The phrase “Well-Regulated” is so long out of use that dictionaries no longer cover it as a phrase. Since the word “regulated,” in common (non-scientific) usage requires an external regulator, many people assume that a well regulated militia requires an outside regulator, i.e. the government.
However there are examples of it in usage at the time which gives us, in a way, an even better definition.
- If a liberal Education has formed in us well-regulated Appetites and worthy Inclinations.
- A remissness for which I am sure every well-regulated person will blame the Mayor.
- It appeared to her well-regulated mind, like a clandestine proceeding.
- The advantage of living a well-regulated life was never better illustrated than in the person of his brother Andrew. — “The Prodigal Father” by J. Storer Clouston
- He has led a well-regulated life, but his virtues are narrow and petty. — “Prescott of Saskatchewan” by Harold Bindloss
- Lord Byron’s mind was as well regulated as it was powerful. — “My Recollections of Lord Byron” by Teresa Guiccioli
- And the one I ran across while reading Mary Wollstonecraft’s “A Vindication Of The Rights Of Women” — … the harmonious propriety that attunes the passions of a well-regulated mind, that I blush …
It referred to something being in proper working order or was associated with self control. Something that was well-regulated was functioning as expected. Government control of the people’s arms was not only NOT what was meant by the phrase in the 2nd amendment, it was the opposite. Arms under the self control of the militia (which was the entire body of the populace capable of bearing arms) is what was necessary to keep government under control.