Speaking as an editor – and a native speaker of American English – it's undoubtedly the worst-written amendment among the original ten.
As passed by the Congress: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.As ratified by the States and authenticated by Thomas Jefferson, Secretary of State: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
The reason it's such a grammatical dog's breakfast is that it went through some fast and furious last-minute changes:
The real reason the Second Amendment was ratified, and why it says "State" instead of "Country" (the Framers knew the difference - see the 10th Amendment), was to preserve the slave patrol militias in the southern states, which was necessary to get Virginia's vote. Founders Patrick Henry, George Mason, and James Madison were totally clear on that . . . and we all should be too.That's the original intent of the Second Amendment as it was finally, lop-earedly phrased. And that's why it has that clunky preface – which, for almost any other part of the Constitution would be taken dead-seriously by the originalists on the Supreme Court, but not here. Antonin Scalia, please pick up the white courtesy phone. Antonin Scalia, the white courtesy phone, please.
In the beginning, there were the militias. In the South, they were also called the "slave patrols," and they were regulated by the states.
In Georgia, for example, a generation before the American Revolution, laws were passed in 1755 and 1757 that required all plantation owners or their male white employees to be members of the Georgia Militia, and for those armed militia members to make monthly inspections of the quarters of all slaves in the state. The law defined which counties had which armed militias and even required armed militia members to keep a keen eye out for slaves who may be planning uprisings. [...] It's the answer to the question raised by the character played by Leonardo DiCaprio inDjango Unchained when he asks, "Why don't they just rise up and kill the whites?" If the movie were real, it would have been a purely rhetorical question, because every southerner of the era knew the simple answer: Well regulated militias kept the slaves in chains.