I spent last week vacationing in Florida. One of the things I really enjoy about getting away from the daily routine is the opportunity to catch up on reading. So, while lounging on the beach, I dug into founding era sources surrounding the proposal and ratification of the Second Amendment. Here are some things that were very clear.
1. There is zero evidence that the founders contemplated the Second Amendment applying to the states.
2. The maintenance and independence of the state militia was intimately connected with the Second Amendment.
3. The militia was not a select group of people. It was the whole people of a state (able-bodied males – but generally described as people.)
4. The militia was considered a check on government power. This was the driving force behind the Second Amendment. The fear was that Congress could disarm the people (the militia) and establish a standing army in its stead. But this idea flowed from a more general right of self-defense. An individual right to defend oneself it seems was pretty much a given. I didn’t find any evidence that the idea of government disarming people for their “own protection” was even contemplated.
5. The biggest debate surrounding the Second Amendment when it was proposed was a provision to exempt those who objected to taking up arms on religious ground from militia service. This was ultimately dropped. Reading between the lines, you realize that it was pretty much a requirement that able-bodied males keep and bear arms.
6. The reason the Second Amendment focuses on the militia is because that was the only avenue the founders contemplated the federal government using to infringe on the right to keep and bear arms. There is no delegated power for the federal government to regulate guns for “safety” purposes.