2nd Amendment – what does that mean?

The First 10 Amendments to the U.S. Constitution are known as the Bill of Rights.  There is often discussion and debate about what these amendments mean. Without bringing a political view and without giving legal advice, below is the text of the 2nd Amendment and some commentary on it.

Amendment II: 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 today’s political climate the right to bear arms and what kind of arms this amendment allows is such a hot button topic it is hard to find impartial resources.  In my commentary I am going to try and include links to sites that do not include a political slant.

There have been several landmark cases (meaning that went to the U.S. Supreme Court and ruling was issued) related to this amendment. One of the landmark cases that is most often cited is the 2008 case District of Columbia v. Heller, 554 U.S. 570. In this ruling Supreme Court Justice, Scalia wrote the opinion that emphasized “The Second Amendment protects an individual right to possess a firearm unconnected with service in a militia, and to use that arm for traditionally lawful purposes, such as self-defense within the home” and that it was not an unlimited right “It is not a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose.”  This landmark case is cited often by both sides of the debate, because it supports both that an individual can have a gun, but it also says it is not to keep and carry any weapon.

As with all laws, there are exceptions to the 2nd Amendment. In 1939 the U.S. Supreme Court upheld a law that it was illegal to own a sawed off shotgun. In 2009 the U.S. Supreme Court upheld a law that banned firearms on government property.

Most of the debate about the 2nd Amendment comes from the fact that it allows for an individual to own a firearm, but the gray area of what types of firearms and for what purposes can the firearms be used is still being hashed out.

There is not a clear cut answer, and that will always create debate on what the 2nd Amendment does and does not allow.


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