Most people have heard of the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution but not many really know what it says and how it came into being.
“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.” Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution
So what exactly does the Second Amendment mean?
Citizens of the United States have the Right to bear arms. Pretty simple statement and concept yet over the years many politicians and others have
2nd Amendment Gun Rights
attempted to change the meaning of those words to limit the ability of Americans to own and use guns. There are a countless number of laws that now regulate and put limits on gun ownership. States and cities have also gotten in the act and impose their own laws and rules against firearms. The state of Illinois and the city of Washington DC are the only two places in the country where you are not allowed to carry a firearm.
There is a great organization called the Second Amendment Foundation. Their mission is to protect our Second Amendment Rights and to help educate people so that we never lose the ‘Right to Bear Arms’. There website is at http://www.saf.org and they have a good question and answer section on the Second Amendment which some of is below. Please go to their site and support their efforts.
1. Is gun ownership a “civil right?”
World Net, from Princeton University, defines a “Civil Right” as a right or rights belonging to a person by reason of citizenship including especially the fundamental freedoms and privileges guaranteed by the 13th and 14th amendments and subsequent acts of congress including the right to legal, social and economic equality. This makes gun ownership as much of a civil right as freedom of speech, religion and freedom of the press.
1a. Supreme Court affirms Second Amendment as a fundamental civil right (District of Columbia v Heller)
The Heller case challenged several laws in Washington DC that constituted a complete ban on the Second Amendment rights for D.C. residents with no exception given for self-defense. In the Heller case, the Supreme court ruled that the Second Amendment guarantees a fundamental individual right to have functional firearms in the home that are commonly owned without being connected to any service of the state or military organization. The Supreme Court also ruled that the Second Amendment is a fundamental part of the bill of rights, which guarantees citizens individual rights. Lastly, In this 5 to 4 decision with Associate Justice Antonin Gregory Scalia writing for the majority, The Supreme Court affirmed that Washington DC gun laws violated the Second Amendment Civil Rights of DC residents and to positively restore those rights.
Quotes from Scalia’s majority opinion:
D.C.’s requirement that lawfully owned firearms in the home, such as registered long arms, be unloaded and disassembled or bound by a trigger lock or device also violates the Second Amendment as it makes it impossible for citizens to use those firearms for the core lawful purpose of self-defense. (1, 58)
In sum, we hold that the Districts ban on handgun possession in the home violates the Second Amendment, as does its prohibition against rendering any lawful firearm in the home operable for the purpose of immediate self-defense.
2. How did the 2nd amendment come to be?
When the U.S. Constitution was written, there was much debate over whether or not to include a specific bill of rights. Many people at the time believed that if the government made a list of protected rights, then all rights that were not on the list would be trampled. Others felt that it was necessary to include specific freedoms to keep them from being taken away by an overactive federal government. Still others felt that we needed to trust our government to lead us, and not shackle them with things they could and could not do.
Originally, the Constitution was approved without a Bill of Rights, then sent to the states for ratification. Many of the states, however, did not approve of a Constitution that did not guarantee the protection of certain rights and freedoms. So, in the process of ratification, many of the states voted for the constitution while specifically listing rights they felt should be included by amendment. Among these rights were freedom of religion, speech, and the right to keep and bear arms.
James Madison was largely in charge of drafting the original Bill of Rights. He looked over a very large list of proposed amendments which had been recommended by various states, then he narrowed them down. He submitted them to the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives, where they passed ten of them, and those ten became known as the Bill of Rights. This story is well told in Stephen P. Halbrooks book “That Every Man Be Armed.”
According to the writings cited in “That Every Man Be Armed.”
“Mr. Madison has introduced long-expected amendments. It contains a bill of rights. The right of the people to bear arms.” -Trench Coxe (p. 76).
3. What was the intent of the Second Amendment?
The intent of these amendments was to protect individuals from government powers. They were meant as a guarantee to the individual state governments as well as the American citizens that the Federal government would not try to take away the freedoms which many of them had so recently fought for. Senator William Grayson wrote to Patrick Henry; “Last Monday, a string of amendments were presented to the lower House; these altogether respected personal liberty” (p. 76).
“To preserve Liberty, it is essential that the whole body of the people always possess arms, and be taught alike, especially when young, how to use them.” (Richard Henry Lee, Virginia delegate to the Continental Congress, and member of the first Continental Congress, which passed the Bill of Rights)
4. Who should have the “right to keep and bear arms.”
We believe that the Second Amendment right to self-protection and defense of liberty should be granted to all those eligible including everyone of legal age, and those who are not violent criminals.
5. What is the militia?
The “militia” was provided for in Section 10 of the United States Code (often abbreviated USC). The Code is the list of all the laws that are written by the federal government. Section 10 USC 311 reads:
“All able-bodied males at least 17 years of age and under 45 years of age who are or have made a declaration to become a citizen of the United States.” Additionally, another provision allows for a “reserve militia” (as opposed to the “ready militia” described above), that includes women, children and the elderly.
6. Refuting Statistics
Statistics are valuable tools, since they are able to summarize an argument in a few numbers, and are able to present a good picture of the problem when used honestly. Here are some statistics that spell out major parts of the gun-rights battle.
- There are 129 million privately owned firearms in the United States according to the September, 1997 FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin.
- There are an estimated 65 million handguns in private circulation in the United States. (FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin, 9/1997)
- The fastest growing group of gun owners is women, according to Gary Kleck in Targeting Guns.
- Firearms are used defensively roughly 2.5 million times per year, more than four times as many as criminal uses. This amounts to 2,575 lives protected for every life lost to a gun (Targeting Guns).
- The accidental firearm death rate is at it’s lowest point since records were started nearly 100 years ago according to Injury Facts 2000 from the national Safety Council.
- Motor-vehicle accidents, drowning, suffocation, and fires each kill more children under the age of fifteen than do firearms.
- Less than one handgun in 6,500 is ever used in a homicide.
7. How many gun laws are there?
This depends wholly on what state you are living in. Because of our federal system of government, each state has a different set of laws regarding firearms. Some are very restrictive, others are not. There are also federal laws that apply to all of us, particularly regarding what types of weapons one can purchase, who can sell guns, and who is allowed to buy them. However, according to gun authority Bruce B. Biggs, there are roughly twenty thousand gun control-laws in the United States.
So as you can see there is a lot of great information the Second Amendment Foundation puts out. If you are going to be a gun owner you need to be an informed and educated gun owner! Take the time and effort to learn more about the Second Amendment. If we don’t all do that one day we will wake up and find our gun Rights gone.