In his Jan. 18 "Constitutional primer" column, Jim Hoffman muses that the Constitutionalists "always limit their citation of the Second Amendment to the final 14 words," which are "the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed." He wonders why the first 13 words, "A well-regulated militia, being necessary for the security of a free state" seem never to be acknowledged.
The following excerpts from the Supreme Court's 2007 District of Columbia Et. Al. v. Heller decision may be helpful:
"The Amendment's prefatory clause [A well-regulated militia] announces a purpose, but does not limit or expand the scope of the second part, the operative clause [the right of the people]."
Thus, the discussions referred to by Mr. Hoffman usually center on the heart of the matter, which (again from Heller) is:
"The Second Amendment protects an individual right to possess a firearm unconnected with service in a militia, and to use that arm for traditionally lawful purposes, such as self-defense within the home."