Your Right To Own Guns
The right to own guns was afforded to all U.S. citizens on December 15, 1791 through the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution, as part of The Bill of Rights. It 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.” While those words are a piece of the fabric of America's history, the Second Amendment and its wording have proven to be a constant source of controversy and debate. There are a number of supporters and detractors for both sides of this issue. With gun proponents believing they have the right to bear arms, as well as those who say the amendment is antiquated and needs to looked at differently in today's world. The issue of gun control is highly controversial and one that has caused great divides in American society.
The original intent of the Amendment served several basic purposes. One was to ensure every citizen could protect themselves from harm. Another was in regards to the beginning of the United States’ military force and for letting other nations know that America would be a well-armed country. In times of attack, communities were legally allowed to ban together with arms and defend their territories, whether they were official members of the U.S. military or not. The Second Amendment was also intended to protect individuals from intrusive government powers as well as to defend themselves from attack. U.S. citizens were given the right to obtain weapons and use them in self-defense, for defending their land and property, and those on their property or under their authority.
Many modern day debates about the Second Amendment center around who should have the right to bear arms. Those in favor of bearing arms often say that their right to carry a gun is the same as their right to free speech as well as the other freedoms guaranteed with the Constitution. While opponents to that thinking would strongly disagree, saying instead that the ability to own and possess a firearm is not a guaranteed right. What might be a more important question is whether an individual has a fundamental civil right to self-defense. The debate goes on as to whether a right to self-defense also includes the right to carry a firearm. However, a Supreme Court decision in the case of Columbia v. Heller ultimately determined that the right to bear arms for the purpose of self-defense within a home is a fundamental right.
There have been a number of court cases involving gun control, which involve many aspects of the debate. The issue of whether or not altered weapons fall under the terms of the Second Amendment was examined in United States v. Miller, where the focus was on a sawed off shotgun. The United States continues to address civilian ownership high powered firearms and assault rifles. Laws over gun ownership can differ between states, with some states implementing stricter laws than others.
Some of the more important gun control laws introduced in U.S. society include the National Firearms Act of 1934, which mandated the registration of firearms, and the Gun Control Act of 1968, which sought to regulate sale of firearms as well as who was eligible to own a firearm. In 1990, the Brady Handgun Violence Protection Act was passed. The Act ensures that federal background checks would be performed on any individual interested in purchasing a gun. The act was the result of the shooting of James Brady who became permanently disabled after he was shot by John Hinckley Jr., in a failed assassination attempt on president Ronald Reagan. After the incident, James Brady became a strong advocate for tougher gun control laws. In 1996, the Domestic Violence Offender Gun Ban Act was passed, which prevented those with a history of domestic violence from purchasing guns.
The debate over gun control is vast and has devoted supporters on both sides. A number of organizations which are both for and against gun ownership have been created over the years. Some of those organizations include: Gun Owners of America, Jews for the Preservation of Firearms Ownership, the Joyce Foundation, Mayors Against Illegal Guns Coalition, National Rifle Association of America, Pink Pistols, Second Amendment Foundation, Second Amendment Sisters, Students for Concealed Carry on Campus, and the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence. With a large number of people lining up on both sides, along with a constant stream of new legislation regarding gun control, the debate around the Second Amendment will continue for years to come.
You may find more information regarding the Second Amendment in the links below.
- Second Amendment-Bearing Arms: Government site displays the text of the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
- United States: Gun Ownership and the Supreme Court: Resource that discusses the history of the second Amendment, the right to bear arms, and controversial Supreme Court cases.
- Sources on the Second Amendment and Rights to Keep and Bear Arms in State Constitutions: UCLA looks at the Second Amendment and provides resources to historical cases.
- The Right to Bear Arms: The University of Missouir-Kansas City Law School looks at Constitutional conflicts stemming from the Second Amendment.
- Avalon Project: Yale Law School examines the Second Amendment.
- Amendment II: University of Chicago compiled resources and court cases regarding the Second Amendment.
- Second Amendment and Right to Bear Arms: North Carolina Wesleyan College examines the Second Amendment.
- Concealed Carry Prevents Violent Crimes: Miami Dad College examines the relationship between the Second Amendment and Violent Crimes
- A New Paradigm for the Second Amendment: Journal from History Cooperative that examines the Second amendment.
- Opposing Viewpoints: The Second Amendment: Brigham Young University examines the conflict surrounding the right to bear arms.
- The Second Amendment Goes to Court: E History from the Ohio State University looks at challenges to the Second Amendment.
- The Second Amendment Reaffirmed: MIT paper looks at advances made in the right to bear arms.
- The Mythic Meanings of the Second Amendment: University of Maryland looks at Second Amendment in this PDF document.
- Second Amendment Limitations and Criminological Considerations: University of California Hastings College of the Law examines the aspect of criminals, and not law-abiding citizens, having access to guns. (PDF)
- Ditch the Second Amendment: Brookings takes a controversial approach to the Second Amendment
- The Ideological Origins of the Second Amendment:(PDF) The California Western School of Law San Diego closely examines the Second Amendment and its original intent.
- Civic Constitutionalism, the Second Amendment, and the Right of Revolution: Indiana University Bloomington examines the Second Amendment and its intent. (PDF)