The Constitution of the United States, Amendment II states: "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." At its most basic level is the argument of whether the right to bear arms is an individual or collective right. Much of the foundation of the argument lies within the actual wording of the amendment. Unique among the amendments within the Bill of Rights, it contains a preface defining the reason for the right. A note of clarification: In this time period “free state” is not a reference to the many states that constitute the Union but means a non-tyrannical state (Ehrler, 2013).
Ehrler (2013) informs us that many of the revolutionary generation believed standing armies were dangerous to liberty. Militias made up of citizen soldiers, they reasoned, were more suitable to the character of republican government. Conversely, those favoring collective rights assert that the above statements are false. Bogus (2001) paraphrases General Nathaniel Greene, conclusion that few men can withstand the horrors of war unless steeled by habit and fortified with military pride. He continues with the collective rights view that maintain the Second Amendment only grants people the right to keep and bear arms within the militia. Moreover, the Amendment does not apply to private militias but only to the militia organized by Congress.
This is an extremely complex matter that has been debated practically since its inception. It was argued before the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) several times with different outcomes. The most notable case of the twentieth century is United States v. Miller (1939). This case challenged portions of the National Firearms Act (NFA) as unconstitutional, winding its way through the judicial system it was heard in front of the Supreme Court 30 March 1939. On 15 May 1939, the Supreme Court offered its opinion: "In the absence of any evidence tending to show that possession or use of a "shotgun having a barrel of less than eighteen inches in length" at this time has some reasonable relationship to the preservation or efficiency of a well-regulated militia, we cannot say that the Second Amendment guarantees the right to keep and bear such an instrument. Certainly it is not within judicial notice that this weapon is any part of the ordinary military equipment or that its use could contribute to the common defense.” (The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, 2014). I believe it is important to note that neither the respondent nor his legal counsel were present. This decision was made solely on the evidence presented by the appellant, an unopposed, one sided argument. Gunn (1998) informs us that virtually all state and federal Second Amendment cases cite this case to support the collective view while many proponents of the individual right of gun ownership believe the United States v. Miller supports their view. It is amazing how a diverse group of individuals can read the exact same