The Second Amendment … It seems so simple

But it’s not. I do not profess to be a Constitutional scholar, but I think my understanding is better than average and I’ve done my research. Let’s take a look at the 2nd Amendment of the United States Constitution.

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.

The first clause refers to the desire at the time to not have a standing army, but rather a milita sponsored by (regulated) by the government. This is necessary to have a secure, free state. At the time, the Founders were concerned a standing army would grow in strength to the point where they could oppress the people. On the flip side – during the Revolutionary War – our new country realized militia forces probably would not be dependable when it comes to national defense. Quite the conundrum is it not?

As I understand it, they eventually settled on state militias, and provided Congress the ability to regulate them. James Madison in Federalist 46 was not concerned with a militia sponsored by the government for the simple fact the people were armed, an advantage citizens in the United States had over the people of just about every other nation at the time. Those militias were also tied to subordinate governments – the states – and the officers were appointed by the people of the state. Madison wrote this would form a barrier against tyranny and oppression. From the ninth paragraph, with my emphasis in bold.

Besides the advantage of being armed, which the Americans possess over the people of almost every other nation, the existence of subordinate governments, to which the people are attached, and by which the militia officers are appointed, forms a barrier against the enterprises of ambition, more insurmountable than any which a simple government of any form can admit of. Notwithstanding the military establishments in the several kingdoms of Europe, which are carried as far as the public resources will bear, the governments are afraid to trust the people with arms. And it is not certain, that with this aid alone they would not be able to shake off their yokes. But were the people to possess the additional advantages of local governments chosen by themselves, who could collect the national will and direct the national force, and of officers appointed out of the militia, by these governments, and attached both to them and to the militia, it may be affirmed with the greatest assurance, that the throne of every tyranny in Europe would be speedily overturned in spite of the legions which surround it. Let us not insult the free and gallant citizens of America with the suspicion, that they would be less able to defend the rights of which they would be in actual possession, than the debased subjects of arbitrary power would be to rescue theirs from the hands of their oppressors. Let us rather no longer insult them with the supposition that they can ever reduce themselves to the necessity of making the experiment, by a blind and tame submission to the long train of insidious measures which must precede and produce it.

Is that not a powerful paragraph?

The second clause is clear and uses the phrase “the people.” That specific phrase is used twice in the Constitution, five times in the Bill of Rights and another two times in following Amendments. In all instances, “the people” is not a subset of citizens nor a group that can be defined as a militia. Shall not be infringed was something both the Federalists and Anti-Federalists both agreed. The federal government would not have any authority to disarm citizens. Everyone agreed the federal government should not have the ability to infringe on the people’s right to keep and bear arms.

Over time, the people became less concerned with the possibility the federal government would oppress them (is opinion changing?) and the state-based militias were eventually rolled up with the Big Green Machine and the Navy. The 14th Amendment applied the Bill of Rights to the States, and recent Supreme Court decisions ensured the right to keep and bear arms was an individual right (D.C. v Heller) and the 2nd Amendment should be incorporated (McDonald v. Chicago), therefore protecting our 2nd Amendment rights from infringement by local governments.

Your comments?

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Steve McGough

Steve's a part-time conservative blogger. Steve grew up in Connecticut and has lived in Washington, D.C. and the Bahamas. He resides in Connecticut, where he’s comfortable six months of the year.


  1. PatRiot on December 31, 2012 at 10:16 pm

    🙂 ! !

  2. stinkfoot on December 31, 2012 at 11:02 pm

    As long as the mainstream media and press are able and willing to propagandize on behalf of the left then the movement will continue toward abolishing the second amendment and willfully weak minds will be led to support? that abolition.

  3. Lynn on January 1, 2013 at 8:37 am

    Thanks for your research, you have made the amendment and the reason behind it cystal clear.

  4. Plainvillian on January 1, 2013 at 9:00 am

    The American experiment was always based on the concept of Federalism and the preeminence of the people over the government or an individual in power.? Navel gaze all you want, Mao said it best – “Political power grows out of the barrel of a gun.”? Every central planner/totalitarian from early monarchs to today’s dictators have always disarmed their citizens.? Disarming through incremental measures is only an insidious means to the same end by our increasingly totalitarian government.

  5. JBS on January 2, 2013 at 8:19 am

    What happened to the “shall not be infringed upon” part?
    It is clear to me that the Second Amendment establishes “the people” as the militia and with “the people” armed in similar manner to the government or any force that the militia may have to oppose. Ergo, modern rifles and pistols.


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