[Ed. – Exactly. 2A is principally about (a) limiting government, and (b) self-defense. Excellent piece by Millard; real the whole thing. ΜΟΛΩΝ ΛΑΒΕ.]
One of the first people to ever write a study of the U.S. Constitution believed the Second Amendment had everything to do with self-defense, and not militias. St. George Tucker wrote on the issue all the way back in 1803 in his work View of the Constitution of the United States, calling the right of the people to keep and bear arms a hallmark of liberty (emphasis mine):
This may be considered as the true palladium of liberty…The right of self defense is the first law of nature: in most government it has been the study of rules to confirm this right within the narrowest limits possible.Wherever standing armies are kept up, and the right of the people to keep and bear arms is, under any color of pretext whatsoever, prohibited, liberty, if not already annihilated, is on the brink of destruction.
That’s going to be a disappointment to everyone saying the Second Amendment only refers to muskets and/or militias (especially those “sitting in” on the House floor). Tucker isn’t suggesting only certain people (militia members) should own weapons; he’s saying everyone has the right to own a gun (whether it’s a musket, pistol, AR-15, etc.). He may even be suggesting letting people own weapons will keep the government from using the army to attack civilians in the name of tyranny (what’s the use of a pistol if those who are attacking you are using AR-15’s).
It’s here where Tucker shows just how limited the government was supposed to be…