The 2nd Amendment says that we Citizens have an unrestricted Right to own weapons (aka: Arms) word for word after all the explanatory language it says: “The Right of the People to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.”
Now, many folks assert (falsely btw) that the bit about a “well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free State…” is a limiting phrase. It isn’t, it’s an explanatory phrase. It’s a discussion of why the absolute injunction is necessary. Also, in the parlance of the day the term “well regulated” meant well supplied rather than well controlled. I know this because in ’70s Tennessee Boy Scouts we were often told to “go regulate yourselves for the firing range” meaning go get your gun & ammo.
However, even at that, the militia has LONG been defined as “every able male between the ages of 17 and 45” because these are the folks who were to be called to Service in the event of a war, or any other need for troops. What you have to remember is that when the Constitution was drafted there was to be only one “standing force” which was the Navy.
The rank and file Army was designed to be essentially disbanded in peace time, and was intended as a strictly temporary force so far as the Nation and the States were concerned. Most of the officers even went home after the action was over. This is the reason that the writers of Our Constitution specifically limited funding for the Army to two years at a time while (most carefully) placing no such limitation on funding for the Navy.
Last but not least the term “well regulated” is often asserted as another limiting factor… Um… no, sorry, it’s not a limiting phrase in the context of the day. Common usage for “well regulated” today is “controlled or ordered” there was much more to the usage back when. In the parlance of the day “regulated” meant “in good order (working condition), and ready for action.” Thus a “well regulated” militia had the gear and uniforms (supplies) necessary for the job and that gear was in in good working order. In this context “well regulated” = “well supplied” in modern parlance. As in the compliment I heard in the Navy: “He’s a regulation sailor.” Meaning; the person is in proper uniform and has all the gear needed for the job, in good working order. Or the instruction we often heard in 1970s Boy Scouts: “Go regulate yourself for the firing range.” meaning; go gather your gear and amunition, and make sure it’s ready for action.” It’s also about discipline, but it’s much more about having what you need to do the job, and keeping your tools/equipment/uniform in good working order. Well Regulated The Random House College Dictionary (1980) gives four definitions for the word “regulate,” which were all in use during the Colonial period and one more definition dating from 1690 (Oxford English Dictionary, 2nd Edition, 1989). They are: 1) To control or direct by a rule, principle, method, etc. 2) To adjust to some standard or requirement as for amount, degree, etc. 3) To adjust so as to ensure accuracy of operation. 4) To put in good order. [obsolete sense] b. Of troops: Properly disciplined. Obs. rare-1. 1690 Lond. Gaz. No. 2568/3 We hear likewise that the French are in a great Allarm in Dauphine and Bresse, not having at present 1500 Men of regulated Troops on that side. If you use today’s meaning, the above quoted statement makes only a little sense, if you use the real meaning then the reason the French “were in great Alarm” becomes blatantly apparent… they had troops but not enough arms to properly regulate those troops. (supply or prepare for duty) suggestion: Look up the term militia at Blacks dictionary of Law or another legal (vs. common usage) dictionary. 11/25/14 After dome discussion in Comments I need to clarify my position a bit. I absolutely agree that there are grievous problems with how we regulate gun ownership but believe that banning guns is a blatantly false solution to a very real set of problems. To expand on this: In response to an assertion that guns have a valid purpose and that purpose isn’t shooting up schools or theatres: I agree, with qualifications… However, part and parcel of the Rights to Life, and Liberty, is the Right to defend yourself against aggression whatever the source. There are a number of problems Our society has around guns, the mere existence of them isn’t one of those. By that inane “logic” we “should” ban eating utensils because they make people obese. (Note that obesity causes far more deaths and disease per year than guns ever have.) Or perhaps cars. Here are the real problems we need to deal with (and which “our” government and media so studiously and conveniently ignore completely): The War on Drugs. By artificially making illegal that which some 39% of the population is going to do,it creates violence, and draws gang activity, in just the exact same way the 18th Amendment caused the Mafia to take over alcohol production and sales. These fraudulent prohibitions also feed school shootings because drug dealers intentionally recruit poor kids due to their limited legal exposure. The complete lack of any Mental Health Care System: This allows folks in severe emotional and mental pain and whose executive functions are impaired by that pain and are disconnected from reality to harm themselves and others with no option by their families to force treatment. The mother of kid who murdered (my cousin knows her) had tried for +3 years years to get some sort of forced treatment for her son because he refused to participate. The courts were useless in her pleas for help. I find it extremely disengenuious that the media was told this and spent not even a paragraph on it! This lack in Our society are a proximate cause of school shootings. It played into Columbine, Sandy Hook, and (I would assert) every other school shooting since because Sane folks simply do not do such things! Poverty in entire communities combined with a broken education system. This leaves young folks with few to no valid options for a decent survival without turning to crime. If folks have valid options for a decent life they NEVER, EVER, say “I want to be a criminal. Our society takes away those options. This is another issue which the media, and our government most conveniently and studiously avoid like the plague. Lack of effective ways to legally identify those who are, in fact, incompetent to own or use weapons. We, in this nation still allow those with assault and battery convictions and spousal or child abuse charges pending to own weapons. Again… not one F’ing word from media or government on this when insane folks shoot up the place, or allow their kids access to weapons. These are the problems We as a Nation need to address, and our government and media are almost completely silent about when these tragedies occur through Our negligence and Our refusal to Properly Identify the REAL causative factors!