“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.”

That text is the Second Amendment to the Constitution. It was ratified in 1791, when militias were a very big deal. As the text was being edited and argued, an earlier version further explained that, conversely, you couldn’t force religious people to own guns or serve in a militia.

In order to understand the meaning of these finalized 27 words, they must be considered collectively. They are, after all, only one sentence. To leave out or change any of the original intent, context or language would be a disservice to the founders. They put a lot of thought into those first 10 amendments.

If the Second Amendment was simply intended to allow people to own guns, it would read, “The right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

The Second Amendment does say those words, but there are more. There’s all that other stuff about state and militia. That other stuff represents the entire predication of why the right to bear arms shall not be infringed.

During the founding of our country and the drafting of the Constitution, there were a lot of arguments about state and federal rights. People did not want to cede their hard-earned freedoms to a new federal authority. Freedom of religion, regional freedom, freedom to form a militia, freedom from tyrannical government like England and freedom to own and discipline slaves were all held dear.

The Second Amendment was originally proposed by James Monroe, an anti-federalist who would become the fifth president. He argued that the right to bear arms is a human right.

Monroe took a musket ball in the Revolutionary War. He almost died but came back and formed his own company of soldiers. Monroe was a senator in the first U.S. Congress and was very involved in the drafting of the Second Amendment and the formation of the federal government.

I’m confident that if you walked down any city street and asked your average Joe or Jane what a well-regulated militia was or what the security of a free state means, you’d get a lot of blank stares.

The reasoning behind militias? That was partly to preserve the right for states to conduct armed slave patrols. These patrols were made up of groups of white men bent on enforcing discipline among the slave population. The state of Georgia required young men to participate in these militias, doing monthly inspections of plantations and punishing slaves found with weapons or those who were absent. Times have changed. People don’t conduct armed slave patrols anymore.

Even if you did take out all that confusing language about regulated militias and secure states, the founders had no idea that the evolution of man and technology would lead to AR-15s, drones and missiles, and missiles to shoot down missiles, and nuclear weapons. They did not anticipate assault rifles for sale without impingement at gun shows and drug stores. They were not thinking about bump stocks, which make semi-automatic weapons shoot almost as fast as automatic weapons.

The man who shot people at a country music concert in Las Vegas last year had 12 rifles equipped with bump stocks in his bag. Video shows that he shot 90 rounds in 10 seconds, far faster than you can shoot an AR-15 or similar legal weapon by just pulling a trigger over and over. Other automatic rifles shoot 97 rounds or more in 10 seconds.

A bump stock replaces the normal stock on a rifle and bounces back when you fire it, making it fire again immediately if you are holding down the trigger. Automatic rifles are banned, but bump stocks represent a legal loophole.

OK, let’s say that everyone has the right to own a weapon. What kind of weapons should be allowed? Blow darts? Hunting rifles? Pistols? Machine guns? Cannons? Howitzers? Drones with missiles? Rockets? Where do we draw the line?

Like all legal documents created in the 1700s, the amendments to the Constitution should be looked at periodically and adjusted for progress and evolution. The 18th Amendment passed in 1917, prohibiting the sale and consumption of alcohol in the United States. That took until 1933 to repeal with the 21st Amendment. Times change.

The most recent amendment to the Constitution was made in 1992. Most people won’t know about it. It could be time for another amendment since times have changed since 1865, when the 13th Amendment abolished slavery.

Steve Skinner thinks rights can be preserved and some weapons can be withdrawn. Reach him at nigel@sopris.net.