In this first and only comprehensive history the Second Amendment, Saul Cornell , a leading constitutional historian, shows that the Founders understood the right to bear arms as neither an individual nor a collective right, but as a civic right--an obligation citizens owed to the state to arm themselves so that they could participate in a well regulated militia. The modern debate, Cornell reveals, has its roots in the nineteenth century, violence crisis, when the earliest gun control laws were passed and the first cases on the right to bear arms came before the courts. Equally important, he describes how the gun control battle took on a new urgency during Reconstruction, when Republicans and Democrats clashed over the meaning of the right to bear arms and its connection to the Fourteenth Amendment. A Well Regulated Militia not only restores the lost meaning of the original Second Amendment, but it provides a clear historical road map that charts how we have arrived at our current impasse over guns. For anyone interested in understanding the great American gun debate, this is a must read.