The second amendment, the most debated topic in town, goes as “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.” James Madison, Americas God father as some say, originally proposed the Second Amendment not very long after the Constitution was officially approved as a way to provide more power to state militias, which today are known to us as the National Guard. The amendment was introduced as a compromise between the Federalists (those who supported the Constitution as it was confirmed) and the anti-Federalists (those who supported states having more power). Having just used guns and some inferior arms to defend themselves from the English, the amendment was formulated to give citizens the opportunity to fight and defend themselves from a dictatorship federal government.
The second amendment which was first adopted on December 15, 1791 is very important to many Americans as it has been part of the culture for a long time. After its ratification, Americans have argued over the meaning of the Second Amendment. The argument is whether the amendment protects the individual’s right to keep and bear implements of war, or whether it protects a collective right that should only be exercised through formal militia units. The federal government created a body that regulates guns (The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms) on safety. In 1871, the NRA (National Rifle Association) was formed, a nonprofit organization that advocates for gun rights, all citizens have the right to own guns. On the other hand, guns have increased the potential for gun-related incidents like school shootings. Many laws have been amended and changed but the second amendment has never been changed, the supreme court has reinterpreted it several times, close to a point where the original intention of the founders is now lost.
The first major interpretation came up in 2008, District of Columbia v. Heller. There was a ban on hand guns in the District of Columbia at the time. The court ruled that the second amendment to the constitution protects the right of an individual to possess a gun lawfully for purposes such as self-defense. The court also ruled that the ban on hand guns in D.C was violating the second amendment.
Furthermore, according to Britannica.com, in 1934, the supreme court avoided mentioning the constitutional capacity of the second amendment by merely stating that the “the possession or use of a shotgun having a barrel of less than eighteen inches in length is not any part of the ordinary military equipment protected by the second amendment.” (para.2). This interpretation of the supreme court confused many folks and even makes me wonder, what right to bear arms does the second amendment even protect?
There are various cases that were presented before the supreme court with regard to the second amendment. In 2008, District of Columbia v. Heller, in a 5-4 majority rule the supreme court guaranteed individuals the right to possess firearms regardless of service in a state militia and could use firearms for traditionally lawful purposes like self-defense within an individual’s home. This was a major achievement for Dick Heller and the people of District of Columbia. Heller was a law enforcement officer in D.C and had authority to carry a handgun but was denied a license to own a private handgun to keep at his house because at this time, there was a ban on hand guns in the District of Columbia. Heller was the last man standing out of three, he had standing to sue because he had suffered the denial of his application for a license to possess a handgun.
2010, McDonald v. Chicago, the Supreme Court held that the Second Amendment right to keep and bear firearms was applicable through the Fourteenth Amendment. In McDonald, the City of Chicago argued that its law banning almost all private citizens from possessing a handgun were constitutional because the Second Amendment rights established by Heller did not apply to the State. However, the Court stated that, “a preparation of the Bill of Rights that protects a right that is fundamental from an American perspective applies equally to the Union soldier Politics and the Country.” McDonald and Heller made it clear that the Second Amendment applies to the States and its citizens. Morever, the Court neglected to provide sufficient guidance on how these rights should be interpreted and regulated. The Court failed to discuss restrictions on the Second Amendment and how far the legislature could go before infringing that right.
In conclusion, the second amendment’s meaning has exponentially changed over time. For example, the right to bear arms had a much different meaning in the 1800s when this amendment was very new, than today. Back then there were much inferior firearms compared to today, so the purpose of the amendment was to protect individual citizen’s rights and make sure that all the power was not left to the states. Today, there are many weapons of different kinds which makes me wonder and ask the questions, should there be limits on how many guns a person can buy? could laws that limit the guns that could be obtained by citizens help prevent horrendous acts of cowardness like Stoneman Douglas shooting?
- Charles, Patrick J. “Second Amendment.” Encyclopædia Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., 8 Dec. 2017, www.britannica.com/topic/Second-Amendment.
- Touro law Review. ANALYZING SECOND AMENDMENT CHALLENGES: GETTING STRICT WITH JUDGES. Digital Commons @ Touro Law Center, 1, 2015, digitalcommons.tourolaw.edu/lawreview/vol31/iss4/6.
- Acosta, Luis. “United States: Gun Ownership and the Supreme Court.” Https://Www.loc.gov/Law/Help/Second-Amendment.php, July 2008.