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.
A few thoughts:
- Most conservatives and firearm enthusiasts tend to ignore the first part of the amendment. But if the Constitution is supposed to be interpreted strictly then it seems logical to start with the assumption that it has no superfluous phrases and we can't ignore the parts that undermine our preferred interpretation. The only way that the first phrase makes sense to me in the context of the larger sentence is as a modifying clause. "[...]the right of the People to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed" and the reason why it shouldn't be infringed is that "A well regulated militia [is] neccessary to the security of a free State." The idea that the right to arm yourself might be limited to militia members has been invalidated repeatedly by the courts, so what is the intent of the "well regulated militia" phrase?
I've heard arguments that the right to arms is rooted in a right of free people to commit insurrection and overthrown their government if it becomes despotic. This makes sense to me in the context of the origin of these rights (British government trying to shut down non-Loyalist militias shortly before the American Revolution.) Reviewing the Court decisions I didn't see any consensus on this idea but it at least sets up a scenario where the hypothetical militia refers to all free people who might choose to rise up against their oppressive state. That loose organization of unassociated rebels wouldn't fit the idea of "well regulated" cleanly, but it might be stretched to fit.
Bearing arms is very open-ended. It technically isn't restricted to just firearms - but could encompase all types of weaponry. Things like LAW rockets and STINGER missles are reasonably affordable (LAWs have a per-unit manufacture cost of just over $1K, STINGERs are much more expensive at $40K.) - should I be allowed to stockpile them? What about hand grenades, fuel-air explosive bombs, weaponized anthrax? If not, then why not? If one of the purposes of the right to bear arms is to empower citizens to stand up to their despotic government, those men and women are going to need more than pistols and hunting rifles. What constitutional basis do we have for allowing one thing and not the other?