The Bill of Rights is a compromise. The Second Amendment is part of that compromise. Its adoption in 1791, two years after the Constitution, was the realization of a promise to appease the states’ rights factions, who would not have ratified the Constitution without it.
After the Revolutionary War the Continental Army was disbanded so fast that we nearly lost our, then defenseless country before it got started. Under the Articles of Confederation no army was authorized and, for many, that was just the way they wanted it. Standing armies were deemed a threat toward individual freedoms.
Thus came the growth of state militias, armed and ready to defend in the event of aggression by another country. Eight of the 13 states had Second Amendment-like verbiage in their own laws under the Articles. Most assured the right to own guns for self-protection, hunting, and use in trained militias for national defense.
While writing the Constitution, Federalists (Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, John Jay, et. al.) concluded that to preserve the fresh, new government and allow it to prosper, it needed to be able to defend itself from foreign threats and ideology incompatible with America gaining commercial power, wealth, and sovereignty.
Article 1, Section 8, Clauses 12 and 13 allow for the creation of a standing army and a navy and the ability to pay for them in chunks of two-year commitments. Further, the new president was deemed Commander-in-Chief–the stuff of possible tyranny.
That may have squeaked by, but then they added that the government also needed to be able to control its citizens. They tried to appease the states righters by stating that government also needs to control itself.
That didn’t fly.
To keep the Constitution on the books, the crafters had to include the Second Amendment allowing for the continuation of state militias and the right to own guns for that purpose. The personal protection and hunting language was, somehow, not overtly stated.
The idea that the writers of the Constitution wanted the Second Amendment is bunk. They didn’t. They just wanted to be able to raise a national army and this was the only way to get it. There were plenty of people who still feared tyranny.
State militias continued until 1903 when the National Guard was adopted and became part of the U. S. Army as opposed to being under state control.
So, no more state militias, and by the time of the World Wars, the American Armed Forces had become so strong that any attempt by a citizen to forcefully thwart any assault by the federal government on personal rights was simply out of the question. Today, I doubt the Supreme Court would ever uphold citizens’ rights to develop backyard missile silos capable of delivering nukes to defend themselves against the government.
It seems the original usefulness of the Second Amendment has shrunk to pea size. We still, correctly, cling to the personal protection and hunting notions even though not specifically mentioned. Also not mentioned is the fact that several of those eight states with gun ownership provisions, pre-Constitution, did have limiting clauses in the event an individual was deemed a threat to others.
If we can infer from the 27 words of the amendment that the right to gun ownership is unimpeachable even though there are no longer any state militias, we can also argue that limits imposed due to being a public danger are also implied. We know because the original 13 states plainly stated as much.
A gun advocate recently scolded me that the AR in AR-15 does not mean assault rifle, rather ArmaLite, the name of the original manufacturer. I didn’t know that, but I didn’t call them assault rifles. I think he was just showing off. I did know they are semi-automatic, and that means that only one bullet can be fired with each trigger pull.
I did not know that they had a range of calibers from .22 to .45. The argument was that they are indeed just sporting guns that happen to look really menacing.
Absent from the scolding, and my point in this particular rant, is that the issue behind strictly controlling these guns isn’t caliber or appearance, it is capacity. The muskets of Second Amendment days had one shot and took around a minute to reload. One person could not possible carry out a mass execution. Shooters could be stilled after a single round. Today’s AR-15 can be equipped with a 100 round clip. No matter how ordinary the guns are made out to be, 100 rounds fired in rapid succession–in the time it took a musketeer to reload–is well worth a legislative ban.