The Context of The Second Amendment
The interpretation of the Second Amendment to the Constitution of the
United States of America has been a topic of controversy since its acceptance
over two-hundred years ago. This controversy stems from the fact that the
amendment was written for reasons for the most part that do not have any
relevance today. One side argues the amendment void, and the other takes it
out of historical context so it portrays the meaning they want. To understand
what the second Amendment means, one must interpret the actual text, the
historical background for its adoption, and what it means today.
“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”
(Nesbit, 309). What many people see when they read this is, ‘the right of the
people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed'. One can say that it
clearly states that the people do have a right to have firearms. Who are ‘the
people'? Some argue that the people are just what it says, citizens. “[M]any
legal historians have concluded that the right is corporate rather that
individual”(Hook, 30). Meaning that the right is giving to the state government
not to individual citizens. Others argue that it does give people the right to
bear arms, but only if you belong to a certain group.
This group is defined by the beginning preamble to the Second Amendment,
‘A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a Free State'.
This preamble is set out to regulate the other half of the Amendment. What is a
militia? “[A] militia is a body of men enrolled for military service, and
called out periodically for drill and exercises, but serving full time only in
emergency”(Hook, 25). This is talking about a State sponsored militia that is
well-regulated. Since there are no State Militias do the people have any right
to bear Arms? According to this amendment it is up to the State to decide that.
This whole Amendment is guarantee's the state the right to have a well-regulated
militia in which the people can bear arms.
“[T]he individuals right to bear arms applies only to the preservation or
efficiency of a well-regulated [state] militia. Except for lawful police and
military purposes, the possession of weapons by individuals is not
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...as viewed as a
traditional privilege lying outside the Constitution...”(Hook, 30). Having a
firearm at that time was so common that they did not even think about having to
legalize it. Today, is a different story. With more and more regulations on
firearms being passed, the Second Amendment is the only thing groups like the
NRA have to hold on to. Both sides need to sit down and find a solution to this
gun-control debate. Or one day this Amendment will be interpreted at face value
and fire arms in citizens hands will be a thing of the past, unless of course it
is in a state sponsored militia.
As time goes on the controversy of the Second Amendment increases. When
examined by the actual text, the historical background, and how it applies today,
the Second Amendment has little if any relevance for modern society. Groups
like the NRA and ACLU need to work together to find a solution to this gun-
control debate so in the end both groups are satisfied with the results.
Nesbit, Lee. Gun Control Debate: You Decide. New York: Prometheus Books,
Hook, Donald. Gun Control: The Continuing Debate. Washington: The Second
Amendment Foundation, 1992.