The second amendment to the U.S. Constitution (ratified in 1791) states:
?Right to bear arms. 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.?
The definition of a militia is an army made up of ordinary
citizens...not career soliders. (Dictionary.com definition, for
example: http://dictionary.reference.com/search?q=militia ) In U.S.
history, militia were not trained, until such time they were called to
duty. They were required to produce their own guns and equipment.
Therefore, the constitution says, ordinary citizens shall be free to
have their own firearms...because they may be called to use in a
There are those who argue that if militias are no longer in use by the
Federal government, then the right to own firearms may be restricted
by the Feds. But the constitution makes no such post script. To many,
it seems that the ammendment was written to *both* protect an
individual?s right to bear arms, and the right of militia men to carry
Still, U.S. courts remain divided on just what the ammendment means.
?The opposing theories, perhaps oversimplified, are an ?individual
rights? thesis whereby individuals are protected in ownership,
possession, and transportation, and a ?stes' rights? thesis whereby it
is said the purpose of the clause is to protect the States in their
authority to maintain formal, organized militia units.? (U.S.
Constitution: Second Amendment, Find Law:
As Find Law points out, however, the law is Federal and doesn?t apply
to private?and, according to the Supreme Court, individual
state?s?restraints. Therefore, a private party may restrict the right
to bear firearms, just as an individual state may.
?Is the amendment one that was created to ensure the continuation and
flourishing of the state militias as a means of defense, or was it
created to ensure an individual's right to own a firearm...the answer
to both questions is most likely, ?Yes.?? States USConstitution.net
To explain the historical view, the website continues: ?The attitude
of Americans toward the military was much different in the 1790?s than
it is today. Standing armies were mistrusted, as they had been used as
tools of oppression by the monarchs of Europe for centuries. In the
war for independence, there had been a regular army, but much of the
fighting had been done by the state militias, under the command of
local officers. Aside from the war, militias were needed because
attacks were relatively common, whether by bandits, Indians, and even
by troops from other states.?
As an article at Wikepedia points out: ?...the reader must consider
the well-documented fact that opponents to the Bill of Rights during
the Constitutional Convention were not against the existence of the
rights it enshrined, but because they believed that it was so self
evident that the rights existed, originating as all government power
did, in the individual as a tautological basis of Lockean Natural Law,
that they could not imagine a future society in which such an obvious
truth could come into dispute, yet not fall into the most abject
tyranny and degeneracy. Gun rights advocates point to the writings and
speeches of the Founding Founders (including James Madison, who
actually proposed the Bill of Rights, and George Mason, from whom
Madison's work was largely based on) to illustrate that the intent of
the Second Amendment was to ensure that the ordinary individual
citizens of America would have the freedom of choice to own whatever
sorts of weapons they wished. There is also a distinct lack of any
quote by any of the Founding Fathers or their contemporaries that
would indicate that the Second Amendnemt was only meant to apply to
state run militias.? (?Historical Context of the Second Amendment,?
For example, James Madison wrote (in the Federalist): "The
Constitution preserves the advantage of being armed which Americans
possess over the people of almost every other nation. . . (where) the
governments are afraid to trust the people with arms.?
George Mason (at Virginia?s U.S. Constitution ratification
convention): "[W]hen the resolution of enslaving America was formed in
Great Britain, the British Parliament was advised by an artful man,
who was governor of Pennsylvania, to disarm the people; that it was
the best and most effectual way to enslave them; but that they should
not do it openly, but weaken them, and let them sink gradually.?
For more such quotes, consult the Wikepedia article mentioned above:
Wikepedia also points to drafts of the Amendment, which perhaps more
clearly state the founder?s objectives. The original text was: ?The
right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed; a
well armed and well regulated militia being the best security of a
free country; but no person religiously scrupulous of bearing arms
shall be compelled to render military service in person.?
So, the question about whether the Second Amendment applies to
individual rights or not is still up for debate. Each side has it?s
own, compelling, arguments?but perhaps looking at the history of the
amendment is the best way to determine just what our forefathers
Here?s some additional reading that may interest you, including
several sites that argue both ways on the issue:
* ?Whether the Second Amendment Secures An Individual Right,? U.S.
Department of Justice: http://www.usdoj.gov/olc/secondamendment2.htm
* Second Amendment Law Library (which offers a host of articles):
* ?The Second Amendment Myth:?
* ?Gun Control,? ACLU:
* "The Second Amendment...'Well Regulated:'" http://www.lectlaw.com/files/gun01.htm
* The Second Amendment Reasearch Center (with many articles):
I hope this Answer provides you with materials to view both sides of
the Second Amendment debate. If anything is unclear, please don't
hesitate to request a clarification before rating this Answer.
U.S. Constitution second amendment
second amendment "original intent"