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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.
That is the full text of the 2nd amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
If anyone tells you they KNOW! definitively what it means, they are actually giving you their opinion rather than an objective fact. They can’t possibly know, because it’s inherently ambiguous, as much as some people would like to believe otherwise.
Some people say it means that the government has no constitutional authority to limit a citizen’s right to own semi-automatic handguns or an AR-15, or even a Barrett M82 50 caliber rifle. Others, however, say it means that anyone in an official “well-regulated” militia, like the National Guard, has the right to bear arms. But, the response to this goes, the “militia” really means everyone, because when the constitution was drafted, everyone was subject to being activated to repel invaders.
Many historians think evidence points to the conclusion that the 2nd Amendment was ratified *not* to guarantee an individual right to be continually armed, but because there was widespread opposition to a standing army, so state militias were necessary and should not be disarmed. Or, probably more commonly, constitutional historians accept that the right is an individual right, but is conditioned upon the assumption of participation in a militia, and since militias no longer exist, the individual right to keep and bear arms consequently no longer exists.
One example may be found in a brief submitted to the Supreme Court (page 36) in 2008:
“…the authors of the Second Amendment would be flabbergasted to learn that in endorsing the republican principle of a well-regulated militia, they were also precluding restrictions on such potentially dangerous property as firearms, which governments had always regulated when there was “real danger of public injury from individuals.”
Other people may have other interpretations of the 2nd amendment. So when your great uncle Norman (I hope no one actually has a great uncle Norman!) tells you the 2nd amendment gives him a constitutionally guaranteed right to have that AR-15, or even a machine gun, the truth is…. maybe, maybe not.
As it happens, the 9th Circuit Federal Court of Appeals held in an opinion issued on June 9, 2016, that the Second Amendment does not ensure an individual right to bear arms in public. At that link you can download the opinion and also listen to, or even watch video of, the oral argument that led to it.
The Supreme Court held in District of Columbia v. Heller (2008) that the Constitution protects and individual right to own a handgun in the home for self-protection. In contrast, this 9th Circuit opinion ( Peruta v. County of San Diego ) bears on weapons outside the home. Here is one of many news stories about the Peruta decision. And here is the case page for the Heller decision .
According to Peruta, individuals are not constitutionally barred from carrying weapons, but states or other political subdivisions do not violate constitutional rights by requiring individuals to demonstrate a strong need to have a firearm before issuing a license.
That decision was appealed, but the Supreme Court declined to hear the appeal, leaving the decision’s restriction on public carrying of firearms in place.
This is important because it demonstrates that some people's broad view of the meaning of 2nd Amendment rights isn't necessarily justified.
What do you think? Should there be stricter limits on gun ownership and carrying?
Whatever your opinion of gun ownership, carrying and regulation, you should remember that, as documented by the Gun Violence Archive, there were 346 mass shootings in the US in 2017 and 340 in 2018. There have been 12 so far in 2019 , and 28 children aged 0-11 killed or injured by gun violence as of January 19, 2019.
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