By The Heritage Foundation -4/18/2014
-Amendment IIModern debates about the meaning of the Second Amendment have focused on whether it protects a private right of individuals to keep and bear arms or a right that can be exercised only through militia organizations like the National Guard. This question, however, was apparently never even raised until long after the Bill of Rights was adopted. Early discussions took the basic meaning of the amendment for granted and focused instead on whether it added anything significant to the original Constitution. The debate later shifted because of changes in the Constitution and in constitutional law and because legislatures began to regulate firearms in ways undreamed of in our early history.
Contemporary debates about the meaning of the Second Amendment-is it a collective right or an individual right?-would have been incomprehensible to the Founders. Everyone at the time agreed that the federal government had no power to infringe on the right of the people to keep and bear arms. Contemporary debates for the most part also fail to address the essential question of why the right to bear arms was enshrined in the Constitution in the first place. The right to self-defense and to the means of defending oneself is a basic natural right that grows out of the right to life. The Second Amendment therefore does not grant the people a new right; it merely recognizes the inalienable natural right to self-defense. Lawmakers may outlaw certain types of weapons, but they may not disarm the citizenry.
"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".
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