What is a “well regulated” family?

The site name may sound odd at first, but it’s actually a play on words from the perspective of a history lover. Most are familiar with the United States’ 2nd Amendment which refers to a “well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free State,” but not many know what the phrase meant at the time it was written.

At the time the Constitution was written, the Anti Federalists (think Patrick Henry or Samuel Adams) were terrified of a federal government becoming too powerful, and as part of that they were afraid of standing armies (armies that are continuously in existence, controlled entirely by the government). They saw the safety of the new republic as being in the hands of militia – individual citizens who would band together only at times of actual danger, protecting their country from whatever the danger might be. Whether Anti Federalist or Federalist, both sides supported the idea that a well regulated militia was vital. (This is not intended as a commentary on individual gun rights, though as an aside I’ll say the second amendment, while mentioning militia, was intended to guarantee rights of the individual just like the rest of the initial ten amendments.)

At any rate, “well regulated” didn’t mean then what people think of now. It meant well prepared and ready. In the Militia Act of 1792, the early leaders of the newly created United States of America detailed what a well regulated (prepared) militia in fact was. It wasn’t enough that they owned a gun, but they must also needed to keep on hand a bayonet and belt, spare flints, cartridge box with 24 bullets for muskets or powder horn, gunpowder, and rifle balls if they had a rifle. In short, they were meant to be fully stocked and prepared to get by for a short time in case of emergency until further supplies could be obtained.

Keep in mind that the Militia Act referred to every citizen from age 18 to 45, which at the time referred only to white males. Now, of course, women and people of color are citizens as well and rightfully so. However, the purpose of this site is to make sure we go beyond the limited definition of militia and have our entire families ready with more than just weapons.