A Second With The Second
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.
- Second Amendment, Bill of Rights
That’s all it says, yet these few words have been the subject of unrelenting interpretation.  Many Americans complain that Amendment Numero Dos should have been more exactingly written so as to minimize any misunderstanding, but no such luck — it is what it is.  And it is a party-defining group of words.  (I know of people who vote Republican solely because they are convinced that Democrats will take away their guns.)  To understand why the amendment is written as it is, what it means, and what its intentions were/are, I believe one must mentally travel back in time, back to when the Second was penned, back to the American Revolution...
European-style war of the 18th century was waged far differently than it is today.  For one thing, guns were rather rare in Europe.  Armies had the guns, not the citizenry.  One nation’s army would fight another nation’s army in a field somewhere and the dispute would be decided, as few civilians as possible caught up in the fray, quite civilized.  The guns of the day were less powerful, more cumbersome, more intricate to load, and far less accurate than those of today.  There were no machine guns that could mow down amber waves of men.  This is the era when armies would stand in a straight line facing one another and blast away.  This is the kind of war Cornwallis expected to fight when he crossed the pond to straighten out the snotty little colonists.  What Lord Cornwallis found, however, was not what he expected.
Truthfully, wisely, Cornwallis had every reason to believe that the British Army would simply fight the Continental Army on a variety of battlefields, the way it was fashionably done, and that would be that; after all, the colonies were English, the colonists were European, they had an army, and that’s the way wars were fought.  But America was largely a frontier.  Frontier families — with no handy Walmart — had to hunt for their food or starve; wild animals were a threat, to man and livestock; some colonists faced Indian attack; lawmen were sparse; forts were many miles apart.  Outside the cities, on the frontier, out where most of the battles would be fought, many citizens owned a long gun out of simple necessity.  Cornwallis was not just facing the Continental Army, he was facing an armed population.
General George “Balls” Washington, Commander-in-Chief of the Continental Army, readily and freely utilized these armed citizen patriots.  Local populations would band into military units called “militia.”  They were not officially part of the regular army, but they were not running around the frontier willy-nilly either.  They took orders from Army commanders; Army officers often accompanied them.  The Colonial Militia became an extension of the Continental Army (the legendary “minutemen” were militia); they were incorporated into the war plan as a whole.  And these frontier militia men had learned to fight from the native Americans; they did not stand in straight lines like the regular army, to be shot at; they hid behind trees, juked and jived, attacked and fell back; they did not fight in the proper, expected, gentlemanly manière moderne.
Long story short: we won the war.  And there can be very little doubt that the Colonial Militia helped America win her independence.  I believe that is what is behind the wording of the Second Amendment, and when read in its historical light, the meaning becomes clear.  Without an armed population (...the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed), the grist of a militia, America might very well not exist: A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State...
Our enlightened forefathers, I believe, did not include the “Right to Bear Arms” amendment in the Bill of Rights just to acknowledge the contribution of the Colonial Militia (that’s what ribbons and medals are for).  The amendment says “security of,” suggesting an ongoing function for the Militia; our forefathers had a greater purpose — a purpose which succeeded.  The effectiveness of the Colonial Militia made them realize that an armed population would be America’s greatest security: America would become uninvadable.  And it is.  Step foot on our beloved shores and, as then, you face every damn one of us; those who do not own a gun will easily get one; bullets will be flying from everywhere; you will have to fight costly and bloody battles for every inch of our soil.  The Second Amendment, as our forefathers planned, as it is written, guarantees that America will always be an armed population from which a Militia can be drawn in defense of our country.
The Second Amendment is solely designed for the protection of our country: a purpose it admirably fulfills.  Its simple wording, its lack of precise impenetrable lawyer-speak, however, has allowed it to be shamelessly perverted.  The Second is about the defense of our country’s freedom (...the security of a free State...), not about the individual freedom to righteously blast away, strong-arm a liquor store, shoot up a school, or machine-gun grizzly bears from a helicopter.
Next stop: Gun Control...
May 2, 2011
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