posted on Jan, 11 2013 @ 10:07 AM
From the above referenced Wikipedia article on the U.S.Supreme Court Interpretation of the 2nd Amendment.
A MODERN interpretation in the 20th Century.
Late 20th century commentary
In the latter half of the 20th century there was considerable debate over whether the Second Amendment protected an individual right or a collective
right. The debate centered on whether the prefatory clause (“A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free State”)
declared the amendment’s only purpose or merely announced a purpose to introduce the operative clause (“the right of the People to keep and bear
arms shall not be infringed”).
Three basic competing models were offered to interpret the Second Amendment:
The first, known as the "states' rights" or "collective rights" model, was that the Second Amendment did not apply to individuals; rather, it
recognized the right of a state to arm its militia.
The second, known as the "sophisticated collective rights model", held that the Second Amendment recognized some limited individual right. However,
this individual right could only be exercised by members of a functioning, organized state militia while actively participating in the organized
The third, known as the "standard model", was that the Second Amendment recognized the personal right of individuals to keep and bear arms.
Under both of the collective rights models, the opening phrase was considered essential as a pre-condition for the main clause. These
interpretations held that this was a grammar structure that was common during that era and that this grammar dictated that the Second Amendment
protected a collective right to firearms to the extent necessary for militia duty.
Under the standard model, the opening phrase was believed to be prefatory or amplifying to the operative clause. The opening phrase was meant as a
non-exclusive example—one of many reasons for the amendment. This interpretation was consistent with the position that the Second Amendment
protects a modified individual right.
The question of a collective rights versus an individual right was progressively resolved with the 2001 Fifth Circuit ruling in United States v.
Emerson, in the 2008 Supreme Court ruling in District of Columbia v. Heller, and in the 2010 Supreme Court ruling in McDonald v. Chicago. These
rulings upheld the individual rights model when interpreting the Second Amendment. In Heller, the Supreme Court upheld the Second Amendment as
protecting an individual right. Although the Second Amendment is the only Constitutional amendment with a prefatory clause, such constructions
were widely used elsewhere.
Meaning of "well regulated militia"
The term "regulated" means "disciplined" or "trained". In Heller, the U.S. Supreme Court stated that "[t]he adjective 'well-regulated'
implies nothing more than the imposition of proper discipline and training."
In Federalist No. 29, Alexander Hamilton suggested that well-regulated refers not only to "organizing", "disciplining", and "training" the
militia, but also to "arming" the militia:
This desirable uniformity can only be accomplished by confiding the regulation of the militia to the direction of the national authority. It is,
therefore, with the most evident propriety, that the plan of the convention proposes to empower the Union "to provide for organizing, arming, and
disciplining the militia, and for governing such part of them as may be employed in the service of the United States, reserving to the states
respectively the appointment of the officers, and the authority of training the militia according to the discipline prescribed by congress."
A tolerable expertness in military movements is a business that requires time and practice. It is not a day, or even a week, that will suffice for the
attainment of it. To oblige the great body of the yeomanry, and of the other classes of the citizens, to be under arms for the purpose of going
through military exercises and evolutions, as often as might be necessary to acquire the degree of perfection which would entitle them to the
character of a well-regulated militia, would be a real grievance to the people, and a serious public inconvenience and loss.
"If a well regulated militia be the most natural defence of a free country, it ought certainly to be under the regulation and at the disposal of that
body which is constituted the guardian of the national security...confiding the regulation of the militia to the direction of the national
authority...(and) reserving to the states...the authority of training the militia".