It's often good to go back and study the papers & ideas written during the period of an event to get a more well rounded sense of the "why", the reasoning and the arguments made. The Federalist papers, journals and letters written during the time provide some needed insight.
The elephant in the room. Following the tragic event in Uvalde, this is a topic that needs to be discussed since there will be many knee jerk reactions with a need to do something with respect to gun control.
So, is there a constitutional right for INDIVIDUALS to own arms or is it only guaranteed for a "well regulated militia"?
Jim Ludas wrote a piece A "Well-Regulated Militia" for the Pell Center (Aug 08 2019). In it he opines that he found the answer in Federalist #29. He rightly concludes, that the founders feared that a standing army could be a tool of some future tyrant; so, according to him the founders' solution was a well-regulated militia. Militias would be raised by each state government. Since some day these militia might have to operate as a combined force, the standard would be set by the federal government.
Now standby, the for detour in logic. Mr. Ludas reasons that the potential power of the federal government would be offset by the power of the militia under the authority of the states that made up the union. He concludes, albeit gravely wrong IMHO, the second amendment wasn't about an individual's right to bear arms: it was about the preventing federal government from interfering in the ability of individual states to establish "well -regulated militias".
It would have behooved Mr. Ludas, to explore what different writers of the time were saying. Had he read the writings of people such as Tenche Coxe, George Washington and Thomas Jefferson to name a few he would have been better informed.
- Who are the militia? Are they not ourselves? Congress have no power to disarm the militia. Their swords and every other terrible implement of the soldier, are the birthright of an American . . . . The unlimited power of the sword is not in the hands of either the federal or state governments, but, where I trust in God it will ever remain, in the hands of the people.”
– Tench Coxe, The Pennsylvania Gazette, Feb. 20, 1788
- “A free people ought not only to be armed, but disciplined…” – George Washington, First Annual Address, to both House of Congress, January 8, 179
“No free man shall ever be debarred the use of arms.” – Thomas Jefferson, Virginia Constitution, Draft 1, 1776
“The Constitution of most of our states (and of the United States) assert that all power is inherent in the people; that they may exercise it by themselves; that it is their right and duty to be at all times armed.” – Thomas Jefferson, letter to John Cartwright, 5 June 1824
Richard Lee sums it up nicely: “A militia when properly formed are in fact the people themselves…and include, according to the past and general usuage of the states, all men capable of bearing arms… “To preserve liberty, it is essential that the whole body of the people always possess arms, and be taught alike, especially when young, how to use them.” – Richard Henry Lee, Federal Farmer No. 18, January 25, 1788
We can be easily fooled an swayed by current wordsmithing and redefining of words so I will close with some words of wisdom from Thomas Jefferson:
- “On every occasion [of Constitutional interpretation] let us carry ourselves back to the time when the Constitution was adopted, recollect the spirit manifested in the debates, and instead of trying [to force] what meaning may be squeezed out of the text, or invented against it, [instead let us] conform to the probable one in which it was passed.” – Thomas Jefferson, letter to William Johnson, 12 June 1823
Dangerous freedom over peaceful slavery should be our desire.