In discussing the Second Amendment to the Constitution, a recent writer to the Morning Sentinel, like most who defend the private ownership of guns, omitted the first part of it and cited only the rest: “the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.”

The opening words he left out are: “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State.”

Any honest discussion of the Amendment must surely explain what these words mean.

At the very least, they imply that gun owners belong to a militia, but this requirement is ignored by the NRA and its supporters. “Well regulated” certainly indicates control or oversight of some kind.

But more to the point, what did the word “Militia” mean to the authors of the Constitution? Johnson’s Dictionary, first published 36 years before the Bill of Rights was ratified, defines “militia” as “the standing army.”

At a time when the federal government could not afford arms for its soldiers, those who served had to supply their own, not in defense of the home against the forces of a tyrannical government, but in defense of the country against a foreign enemy. This situation no longer exists.

Ignoring what the Second Amendment actually says and what its words originally meant has led to the death of thousands of Americans. How many more have to die before gun ownership becomes “well regulated”?

David Mills


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