At National Review, Rich Lowry explains that the Founders’ intent about the right to bear arms was quite clear. It was an extension of the right to self-defense, which was inherent in their being men. Lowry writes (abridged):
The Bill of Rights numbers “the right of the people to keep and bear Arms” among those unalienable rights. Why? Because the founders believed that everyone has an inherent right to self-defense.
As David Harsanyi notes in his history of the gun in America, First Freedom, John Adams said in his defense of one of the British soldiers charged in the Boston Massacre in 1770 that self-defense was “the primary canon in the law of nature.”
Owning a gun is an extension of this law of nature and has been recognized as such for a long time in Anglo-America. The right to bear arms had deep roots in England, and it predated the Constitution on these shores. Pennsylvania guaranteed the right early on. In his draft of the Virginia Constitution in 1776, Thomas Jefferson wrote, “No freeman shall ever be debarred the use of arms.” (His language wasn’t adopted.).
It is out of this historical soil that we got the Second Amendment. Guns would make it possible for Americans to defend themselves, and to defend their liberties. Alexander Hamilton wrote in The Federalist of “the original right of self-defense which is paramount to all positive forms of government.”
Read more here.