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.
What was meant by this? We’re they referring to the individual states? In this case, I think so.
First, the idea of a central federal government was already accepted and was referred to as such. Anything having to do with central government was referred to as federal. State was reserved for referring to the individual states.
Second, the original idea was that the states would support the federal government. One way they did this was by supplying troops when asked to do so by the federal government. If you’ve ever been to a civil war battlefield, this idea is very clear. Soldiers from individual states fought beside each other and sacrificed as one. If there was a particular part of a battle with a high casualty count, chances are that all of these men would have come from the same state. The idea of a truly federalized army did not come about until after the civil war.
The authors of our constitution had different ideas on how the new United States should be governed, namely either a strong or weak federal government, but they all agreed that they never wanted to be oppressed as they were under British rule. They wanted to guarantee that they would always be free to speak out against our government (the 1st amendment), and that they would be able to oppress tyranny (the 2nd amendment).
Since each state would be expected to maintain a militia, how could they ensure that the people in each state would be able to stand up to oppression? This was especially important since the federal government was incredibly dependent on the individual states. Think of it this way:
Since a well-regulated militia is necessary to the security of a free state that is part of a centralized government, it is vital that the right of individual persons to keep and bear arms not be infringed.
When you read our constitution, it’s difficult to imagine that the authors ever meant for the federal government to have the kind of authority over the individual as is the case today. We’ve come a long way in the last 240 years, and in my opinion we’ve certainly lost our way. It happened very slowly, and most everything seemed like a good idea at the time. Bit by bit, individuals have surrendered their rights away to state government. Bit by bit, the states have surrendered their rights away to the federal government. And bit by bit, our federal government is surrendering our own rights away to justify a better world for all. What kind of world will we live in when all of our rights are gone?
In the end, all of this is mute, and I believe that our founding father knew this to be true: That these are all laws created by men, and all men are fallible.