2nd Amendment, Modernized

It seems with the recent flare-up of 2nd Amendment debate stemming from Biden’s attempt to ban “assault weapons”, whatever those are, the majority of arguments I’ve seen against the absolute “shall not be infringed” intent of the Amendment are focusing on erroneous understandings of what the “militia” is, what “well-regulated” means, or on some imagined limitation on the types of arms allowed to be owned and used by a private Citizen.

Given that the 2nd Amendment was written in 1791, and languages such as English change and evolve over time, we’re going to perform an experiment. Let’s take the original wording of the 2nd Amendment and the definitions and meaning of what the words used at the time were and update it to use modern day language.

Breaking it Down

“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.”

2nd Amendment to the U.S. Constitution

The terms we will define and update are:

  • well-regulated
  • Militia
  • free State
  • keep and bear
  • Arms
  • infringed

I sincerely hope we don’t need to define the meanings of “security”, “the right”, “the people”, and “shall not”.

Well-regulated Militia

The meaning of “well-regulated” at the time the 2nd Amendment was written essentially meant “calibrated correctly” or “functioning as expected”, and had nothing to do with Government-imposed limits or “regulations”, as people today understand the word “regulate” to mean. This wording meant that the militia was “ready and capable” to be called up for military service.

Anyone implying that the 2nd Amendment through this use of words indicates that the right is subject to Government regulation is ignorant of the meaning of “well-regulated” in the context of the time written.

At the time that the Bill of Rights was written, the “militia” was well understood to mean every able-bodied Citizen that was not a Government Official that could be called up for duty to expel a foreign invader or confront a domestic threat to the Republic:

“I ask who are the militia? They consist now of the whole people, except a few public officers.”

George Mason, Address to the Virginia Ratifying Convention, June 4, 1788

Therefore, a “well regulated militia” simply means “a Citizenry that is ready and capable” to be called up for military service to defend the Republic.


Ignoring any specific controversy around the use of the term “State” in the U.S. Constitution or Bill of Rights and whether it meant the entire Union or individual States of the Union, we can instead infer from the context of many framing-era and pre-Framing writings that the meaning of a “free State” at the time meant a “free country”, or one whose core doctrine was liberty and free from despotism, or not subjugated by an Empire. In this specific case, it meant the newly formed “free country” of the United States, not any individual State within the Union.

Keep and bear

“Keep and bear” has not really changed much over time, but it is worth breaking them down to their meanings here. To “keep” means to hold or retain in one’s possession, or “own”, and to “bear” means to “carry” on one’s person, and to “have and use”.


The use of the term “arms” was defined at the time as “weapons useful in warfare” and further clarified as “military weapons” in U.S. vs Miller, 1939. While the Supreme Court case referenced found that the 2nd Amendment did not guarantee the right for the Defendants to keep and bear a particular type of shotgun, it was because the shotgun was not recognizable as an ordinary military weapon, or a “weapon of war”, that the right to keep and bear the instrument did not apply. Therefore, it was this Court’s understanding that the 2nd Amendment’s definition and use of the term “arms” specifically meant “military weapons”, confirming the common use of the term at the time written.

Anyone making the argument that the 2nd Amendment only applies to handguns and hunting rifles and does not apply to “assault weapons” is exactly wrong. The 2nd Amendment’s use of the term “arms” specifically meant military-style weaponry such as automatic rifles that are referred to today as “assault weapons”.


The term “infringed” has not changed and means “to commit a breach or infraction of; violate or transgress”, or “to encroach or trespass upon”. This term has consistently been clear.

Putting it Back Together

Now, to take the original 2nd Amendment wording and update it to use the modern-day wording of the same meaning, we arrive at the following:

“A citizenry ready and capable of effectively using military weaponry, being necessary to the security of a free country whose core doctrine is liberty, the right of the people to own, carry, and use such military weaponry, shall not be breached, encroached upon, or transgressed.”

Updated 2nd Amendment to the U.S. Constitution to use modern wording


By updating the wording of the 2nd Amendment to modern day wording with the same original meanings, hopefully it becomes clear the intent and meaning of the Amendment; to guarantee the entire Citizenry the right to not only own, but carry and use any and all military weaponry so that they are prepared to be called to action to defend the Republic from threats both foreign and domestic.

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