"I ask, Sir, what is the militia? It is the whole people. To disarm the people is the best and most effectual way to enslave them."
Co-author of the Second Amendment during Virginia's Convention to Ratify the Constitution, 1788
"A militia, when properly formed, are in fact the people themselves …"
Richard Henry Lee
writing in Letters from the Federal Farmer to the Republic, Letter XVIII, May, 1788.
"The people are not to be disarmed of their weapons. They are left in full posession of them."
Elliot's Debates, vol. 3 "The Debates in the Several State Conventions on the Adoption of the Federal Constitution."
"… the people are confirmed by the next article in their right to keep and bear their private arms"
Philadelphia Federal Gazette
June 18, 1789, Pg. 2, Col. 2
Article on the Bill of Rights
"And that the said Constitution be never construed to authorize Congress to infringe the just liberty of the Press, or the rights of Conscience; or to prevent the people of the United States, who are peaceable citizens, from keeping their own arms; …"
quoted in the Philadelphia Independent Gazetteer, August 20, 1789, "Propositions submitted to the Convention of this State"
The Founding Fathers on Arms
"Firearms stand next in importance to the constitution itself. They are the American people's liberty teeth and keystone under independence … from the hour the Pilgrims landed to the present day, events, occurences and tendencies prove that to ensure peace security and happiness, the rifle and pistol are equally indispensable … the very atmosphere of firearms anywhere restrains evil interference — they deserve a place of honor with all that's good."
First President of the United States
"The supposed quietude of a good man allures the ruffian; while on the other hand arms, like laws, discourage and keep the invader and plunderer in awe, and preserve order in the world as property. The same balance would be preserved were all the world destitute of arms, for all would be alike; but since some will not, others dare not lay them aside … Horrid mischief would ensue were the law-abiding deprived of the use of them."
"To preserve liberty, it is essential that the whole body of the people always possess arms and be taught alike, especially when young, how to use them."
Richard Henry Lee
American Statesman, 1788
"The great object is that every man be armed." and "Everyone who is able may have a gun."
"Are we at last brought to such humiliating and debasing degradation, that we cannot be trusted with arms for our defense? Where is the difference between having our arms in possession and under our direction and having them under the management of Congress? If our defense be the real object of having those arms, in whose hands can they be trusted with more propriety, or equal safety to us, as in our own hands?"
"Those who hammer their guns into plowshares will plow for those who do not."
Third President of the United States
"The constitutions of most of our States assert that all power is inherent in the people; that … it is their right and duty to be at all times armed; … "
letter to Justice John Cartwright, June 5, 1824. ME 16:45.
"The best we can help for concerning the people at large is that they be properly armed."
The Federalist Papers at 184-8
There is a lot of talk about what the founding fathers did or did not mean, why do we not simply ask them by reading their own words? How about some references to actual text if you think you know what the drafters meant, there was after all numerous discussions in the media of the time about what the constitution meant so its out there if you want to find it.