“What does the Second Amendment Say?”
To specify the question, I will say, “Does the Second Amendment allow an individual right to possess a weapon, or is it limited to a regulated militia?”
Some people who are favoring gun rights say it guarantees all the individual rights to carry any firearms.
Adam Winkler, a law professor at UCLA, said, “Americans have been thinking about the second amendment as an individual right for generations”. He also said that “you can find state supreme courts in the mid-1800s where judges say the second amendment protects an individual right.” (For your reference, he is the author of Gunfight: The Battle over the Right to Bear Arms in America.)
The most compelling argument that stuck out to me was the one supported by the District of Columbia v. Heller case, because this case shows how the Supreme Court interpreted the Second Amendment. I think District of Columbia v. Heller case is the most powerful grounds for this side.
District of Columbia v. Heller is a landmark case which led to the individual gun rights in US. In 2002, Robert A. Levy with six other people from Cato Institute filed a lawsuit against the gun control act of District of Columbia(Washington D.C.). (‘Heller’ is represented in the name of this case since Heller was the only one who remained until the end of the case.) They insisted that Firearms Control Regulation Act of 1975 overly controlled the individual gun rights, which goes against the spirit of the Second Amendment. This lawsuit had failed at the District Court level, but the Courts of Appeals reversed it and decided the gun control act of Washington was a violation of the constitution. Finally, this case went up to the Supreme Court.
For about 70 years before that time, the Supreme Court as well as federal courts stated that the right to bear arms only applied in the context of militias. However, in this case, the supreme court (in 5–4 decision) held that the Second Amendment protects an individual right to possess arms for self-defense. The Supreme Court’s decision goes like this: the Second Amendment guarantees an individual’s 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. This was argued in March 18th, 2008 and decided in June 26th, 2008. Consequently, the case “District of Columbia v. Heller” overturned a handgun ban in the city. Antonin Scalia, one of the justices, wrote that “for the first time in the country’s history, the supreme court explicitly affirmed an individual’s right to keep a weapon at home for self-defense.”
In conclusion, people who assert that the Second Amendment protects an individual’s right to bear arms emphasize the District of Columbia v. Heller case as their legal basis.
The others who advocate gun control argue the amendment is literally confined to a well-regulated militia for the purposes of military duties and collective security.
The people on the other side contend that the amendment is literally confined to ‘a well-regulated militia’. Supporters on this side asserts that even though the amendment is stated so ambiguously and even ungrammatically, it still clearly limited its right to “a well regulated militia”.
The best argument I chose is the one from Michael Waldman, the writer of a book titled “The Second Amendment: A Biography”. Waldman said, “When the Supreme Court ruled in Heller, Justice Scalia said he was following his doctrine of originalism. But when you actually go back and look at the debate that went into drafting of the amendment, you can squint and look really hard, but there’s simply no evidence of it being about individual gun ownership for self-protection or for hunting. Emphatically, the focus was on the militias.”
My Own Thesis
I do agree that the Second Amendment allows an individual right to possess a weapon, but this Constitution should be interpreted in the context of contemporary situation. In other words, the right to bear arms should be limited to some degree since the society is endangered by numerous gun violences and crimes.
The Constitution is not an eternal truth.
It will change and change in the alteration of eras.
George Washington said, “I do not expect the Constitution to last for more than 20 years.”
“The framers of the Constitution established the broad structure of government but also left the system flexible enough to adapt to changing conditions. A document of less than 6,000 words, the Constitution is not overly detailed.” (https://www.gilderlehrman.org/content/historical-context-survival-us-constitution) The framers of the Constitution might have intended to establish the Second Amendment ambiguously in order to make it possible to be modified.
We do not need to stick to the old tradition if it is endangering our lives. Remember those numberless catastrophes occurred by gunfires. I agree that people can protect themselves with owning a gun in their home. However, due to such freedom of bearing arms, danger lurks in this country everyday and dreadful accidents keep happening.
We need to think about the actual purpose and aim of this constitution.
The fathers of the States basically made the Constitution to protect the citizens. Therefore, if they watched the horrible situations happening nowadays by gunfires, they would definitely try to modify the constitution to control gun rights.
The Second Amendment says that the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed, but we need to make things clear when it comes to this “right”. It is a matter of degrees. For example, do we have to allow all kinds of arms? Does the Amendment specifies to do so? No, it does not. Then, we cannot say that the Constitution rationalizes the legalization of using bump stock, the device Las Vegas shooter used.
To put in a nutshell, my conclusion is that the meaning of the Constitution should be adapted in the current situation of this society. This does not mean that we need to restrict the gun rights completely, but control to some degree in order to prevent further accidents.