Second Amendment in Constitutional Context

“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.”

This is an excerpt from a longer article (here) for specificity in reference. 
I realize this topic has been litigated to the Supreme Court and long argued about. This article  specifically reproduces the actual words of the Constitution by Article, Section, and Paragraph, with one reference to a dictionary definition. I use Merriam-Webster.com

Most Americans know the words. The Second Amendment to the Constitution, part of the Bill of Rights.

As an amendment to the original Constitution, it refers to and takes its meaning from that portion of the original Constitution which it amends. In other words an amendment becomes part of the original document.

The “well regulated Militia” referenced in the 2nd Amendment is not an abstract, otherwise undefined armed group. The militia is defined clearly in the base Constitution. Once again, the Second Amendment to the Constitution begins

A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State,

Under the Constitution the Militia is primarily a creature of Congress and the States. The first reference to it is in Article I Section 8. Article I creates the Congress; Section 8 spells out several of Congress’s specific powers and duties. Paragraph 15 says,

“To provide for calling forth the Militia to execute the Laws of the Union, suppress Insurrections and repel Invasions;”

The Militia works for Congress. There are no self-employed militias in the United States.

The next (16th) paragraph continues to define Congress’s duties regarding the Militia:

“To provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining, the Militia, and for governing such Part of them as may be employed in the Service of the United States, reserving to the States respectively, the Appointment of the Officers, and the Authority of training the Militia according to the discipline prescribed by Congress;”

If Congress didn’t organize it it’s not a militia.

If Congress didn’t arm it it’s not a militia.

If it isn’t trained according to discipline prescribed by Congress it’s not a militia.

During such times that the militia might be activated for duty in service to the country, Congress directly governs them. The President commands their day to day operations as will be seen below.

(This is an example of what was meant by “checks and balances.”)

Article II of the Constitution creates and defines the position of President. Section 2 defines his or her powers and obligations. The first paragraph of Article I Section 2 begins with

“The President shall be Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States, and of the Militia of the several States, when called into the actual Service of the United States;…”

Notice that the President only commands the militia after Congress calls them up.

Every mention to the Militia in the United States Constitution is discussed above. Four in the base document, one in the Second Amendment. There are no other references or definitions to a Militia in the United States Constitution.

Any meaningful discussion of the place of the Second Amendment in our society absolutely must be based in the Constitution’s actual, existing words. That’s where the Second Amendment is.


Now that we know what the Second Amendment and Constitution say, here is a suggestion how to build on it. To Keep and Bear Arms.

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