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The 2nd Amendment: What Exactly Does It Say?

The 2nd Amendment to the Constitution is one that comes up in the news often with opposing views tossed around about the present-day validity of this law, the interpretation of the original meaning and its implications on our current society.

What is the 2nd Amendment to the Constitution

The States ratified our 2nd Amendment, and it was validated by the current Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson on December 15, 1791. It is the 2nd Amendment in the Bill of Rights, and the actual text reads:

“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.”

In layman terms, this means that every American citizen has the right to own and use weapons. It also allows citizens to form state militia if the government oversteps its boundaries and people feel they need protection against an aggressive state government. The term “well regulated” refers to a well trained, properly organized and disciplined military group. An example of a militia group would be the National Guard service.

Why Does the 2nd Amendment Exist?

Going back to historical England, the law originated from the British common law commitment to the protection of personal property, personal security, and liberty for each citizen. During the early settlement years this particular right was held very dear to Americans for a number of reasons:

  • Protecting themselves against invasion.
  • The right to form a militia if needed.
  • Being a part of law enforcement.
  • Defending against tyrannies.
  • Self-defense.
  • Dealing with insurrection.

Even though it appears simple, the 2nd Amendment is replete with controversy and depth of meaning about what was intended but perhaps not adequately spelled out, thus the ongoing debate. The 2nd Amendment did not suppose to eradicate the government’s right to implement reasonable gun control laws to keep American’s safe, but it was enacted to protect citizens against government oppression.

Modern Interpretation of the 2nd Amendment

Groups like the NRA continue to work hard at protecting the 2nd Amendment and U.S. citizen’s rights to bear and own arms. The only exceptions are convicted criminals and people who have a mental illness. Otherwise, every U.S. citizen can purchase and own firearms. Pro-gun organizations often wave the predictive flag of doom about a government that has gone power-hungry and gun laws are shutting down American freedoms. Perhaps some of this is inching towards truth but more likely scare tactics to support their cause.

During the latter part of the 20th century, however conflict over the validity of this law came into play. A new interpretation of the law claimed that the intent was on a state’s right to form a militia and bear arms, not that of an individual. However, this heated debate was resolved in 2001 by United States v. Emerson. The Supreme Court ruled in favor of the original understanding that the 2nd Amendment protects an individual’s rights to keep and bear arms, not a collective state.

The federal government has put into place mandatory background checks and other protections to ensure firearms are only sold to mentally sound, non-criminals. Even with the ban on certain types of weapons, ammunition, and laws regarding safety modifications, nothing has slowed the pace of shooter incidents in malls, schools, and churches. In fact, they have been increasing over the past ten years at an alarming rate. These shooter incidents have caused a lot of unrest and debate among Americans.

Opposition Sides

A lot of U.S. citizens oppose this law because of the increase in shooter incidents, many involving children. In most cases, the ability for the shooter to obtain a firearm was quick and easy. Mainly the supporters of dissolving the 2nd Amendment are Democrats and young Millennials.

Republicans and older Americans argue that the issue is not about guns and the right to bear arms but more about the social aspects of the problem. Pointing the finger at the guns ignores the other contributions factors such as parental neglect, mental health issues, and criminal cues if caught early could have prevented such tragedy. These groups want to spend time and money on researching resources and supports as possible options for helping to avoid these types of incidents. Many quote the obvious that “guns don’t kill people, people kill people.” However, that has not dimmed the fight of those that oppose the 2nd Amendment and would like to see America do away with it forever.

Unfortunately, should Americans be stripped of their right to keep and bear arms, there would be no way for U.S. citizens to defend themselves against the criminals who obtain illegal firearms. In some ways, the 2nd Amendment levels the playing field and at least gives regular citizens a chance to protect themselves, their property and their families.