The Bill of Rights, the first 10 amendments to our Constitution, was passed by our first Congress and ratified by the states in 1789. They were written by James Madison, a Virginian and a slave holder.
The words of the Second Amendment are:
“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.”
In 1789, the members of a state militia were required to furnish their own musket or rifle, powder and shot — the state furnished the artillery
In that context, the Second Amendment was intended to make sure the federal government did not disarm the state militia prior to imposing on the state some act against the Constitution. Translated (under everyone’s breath) that meant abolishing slavery.
For 217 years the Second Amendment was interpreted that way.
But that changed in 2008 with the Supreme Court’s Heller decision. Washington, D.C., had passed a law severely restricting gun rights. In the Heller decision the Supreme Court changed the prior interpretation of the Second Amendment and struck down the D.C. law. The majority decision was written by the late Justice Antonin Scalia:
“The Second Amendment protects an individual right to possess a firearm unconnected with service in a militia, and to use that arm for traditionally lawful purposes, such as self-defense within the home. …
“… Like most rights, the Second Amendment right is not unlimited. It is not a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose …”
The Supreme Court is the final word on what the Second Amendment says. Not the NRA, with its bumper sticker distortions, and certainly not our governor or some county commission.
Bert Peterson, Hastings