“In the Second Article, it is declared, that a well regulated militia is necessary to the security of a free state; a proposition from which few will dissent. Although in actual war, the services of regular troops are confessedly more valuabl; yet while regular peace prevails, and in the commencement of a war before a regular force can be raised, the militia form the palladium [safeguard] of the country…
The corollary from the first position is, that the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.
No clause in the Constitution could by any rule oc construction be conceived to give Congress a power to disarm the people. Such a flagititious [infamous or scandalous] attempt could only be made under some general pretence by a state legislature. But if in any blind pursuit of inordinate power either should attempt it, this amendment may be appealed to as a restraint on both.
In most of the countries of Europe, this right does not seem to be denied, although it is allowed more or less sparingly, according to circumstances. In England, a country which boasts so much of its freedom, the right was assured to Protestant subjects only, on the revolution of 1688, and it is cautiously described to be that of bearing arms for their defence “suitable to their conditions, and as allowed by law.” An arbitrary code for the preservation of game in that country has long disgraced them.”
—William Rawle, A VIEW OF THE CONSTITUTION, p.125-126 (2nd ed. 1828)
William Rawle was a Philadelphia lawyer appointed to be the United States District Attorney for Pennsylvania by President George Washington in 1791, and Trustee of the University of Pennsylvania from 1796 until his death, and the Chancellor of the Philadelphia Bar.
But I’m sure he simply didn’t understand that the right to bear arms was subject to whatever restrictions, conditions, and limitations that politicians in local, state, and Federal government could bleat effectly about being “reasonable”, and therefore legitimate limitations upon the right, because government would never, ever abuse power, and usurp authority not reserved to it, right?