to bear is to carry
“arms”: arms are weapons suitable for use in war. It is not limited to guns, although they are usually the topic of discussion when 2A subjects come up, but also includes swords, knives, cannon, and warships. Yes, I said cannon and warships; if you look at the historical records, much of the cannon and warships used in the Revolutionary War were privately owned.
“shall not”: this means “not now, and not in the future.”
“be infringed.”: to infringe is to nibble away at, or encroach upon, even a little bit. A neighbor that puts a fence around his roses six inches over the property line onto your property has infringed on your property.
So, to re-cap:
“A well-regulated (well-armed and equipped) militia (most citizens aged 17-45), being necessary to the security of a free state (nation), the right of the people (the people, not the military) to keep (own) and bear (carry) arms (weapons; not just guns, but also swords, knives, etc.), shall not be infringed (gov’t is prohibited from interfering with this pre-existing right)”.
It really couldn’t be clearer: the government is PROHIBITED from enacting ANY form of gun control, and ALL gun control is unconstitutional, and therefore illegal.
The Second Amendment does not apply to AR-15s.
The Second Amendment does not apply to AK-47s.
The Second Amendment does not apply to any semi-automatic rifles.
The Second Amendment does not apply to lever-action or bolt-action rifles.
The Second Amendment does not apply to any pistols or revolvers.
The Second Amendment does not apply to “high capacity” magazines.
The Second Amendment does not apply to any firearms, PERIOD.
The Second Amendment applies ONLY to the government. It restricts the government’s authority regarding your pre-existing right to any and all of the above-listed firearms, any firearms not listed above, and any other arms you so choose.
The Second Amendment does not apply to your firearms because its purpose is NOT to state what a citizen is allowed to have; the purpose of the Second Amendment is to prevent the government from being involved in that question in the first place.
If the question is “what weapons is a citizen allowed to have and carry?”, then the answer is “whatever the citizen can afford,” and the government is constitutionally mandated to keep silent on the issue.