Well regulated

The second amendment to the U.S. Constitution says:

“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.”

I’ve been pondering this statement recently. It’s clear that a lot of people in this country like this amendment. The National Rifle Association, which has dedicated much money and effort to defending the “right to bear arms”, has the support of many politicians and citizens in our nation.

But the part that confuses me is this: I keep looking around for that well-regulated militia. The amendment is quite unambiguous that the need for such a militia is the entire reason for this amendment.

Yet as far as I can tell, many people are walking around bearing arms without serving in such a militia. In fact (as hard as this may be to believe), it seems that there is no such militia.

So what the heck is going on here? Isn’t anybody worried about maintaining the security of a free state?

Am I missing something?

4 thoughts on “Well regulated”

  1. > Am I missing something?

    Yes, there is another way of reading it. The people having guns might be a way to keep the militia well regulated. As in, to make sure traffic is well regulated, police have the power to write traffic tickets. So if the militia gets out of hand, the people have guns so they can do something about it.

    I think the founders were being deliberately cagey about it.

  2. Technically, all “able-bodied males at least 17 years of age and, except as provided in section 313 of title 32, under 45 years of age who are, or who have made a declaration of intention to become, citizens of the United States and of female citizens of the United States who are members of the National Guard.”

    are members of the militia:


    Michael Waldman’s new book on the 2nd Amendment goes back to a lot of primary sources to show that what your crazy chain email-forwarding uncle believes the framers thought about the right to bear arms is pretty far off the mark, and what that militia actually meant in the late 18th century.

  3. I like to read, “regulated militia” as the then alternative to standing armies. At some point, having a very large group of people who specialize in war leads to people wanting to use them. Generals, politicians, and soldiers themselves naturally start to feel useless if not utilized. This leads to unnecessary wars. On the other hand, if it is relatively difficult to ready people already functioning in non-military society for a war it might make decrease the probability of engaging in unnecessary war.

    Of course, the state has an obligation to protect its people. I’m not sure the US can decimate the size of its standing army. If it did, I think it would be wise to have some portion of society that could ready themselves to war (militia), but only when absolutely necessary.

  4. I figured the militia in question is the US military, and to keep it well-regulated, the citizens bear arms. I think that concept is outdated in an era of tanks, predator drones, hell, even ICBMs. At this point, the 2nd amment part of keeping the military regulated is ineffectual at best. The good thing is, our laws have plenty of other safeguards as well, so I don’t think that the military making better weapons that we can’t (and probably shouldn’t) have throws our nation’s freedom into jeopardy.

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