The United States Constitution Second Amendment states: “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” (Spitzer 2017). From the statement, controversies have arisen regarding its literal meaning. Some argue that the amendment implies that the right to possess firearms is exclusively for military groups. Individuals who may not be part of the militia should not possess firearms. On the other hand, other activists claim that the amendment fosters liberal firearm ownership by state citizens, whether they are part of the military or not. As such, the amendment implies that citizens have a right to own firearms, a right that must not be interfered with by the federal and state authorities (Cook 2020). To understand which of the interpretations is correct and more reliable, it is worthwhile to study the in-depth history of the amendment to understand why the framers formulated it, then study the state regulations on gun ownership so as to develop an integrated approach to an amendment that has been in place for centuries, and its meaning in the twenty-first century. It is also vital that we study both arguments to understand their grounds for interpretation and establish a grounded understanding of the constitution’s Amendment II. The right of an individual to possess firearms in the current era and the necessity to keep and bear firearms in the eighteenth century should be the basis of understanding the second amendment as formulated by the framers and the weight it bears in the twenty-first century.
The second amendment makes a provision for non-militaria citizens to keep and bear firearms. It was enacted alongside several other articles of the constitutional Bill in December 1791. The Supreme Court in Columbia district asserted for the first time that the liberty of firearm ownership stated in the second amendment concerns individual citizens for self-defense in their residence, while also dictating that the liberty is not unrestricted and does not necessarily prevent the survival of enduring restrictions such as those prohibiting felons and psychiatrist patients from possessing firearms, or constraints on the carrying of unsafe and strange armaments.
The Supreme Court upheld in Chicago that local and state authorities are restrained to the same degree as the national authorities in overstepping on this liberty. Amendment II, which was based in part on the English legal system right to possess firearms, was impelled by the English constitutional Bill of 1689. This right, as per Sir William Blackstone, is a supplementary right to the natural inclinations of self-protection and opposition to tyranny, as well as the civic responsibility to act in unison in the defense of the nation. The objective of a constitutional Bill is to equip a group to pull off a collectively desired goal, not necessarily to reckon the significance of rights. As a result, any labels applied to rights, such as auxiliary, must be based on the underlying role of a constitutional Bill, which is to embolden a group of people to achieve a mutually chosen end, rather than to rank or quantify the value of rights. James Madison was the most significant framer, while John Adams James and Monroe favored ratifying the constitution. Madison wrote in Federalist No. 46 on how state paramilitaries could keep a state army in check. He said that the state army would counter a federal army’s threat. He compared the U.S. federal government to European monarchies, which he depicted as fearful of assigning people with armaments. He ensured that the existence of subsidiary governments would act as a deterrent to ambitious endeavors. Delaware, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Georgia, and Connecticut adopted the constitution without alterations by January 1788 (Erickson 2021). Several changes were recommended but not passed at the constitution’s ratification. For example, the Pennsylvania conference deliberated 15 alterations, one of which dealt with the right of the people to possess firearms and another with the army. The conference at Massachusetts likewise passed the constitution and a listing of recommended modifications. Finally, the ratification conference was split so evenly between supporters and opponents of the founding document that the federalists sanctioned the constitutional bill to ensure approval. The United States Supreme Court upheld that the freedom to possess arms is not guaranteed by the founding document and does not rely on it to exist. Amendment II states that the government may not infringe on it, and it has no other meaning than to limit the power of the national government. The United States Supreme Court ruled that Amendment II did not protect weapon types that had no obvious connection to the efficiency or preservation of a well-regulated paramilitary force.
Today, the amendment has sparked renewed scholarly and legal attention. The U.S. Supreme Court handed down a major judgment in the Columbian district, holding that Amendment II safeguards a person’s right to possess a firearm for self-defense. The Supreme Court determined that Amendment II protects a person’s right to possess firing arms for the very first time. The Supreme Court clarified that Amendment II was integrated into the Due Process Clause of Amendment XIV against state and local governments. The Supreme Court in Caetano endorsed its previous findings that Amendment II protects all devices that comprise bearable arms, including ones that were invented or modified after the time of the foundation. It is not restricted to only those arms useful in combat (Fields,2020). The argument over gun regulation and gun rights continues to rage among diverse organizations.
The second constitutional amendment is significant because it establishes the right to defy a tyrannical government. It also offers citizens the right to defend themselves without government interference. Individuals can also use the Second Amendment to defend themselves against foreign and domestic attacks if the government cannot do so.
Several legal provisions regulate accessibility to firearms. These regulations govern the manufacturing, possession, trading, transfer, conveyance, and obliteration of ammo, weapons, and firearms accessories. Local agencies and the national Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) enforce these regulations. Topping up on federal firearm laws, every state government has its own guns regulations. While there are multiple states and federal authorities facilitating background check procedures, each state has its own rules defining who can acquire or possess firearms. Federal and state gun regulations establish a criterion for gun ownership eligibility. The criterion remains to be one of the controversies regarding gun ownership as well as Amendment II.
In the United States, individuals who may be eligible include legal United States citizens, lawful permanent residents (“green card” holders), and foreign citizens who have been legally welcomed to the United States under non-immigrant visas for lawful sporting and hunting reasons, nationals but not citizens of the United States, an authorized agent of a foreign government who is endorsed to the United States Regime or the government’s undertaking to a regional or global institution having its head office in the United States, an official of another government or an eminent foreign visitor who has been so elected by the Department of State or a foreign law enforcement officer of a welcoming foreign government entering the United States on official law enforcement matters. Under the 1968 Gun Control Act, particular groups of people are prohibited from dealing, purchasing, owning, using, carrying, receiving, exchanging and shipping any firing weapon or ammo. Any person who has been found guilty in a criminal court of a crime liable to be punished by by a term of jail sentence of more than 12 months, is not lawfully permitted to be in the United States, a fugitive from justice, has been umpired as a mentally ill or committed to any psychiatric facility, an unlawful user or addict to any prohibited drug as defined in section 102 of the Controlled Substances Act or has been discharged from the Armed Forces under ignoble reasons is prohibited.
Age is also a component in the eligibility condition. Purchase of firing weapons and ammo, is restricted to individuals who are either lawful citizens or legal residents above18 years old, according to the Gun Control Act of 1968 (GCA), which administrates firearms at the federal level. All other firing weaponry, such as handguns, can only be purchased by persons above 21 years of age. State and municipal governments may impose stricter age restrictions, but they must not be lesser than the federal minimum limit. Persons wanting to engage in firearm business and seeking a Federal Firearms License (FFL) must be at least 21 years old. They must have facilities for business operations and notify a local police department official when applying to the federal agency that controls firearms. They must also meet the same requirements as firearm owners in terms of past criminal convictions and psychological state. These regulations also apply to the dealing of weaponry and accessories over the internet. A purchased firearm must be transported to a licensed FFL holder, who then performs a requisite background check before giving the handgun to its owner, even if the firearm is paid for online. However, the law is uncertain as to what comprises profiteering in the sale of weaponry and firearm accessories. If the objective isn’t to generate a profit and earn a living via repeated and regular sales, anyone can sell firearms without a license; this topic has sparked debate.
Another issue at the center of legal firearm ownership is the gun-show loophole. The gun-show loophole is a concept regarding the legal purchase of firearms without a background check and transfer of firearms from one person to another as a personal commodity (Carlson 2020). With the loophole, the regulations set up are in vain. Without a background check, a criminal, a drug addict, a mental health patient, and any individual who would otherwise be illegitimate may own a firearm. In addition, children under the age of 18 may possess firearms provided they have written permission if the firearm is given to them as a gift.
The language employed in the amendment is at the center of modern debates regarding the amendment. The dispute is over whether it retains a person’s right to bear and keep guns or whether it exclusively applies to military groups like the National Guard. Some argue that stricter gun control laws will reduce gun-related deaths, while others believe that gun ownership will curb crime. Some activists claim that the United States Supreme Court has declared that states have the authority to keep militias under the Second Amendment; Private persons do not have the right to own guns under the amendment (Spitzer 2020). They claim that gun violence perpetrators employ weapons because firearms are readily available. They will continue to use guns if there is no control over their sale and ownership. Based on the numerous occurrences of gun-related suicide and homicide, the argument occasionally drifts to the notion that weapons are considerably more likely to injure members of the owner’s home than to provide security against criminals.
Furthermore, proponents of strong gun control contend that Americans required handguns when the country was still a primitive wilderness (Winkler 2017). To safeguard its citizens, the country now has police departments. They argue that countries with tight gun laws have significantly lower homicide rates. Since many people convicted of homicide and other forms of murder using firearms are legal gun owners who were first determined to be eligible, the eligibility criterion for gun ownership is also deemed to be defective. As a result, they infer that gun ownership privileges should be limited to prevent gun violence. Criminals will find it more difficult to obtain handguns fast if gun control laws are strengthened. Making firearms more difficult to purchase will reduce crime and violence substantially. Individuals who get guns illegally will be subject to sanctions for illegal possession.
On the other hand, people who advocate for gun ownership liberty contend that under the Second Amendment, which states that “the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be overstepped,” Americans have a legal right to own handguns. Amendment II right “to keep and bear arms” – the right of an eligible person to own a handgun to protect one’s home and for self-defense — has been decisively established by the United States Supreme Court. Amendment II does not prohibit states and cities from levying taxes on ammunition and firearms, as long as the tax is not so high as to make gun ownership prohibitively expensive for the average person, thereby burdening gun ownership and infringing on the Second Amendment’s rights. Nonetheless, more effort should be put into reducing the implications of gun violence. While a flat-rate tax on firearms would assist governments and municipalities deal with the enormous healthcare costs associated with gunshot casualties, it is unlikely to curb gun crime. A reformation in gun owners’ behavior is a better remedy to deal with gun-related crimes. The legal system should punish offenders who use guns for illicit purposes rather than ordinary folks who use guns for protection purposes. The legal system should concentrate on enforcing obligatory, long jail sentences for criminals, as this is a more effective tactic than gun restriction in reducing crime. Stronger gun control legislation will only make it harder for residents to protect themselves and their families. Crime affects everyone, and many times the police are not at the crime scene. They also allege that existing gun control legislation has reduced crime or violence. Although New York City and Washington, D.C. have the nation’s strictest gun prohibitions, crime and violence are higher than in many other cities (Masters 2017). Criminals would switch to other weapons if gun control legislation restricted the use of handguns. Furthermore, gun control measures will not prevent criminals from obtaining firearms; criminals will find other illicit means of obtaining firearms. They further believe that holding back on an individual’s right to possess arms will leave them unable to guard themselves in daily life or, in the worst-case scenario, from a hostile government turned against its people.
When interpreting the meaning of Amendment II, an individual right to carry weapons should be employed since it is part of the framers’ larger desire to extend individual liberty while reducing government interference with such liberties (Carlson & Goss 2017). The right to possess firearms is an auxiliary right tied to the right for protection. With various state and federal regulations on the amendment, it ensures that any legitimate citizen who cannot be classified as a danger to the society has access to purchase, deal, keep, and bear firearms for the protection of self and their household as personal defense. It is also essential to put across that gun control may not be a reliable deal with gun-related crimes. Gun control may be an infringement of the second amendment. The state and federal authorities should instead formulate policies that will help gun owners handle their firearms properly and enact laws that will punish illegal firearm possession and gun-related crime. The government may develop programs to educate gun owners on proper firearm handling and safety measures. The legislature may also put laws that impose heavy fines and long-term jail sentences on offenders.
Carlson, J. (2020). Policing the Second Amendment. Princeton University Press. https://www.degruyter.com/document/doi/10.1515/9780691205861/html
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