A Well ‘Regulated’ Militia – A Refresher for Liberal Education Victims

By SamAdams1776

Well Regulated Militia
Well Regulated Militia

Manasquan, NJ –-(Ammoland.com)- The full text of the Second Amendment reads:

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.

Gun grabbers love to talk about the collective rights theory, even after Heller and McDonald, and twisting the meaning of “well regulated Militia,” found in the prefatory clause.

Now before addressing the meaning of “well regulated,” I need to digress on several points as it should be pointed out that the prefatory clause of the protected right is the subordinate or dependent clause and does not define or limit the right. A right that can only be exercised by natural persons; government cannot exercise rights, not being a natural person, governments exercise powers only. The dependent clause offers one reason the right is enumerated, not the reason.

Additionally, note that the right is assumed; the Amendment does not say that we have the right after adoption of the amendment. The amendment is in fact a statement wholly restricting the government (at any level) from any authority to restrict the right to keep and bear arms. This is naturally consistent with the preamble to the Bill of Rights which states its’ purpose of limiting the power of government.

Another point is that repealing the Second Amendment would not remove that right—you have that or any right because you draw breath. Repealing the Second Amendment would simply show the hostility of our government toward us. The RKBA is a natural, pre-existing right from our creator, and necessary to protect our lives, liberty, and property. Deny the creator’s existence and natural rights cannot exist.

There are some implications of a political nature in that statement that I leave you all to ponder.

So let’s talk about this well regulated militia and especially the meaning of “well regulated.”

Understanding what the militia is, is not too difficult, really. One of our founders, Tenche Coxe, in writing about the militia and the RKBA, wrote this in a 1788 Pennsylvania newspaper article:

“Who are the militia? Are they not ourselves?…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.

Now the founders had just thrown off a government and set up a government of sovereign states consisting of sovereign citizens. The meaning of “regulate” as used by our founders not only in the Second Amendment, but even in the Commerce clause (Art I Section 8 Clause 3) did not ever mean “to control,” as it is used now and as it has been for some time. But even before the 20th century, the usage of the word “regulate” changed from its true meaning as understood by the founders to its current usage as the federal government sought increased power.

At dictionary.com one can find two meanings that in 1787 were that word’s primary meanings:

  1. To adjust so as to ensure accuracy of operation, and
  2. To put in good order.

One might colloquially simply apply the phrase, “to make regular,” which could be used for either definition and be correctly applied to either the Commerce Clause or the Second Amendment.

Essentially, a “well regulated” militia is a body, composed of the people suitably armed and trained effectively in the mission of a militia. That well regulated militia is not the National Guard. The National Guard is a professional body and since 1906 affiliated with the Federal Government. The real militia mentioned in the Second Amendment is the unorganized militia.

Today, the unorganized militia is defined in Title 10 of the United States Code, Chapter 13, Section 311(b)(2) and today there exist a number of examples of active militia units that unfortunately are ill-regarded by most state governments as well as the Federal government, and severely and wrongfully maligned by the Southern Poverty Law Center, a leftist organization.

In short: any militia; composed of ordinary people, that trains to shoot well and function effectively in support of liberty; in defense of their state; or in opposition to tyranny, is a well regulated militia as our founders understood it.

We need more Well Regulated Militias….


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Ken Kiger

It is a firm principal of legal construction that once any term is defined by the document in which it is found, no other definition has any application to the term being used. The term “militia” in the Second “Amendment”, as with any other legal term, can only be defined by the way the term is defined in the document the “Amendment” amends, in this case the Constitution. “Militia” in the original Constitution as amended by the Second is defined in 3 places: Article 1, Section 8, clause 15 and 16 Congress is granted these powers related to the Constitutional… Read more »


Re: “well-regulated”

Regardless of its definition at the time of ratification, the term “well-regulated” grammatically modifies the noun, “militia”, not the noun, “right” nor the noun, “people”. That modifier cannot in any way be connected to the right of the people; they aren’t even in the same clause. It is the militia that is to be “well-regulated” while acting as a militia.

The grammar of the sentence forecloses the “collective rights” argument from the outset.


“[R]epealing the Second Amendment would not remove that right—you have that or any right because you draw breath.”

Indeed. That fact is even immortalized in USSC jurisprudence:

“The right there specified is that of ‘bearing arms for a lawful purpose’. This is not a right granted by the Constitution. Neither is it in any manner dependent upon that instrument for its existence.” – U.S. v. Cruikshank (1875)


Lose the first and third commas.

They are NOT in the version sent to the states for ratification, and the “three comma” version was NOT ratified by the states.


Well said and fully supported with “the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine
Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.”

David E. Young

Well regulated militia simply meant effective militia. George Mason, the author of Virginia’s 1788 model for the U.S. Bill of Rights, used that language in 1775, prior to hostilities of the American Revolution, to describe self-embodying voluntary defensive associations in Virginia. He used the same language when writing America’s first state bill of rights, Virginia’s in 1776, which was a protection against abuse by the state government. The immediate predecessor of the Second Amendment from the model for the U.S. Bill of Rights was written by that same George Mason in Virginia’s 1788 Ratifying Convention. It contains an exact quote… Read more »

Carter Picotte

In this context, I recall that ‘regulated’ in the military parlance of the journals of Von Steuben’s translators at Valley Forge, meant the proper loading and firing of weapons, and did not refer to the drill and discipline of troops, which was a different topic to which other terms applied. The slogan might be otherwise stated “We want people who already know how to use guns.”


it was to costly to arm and train everyone, if our nation was attacked, how would any body know, they came up with the minute men, 100 chosen from every unit would be trained in where to assemble and what the alarms would be. they were expected to help the un-organized militia. every man was expected to be armed at all times. Jefferson said…its every mans right and duty to be at all times armed…George Mason said…To disarm the people-that was the most effectual way to enslave them, Hamilton said in the federalist papers..to form an army of any magnitude,… Read more »


Keep in mind that we weren’t just throwing off the yoke of the British government, we were even more so throwing off the tyranny of a king. We were seeking protection from King George III and his efforts to maintain the colonies as the British government’s best cash cow. Well regulated militia meant that we were quite capable of being an armed resistance because we were free to protect ourselves from others with effective arms. Kings were a fresh reminder of serfdom and “do as you are told”. Serfs get pitchforks and scythes. A well regulated militia? Gotta love a… Read more »

Kevin McGonigal

If the Second Amendment may be construed as a “collective” right then so too can the other Bill of Rights guarantees. How about a First Amendment Right of freedom of the press that can only be exercised by well regulated newspapers? Or a freedom of speech only by licensed networks? Get the point? Individuals have rights otherwise the whole Bill of Rights makes no sense.


I have to respectfully disagree with, “The real militia mentioned in the Second Amendment is the unorganized militia.”. Please read Dr. Edwin Vieira’s work on the subject: In the first category are found most of those Americans around the country who already participate in, or contemplate joining, various private “militias.” By in large, their motivations are patriotic and to that extent laudable. Nonetheless, because few of them are legal historians, their research tends to be less than sufficient, their plans less than adequate, for the difficult task they have set themselves to perform. Although some of these private “militias” claim… Read more »


Seems to me we are giving the progressive sissys alot more attention than they deserve. They understand what the 2A means,they just dont like what it means !


Sounds like ‘regular people’ are getting tired of the ‘Progressive’ definitions of ‘Regulated’ and the attendant intrusions into their personal life choices. It’s about time!


Thank you for a very good article and explanation of “well regulated”. In reading some old family letters from the 1780’s another vernacular of the time “well regulated” also meant well equipped and well supplied.



I’ve heard that “well-regulated” as used in the 18th century, also referred to as “well-trained”.

A far cry from the current meaning of controlled by government.