W. E. Stephenson overlooks history and the Second Amendment's command that "the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed" {Free for All, Aug. 15}.

The view that the Second Amendment protects the keeping and bearing of guns for traditional purposes, including self-defense, is bolstered by the Framers' rejection of Roger Sherman's narrow proposal for a militia without mention of a right to keep and bear arms. Sherman was not the only one to make suggestions for a Bill of Rights. Robert Whitehall of Pennsylvania, for example, proposed on Dec. 12, 1787, that "the people have a right to bear arms for the defence of themselves and their own State, or the United States, or for the purpose of killing game."

The Framers compromised and decided to satisfy those with militia concerns and those with concerns for a personal right to bear arms. Hence, the Second Amendment as finally adopted recognizes both the importance of a militia to a free state and an individual right with its guarantee of a right to keep and bear arms. This view is supported by the Senate's refusal on Sept. 9, 1789, to insert the words "for the common defence" after the words "bear arms." Furthermore, The Federal Gazette & Philadelphia Post advised readers on June 18, 1789, that "the people are confirmed by the next article in the right to keep and bear their private arms."

In summation, there is a growing body of scholarly work that supports the view that the Second Amendment guarantees a liberty interest to keep or bear arms for all traditional purposes, including self-defense. -- Robert Beard

W. E. Stephenson properly pointed out that the Second Amendment to the Constitution protects the right to bear arms as a means to ensure the security of the free state. Our forefathers envisioned a well-armed and regulated citizen militia as being the principal deterrent to aggression from external and internal maleficence.

Unfortunately, most gun-control advocates point to the first clause of the Second Amendment and argue either that: (a) the term ''regulated'' means that the federal government has the right to regulate gun ownership or (b) in the day and age of multibillion-dollar defense forces and ubiquitous police organizations, the concept of citizen militias is antiquated and an unnecessary obstruction to a more secure and peaceful society. Gun-control opponents, on the other hand, generally choose to ignore the first clause altogether, hoping that no one notices that there was never an unabridged right to gun ownership.

It is time for both sides to back away from these interminably circular, half-baked arguments and take a fresh look at the issue. The question is not whether guns or people cause crime, nor is it whether guns ensure a free society or a violent one. It was in the beginning, and still is to this day, a question of how best to ensure the liberty of the individual while maintaining a secure and orderly society.

The solution to the gun-control issue and, perhaps, to some of the lawlessness in our communities is for the states to invoke the Second Amendment and require gun owners to join a militia. Such militias would be under the control of the state's governor except in time of war, when, in accordance with the powers granted to the president by the Constitution, they would be subject to mobilization for military duty or home defense. (This aspect of my proposal has the added benefit of being an equitable alternative to the draft, which is an unconscionable infringement on individual liberty.) Members of the militias would serve at their own expense and be required to report for training and drill instruction at regular intervals, say one day a month or one weekend every two months. Gun owners who are too poor to afford uniforms or transportation might be awarded a small stipend to enable their participation, but otherwise would have the same rights and responsibilities as everyone else.

Interestingly enough, my own state, Virginia, is probably in the best position to implement this idea. Virginia now has a volunteer militia whose members serve at their own expense. This organization could form the basis for the first truly constitutional gun control measure ever enacted. How about it, Gov. Baliles? -- W. David Graham