“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.”
Often people will talk about the original intent of those who assembled and approved of the US Constitution. There is value in doing that to be sure, but the real place we should look as to original intent is to the ratifying State Constitutional conventions. It was those who ratified the Constitution, state by state, who need to be consulted as to what they understood the intent of the Constitution was as they voted for ratification.
On the issue of the 2nd amendment we have some insight into the original intent of those who ratified the US Constitution. This is important to note because there remains yet a species of thought that suggests that the 2nd amendment only refers to the state militias as state militias. Upon this reading the 2nd amendment insures that state militias have the right to keep and bear arms. This understanding insists that the 2nd amendment was never intended to speak to whether or not individual citizens, unattached from state militias, had a right to keep and bear arms.
However, that such a reading is specious can be seen by the ratifying State conventions. To summarize the state ratification process, three states, New York, New Hampshire, and Virginia, ratified the Constitution while expressing their understanding that the people had a right to bear arms and that Congress would never disarm law abiding citizens. Two states, North Carolina and Rhode Island, refused to ratify until individual rights, including the people’s right to keep and bear arms, were recognized by amendments. In Pennsylvania and Massachusetts, an effort was made to amend or condition ratification on amendment to include, among others, the right to keep and bear arms. Efforts to amend were defeated but not on the merits. There is no evidence from any state convention that any speaker suggested that the proposed Constitution would permit disarming the public.
Eventually, the Federalists agreed to pacify Anti-federalists concerns regarding the Constitution by agreeing to add a “Bill of Rights” immediate upon ratification of the US Constitution. What is interesting to note is that there was some concern regarding adding a “Bill of Rights.” Some of the ratifiers were concerned that as there were many more God given rights then could possibly be enumerated in a document, what could be implied is that those Rights which were not enumerated would not be seen as Rights. This concern was satisfied with the 9th amendment. Second, there was concern that such a Bill of Rights would be redundant since the Constitution was already a negative document that gave very prescribed and limited powers to the Federal Government. Why say again what the Federal Government could not do when it has already been detailed as to what alone the Government could do? Also, there was concern articulated that in passing a Bill of Rights it could be perceived that the Government was the one giving these Rights as opposed to merely affirming that the Rights were God given (inalienable) and could not be touched by any Government.
And this brings us back to the 2nd amendment. The 2nd amendment is a reflection of a long history of the rights of Englishmen and at the time was but the latest instantiation of a equally long history of English law and tradition on the matter. Englishmen had, for centuries, the God given Right to armed self defense. The idea that the original intent of the ratifiers of the Bill of Rights was only to protect State militias as State militias is laughable.
The Federal Government can do all they like to eviscerate the 2nd amendment but whatever they do in that regard is meaningless and would, at best, yield up a illegal legality. The Federal Government did not create the inalienable Right to keep and bear arms and so the Federal Government can not take away, diminish, or void, the inalienable Right for individual citizens to keep and bear arms.
It should be a sobering fact that throughout history the prelude to the successful usurpations of Dictators and Tyrants has often been the seizing from the citizenry of their only hope of successful defense against eventual enslavement. Wise people have always known that the confiscation of their arms is the confiscation of their liberty.
God created all men equal. Sam Colt kept them that way.