Originally Posted by Lothar5
I have read a fair number of books and documents on the subject of the Second Amendment, including the following:
A basic description of the terms "militia" and "well regulated milita" that seems to best summarize the meaning at the time of the founding of the United States also happens to be one of the most succinct (given the variations in militia laws that existed at the time). It comes from the Young work, The Founders' View of the Right to Bear Arms: A Definitive History of the Second Amendment, Golden Oaks Books, 2007, pp 25-26:
The Colonial American Understanding of Militia
Taking an overview of the Colonial Period prior to the American Revolution, the common understanding in the British Colonies of North America was that the militia consisted of all the able-bodied free men.
Colonial militia laws generally required all able-bodied men, designated by age range from 18 to 50 or 16 to 60, to possess their own arms. The men would be able to not only defend themselves and their own family but also to assist in organized defense of the larger community. Colonial militia laws provided for organization, officers, and training of the men for emergency defense in the locality where they lived and worked. The phrase "well regulated militia" was applied to militia who were able to effectively engage in the organized defense of themselves, their families, and their community.
The militia should never be confused with paid soldiers and troops that were hired by the colonists when necessary. Troops were under military law and were engaged for service for the period of time they had specifically agreed to enlist for. The militia concept was in contrast to troops. All of the free men were required to have their own arms so they would be able to defend themselves and could be relied upon to assist in defense of their community. Defense of the community was in the hands of the able-bodied inhabitants of the community.
The purpose of the militia was relatively localized, organized defense of communities in sudden emergencies. Military campaigns were generally not the purpose of the militia.
Of course, today, we (the militia, the able-bodied citizenry capable of bearing arms) are largely left to our own devices, in terms of both arming ourselves, as well as training and coordinating ourselves sufficiently to be a capable and effective fighting force.
But it's still us, the citizenry who is able-bodied and capable of bearing arms in our own defense and defense of our communities. As distinctly separate from the paid military and publicly-funded (government) forces for common defense and war.