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Second Amendment: How The Framers and The Gun Grabbers Read It Differently

What is the correct interpretation of the Second Amendment (2A)?

Try this version that Liberals would have us believe: “Hunting and fishing being necessary for the procuring of food, the right of the people to keep and bear arms and fishing equipment solely for those purposes, shall not be infringed.” Was this reading the intent of our Framers, as we discussed in my last column?

How about the original version of the amendment? “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.” Which did our Founders intend and live by? Let’s see.

“Well-regulated.” In dictionaries at the time, “well-regulated” meant, “thoroughly trained and disciplined”, or, “to be in good order.” The Minutemen who fought at Concord and Lexington were legally required, as able-bodied men (aged 16 t0 60) to own and report to monthly drill or to combat with “a musket in good working order, and 40 cartridges or a powder horn, ball, and patches for 40 rounds of fire”. In other words, personal ownership of arms was required by all men capable of serving, for defense of their colony or themselves (from Indian attack, for instance). In fact, many colonies had, from their beginning, required men to bear their arms to church!

The militia was a body of trained men who bore personally owned arms, because the colonies were too poor to provide everyone with guns and ammo. (However, those too poor to own a musket were provided with one at public expense until they could buy their own, or were assigned to be artillerymen.)

In addition, these were “State of the Art” military-style arms. These colonists had muskets that were exactly the same or virtually identical to the Brown Bess musket issued to British troops. They were smoothbores, like a shot gun, and could rarely hit a single man with one shot at more than 50 yards, but in volley fire, could hit massed infantry out to 100 yards. Moreover, colonists with rifles (which have a grooved rather than a smooth bore, allowing greater accuracy out to 2-300 yards, but slower to load than a smoothbore) actually had a superior weapon to that carried by the national armies of that day.

Gun grabbers insist that “militia” refers to the National Guard. In the 18th century, though, such a force was called “the select militia”. A select militia is formed, armed, trained, and commanded by the Federal government. We call it The National Guard. The National Guard was created by Congress in 1903, and therefore was not in the intent of the writers of the 2A in 1790-91.

Article I, Sec. 8, Clause 14 of the Constitution provides for Congress to call forth “The Select Militia”. As a result, if the 2A meant what gun grabbers say it does, then the 2A was redundant, and there was no need for the Founders to include it in the list of fundamental rights. However, Title 10 of the United States Code defines the US “militia” as separate from the National Guard (the select militia), stating that it comprises “Allmen (and women) capable of bearing arms, aged 18-50”. Therefore, even under today’s federal law, the militia is comprised of military-age citizens who furnish their own privately-owned, state-of-the-art military-style weapons for defense of themselves and the state. (Without individuals supplying their own arms, a militia isn’t possible.)

“The security of a free state.” Refers first to the individual’s state of residence, then to the country. The militia was to keep order in their state and locality, as this was some 50 years before the start of professional law enforcement in America.

“The Right of the People” — anytime “the people” is mentioned in the Bill of rights or the Constitution, it refers to individuals! (See, 1st, 4th, 9th, and 10th amendments.) In fact, though six of the amendments don’t use the word, “people”, all ten of the articles of The Bill of Rights refer to individual rights. In the Constitution, non-persons (those without individual rights) were: non-citizens (aliens), slaves, indentured servants, and Indians. (Art. I, Sec. 2, Cl.3) That the Founder’s generation recognized self-defense as an individual right is illustrated by the fact that the Pennsylvania legislature rejected the phrase “to bear arms for the common defense” in that state’s 1790 constitution in favor of “The right of the people to keep and bear arms in defense of themselves and the state shall not be questioned.”

“To keep.” Means individual ownership and control of one’s private arms. It does not mean either state-supplied arms nor the storage of private arms in an armory, only released to individuals with permission of or by order of the state. Samuel Mitchell, who was a NY state assemblyman and later US Senator, said in 1793, “The militia is based on the principle that men who can govern can also defend themselves. Keeping of arms ensures that individuals will grow expert in handling them. These same weapons serve to defend the individual’s life and serve as a prop against violent thieves and burglaries.” (emphasis added).

It is obvious that the Founders meant for citizens to have their military-style weaponry at hand.

To be continued …

Image: Excerpted from: WestportWiki – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,

Greg Hopkins

Greg Hopkins is a recovering lawyer, city prosecutor, police Use-of-Force law instructor, former city judge in two towns and criminal defense lawyer. He’s been teaching the Bible to teens and adults for 40 years. He now trains CCP holders and armed church security teams in self defense law. He also does expert witnessing in firearms and self defense cases. His book is A Time To Kill: The Myth of Christian Pacifism, on the Bible and Self Defense.