"To provide for calling forth the Militia to execute the Laws of the Union, suppress Insurrections and repel Invasions; To provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining, the Militia, and for governing such Part of them as may be employed in the Service of the United States, reserving to the States respectively, the Appointment of the Officers, and the Authority of training the Militia according to the discipline prescribed by Congress;" Article 1, Section 8 of the US Constitution
As ratified by the States and authenticated by Thomas Jefferson, Secretary of
"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 Constitution of the United States
The framers of the US Constitution were very familiar with the existing militia powers and forces of the 13 states. The colonies north and south had well established militia traditions dating from the 17th Century in which the colonies possessed both organized and unorganized (reserve) militia. The latter consisted of all able bodied men of military age in the colony and later in the state.
Article 1, Section 8 provides for the use of those existing state militias by the federal government as needed. The "Militia Act of 1792" further enabled the federal government to use such militia for security purposes. Such use was accomplished in the northern rebellions faced by President Washington during his administration. There were no analogous rebellions in that period in the southern states.
A number of my ancestors served in the colonial and state militias of Massachusetts, Connecticutt and New Hampshire. Their service is well documented beginning with the Pequot War.
It is now claimed by some that the 2nd Amendment was written into the constitution of the United States to allow Southern citizens to retain their personal firearms in order to suppress the free and slave population of those states. Most northern states allowed slavery at the time of the ratification of the constitution and Bill of Rights. The idea of a standing professional army was abhorrent to the great majority of Americans at that time. That is reflected in the restriction in Article 1, Section 8 that limits any funding for a standing force to two years. The idea was that the militia of the states in the two forms would be the main land defense of the country.
This is the reason why Article 1, Section 8 is concerned with the regulation of that portion of the existing state militias that might be called into federal service for an emergency.
The 2nd Amendment assumes that the state militias exist and this amendment seeks to prevent any further federal legislation that might disarm the citizenry and therefore disarm the unorganized militia which was thought of as a national security reserve.
The legislative history of these two parts of the constitution is clear. The federal government was expressly forbidden to disarm the citizens because their posession of arms was thought important to defense.
Whether or not the states can limit firearms possession is another question. Whether or not the federal government can severely limit the kinds of weapon possessed by the citizens is yet another. The Heller decision makes it clear that SCOTUS thinks there are limits to the extent and "reach" of federal power over citizen ownership of firearms. pl