“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.”

We are told, rather often, that the Second Amendment does not really protect our right to bear arms. Nevermind what it says of course. If you were to do that, you might think it preserves the right of all Americans to bear arms without any interference from the federal government. If you were to consider history logically, you might in fact think that the Bill of Rights was a document conceived in succor to those who opposed any organized central government at all. You might think that there would be no way that such a document intended to appease anti-federalist fear of a single, powerful central government could ever contain restrictions to the rights of a person or a state. After all, why would individuals afraid of the new Constitution demand a statement in the original Bill of Rights further restricting their rights?

Well, you would be right. You will hear that the Founders were looking to militias when they authored the Second Amendment. They weren’t concerned about the individual’s freedom to own a gun, they were afraid that the power of a State to keep militias would be usurped in favor of a federal army that would someday disarm them. Well, that’s exactly what happened by the way – it was called the Civil War. But I digress…

What follows is an excerpt from the text of a bill of rights proposed by the minority members of the Pennsylvania Constitutional Convention who were opposed to the new Constitution. It is this anti-federalist sentiment which actually spawned our current Bill of Rights. Professor Ralph Ketcham explains further:

“The address was subsequently reprinted often in Pennsylvania and other states, becoming in some way a semi-official statement of anti-federalist objections to the new Constitution.”

Here is Amendment Seven to that document:

“That the people have a right to bear arms for the defence of themselves and their own state, or the Unites States, or for the purpose of killing game; and no law shall be passed for disarming the people or any of them, unless for crimes committed, or real danger of public injury from individuals; and as standing armies in the time of peace are dangerous to liberty, they ought not to be kept up: and that the military shall be kept under strict subordination to and be governed by the civil powers.”

You will notice that the statement outlines very clearly an individual’s right to keep arms for self defense and hunting – two activities we are told were never envisioned when the Second Amendment was authored. This statement of course is not what was finally authored but it is, as Dr. Ketcham points out, a clearer view into the minds of the anti-federalists. It is beyond question that the Founders were thinking of the rights of the individual as well as the State when the Bill of Rights was devised.