"The Supreme Court's ruling on Thursday that a District of Columbia ban on handgun ownership is unconstitutional appears to be solidly in step with public opinion. A clear majority of the U.S. public -- 73% -- believes the Second Amendment to the Constitution guarantees the rights of Americans to own guns. And almost 7 out of 10 Americans are opposed to a law that...
2nd Amendment: The Right to Bear Arms
"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." These words, the Second Amendment in its entirety, have been the source of much debate in both law and public policy circles, creating one of the most complex issues in American policy.
Historically, the Second Amendment grew out of English legal tradition, in which the ownership of arms was considered a duty of all free men to keep the peace and apprehend criminals, and out of Colonial law, which often required men to participate in regular military training in order to be prepared to defend their communities.
The two most common, and opposing, interpretations of the Second Amendment are that (1) it protects the rights of an individual to keep and bear arms, as denoted by the second clause, and (2) that it protects only the collective right to keep and bear arms while participating in a state militia, as indicated by the first clause.
The first interpretation was affirmed by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2008, when it ruled in District of Columbia v. Heller that the Second Amendment is an individual right so basic to the fundamental concept of freedom, to withhold it would hollow out the very concept of liberty. Leaning on that case, the Court also decided in McDonald v. Chicago (2010) that the Second Amendment applied against the states via the Fourteenth Amendment.
Beyond questions of interpretation, there is, of course, the issue of whether or not restrictions on arms positively affect public safety. Studies published either extol the benefits of greater firearm ownership for crime prevention or excoriate it as the cause of higher crime rates.
This topic covers the history of and the interpretative battles over the Second Amendment right to "keep and bear arms." It also examines the appropriateness and effectiveness of government restrictions such as concealed-carry laws, gun-show loophole regulations, gun-free zones, and registration requirements.
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