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In 1792, the first national legislation detailing the organization of the state militias, the Uniform Militia Act, was enacted after years of debate. Questions of local vs central authority, local need vs uniformity, required service vs substitution, and general militia vs select militia were just a few of the recurring issues. The history of the militias illustrates that they worked best locally but never attained their esteemed goal of making every citizen a soldier for their country in times of need. The militias remained limited in their ability to supplement the military and failed to provide an effective replacement for the standing army eagerly sought by the Founders. The Founders’ commitment to this goal and their proposals for reform provided foundational ideas that continue to impact the debates concerning the role of armed citizens in the United States. The next three articles in our series on the Second Amendment review and discuss the Founders’ efforts to organize the militia, the rise of volunteer militias and the National Guard, and the question of the right to revolution within the U.S. Constitution.

Missed the first articles in this series? Click below to catch up!

The Second Amendment in the Bill of Rights was melded together from several proposals and simplified into twenty-seven words. This brevity is often blamed for the enigmatic meaning that has fueled the recent debate on guns, government, and individual rights. Lawyers, judges, historians, and political scientists delve repeatedly into the 18th century world of the Framers in attempts to ascertain the intended meaning of the Second Amendment. Read Full Article


Opinions by the United States Supreme Court, Federal Circuit Courts, and State Supreme Courts shows that judicial interpretation of the Second Amendment has supported all three dominant interpretations of this contentious right. This historical review of noteworthy cases illustrates that the Second Amendment was not always interpreted directly or clearly and justices and judges frequently responded to the influences of contemporaneous events and opinion in support of "reasonable regulation."


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