The Amendment to the second US constitution is one of the most controversial. Specifically, The Amendment dictates that people’s right to keep possession of rams should not be infringed. Interpretation of the second amendment explain why it has emerged as a controversial issue in mainstream American debates. The wording of the second Amendment are partly the reason why there a variation of interpretations; it does not clearly define give a distinct definition of whom “the people” are (Morales). As a consequence of the wording, there has been ambiguity associated with the Amendment leaving room for legislative agencies and the courts to pass laws that influence the way people interpret it in terms of enforcement and application. The amendment states that, “A well-regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of th...
e people to keep and bear Arms shall not be infringed ”(Amendment 2) (Lund 103). Starting in the latter years of the 20th century, the amendment emerged as an object of intense debates, with several issues raised on the role of firearms and rising violence.
Advocates and opponents of gun control have expressed varying views based on the second amendment phrase. Opponents of gun control asserted that controlling possession of guns was an assault on the freedom of the American people, and went on to defend the right of people to own and keep firearms fiercely ("Constitutional Topic: The Second Amendment - The U.S. Constitution Online - Usconstitution.Net"). If the second Amendment authors had foreseen the imminent debates that were going to rise, they might have used different phrases to declare the amendment; much of the controversy is based on the
phrasing of the amendment.
The second Amendment of the US constitution remains one of the most widely discussed and most misunderstood of the Bill of Rights Amendment. The intent in this paper is not explain if the amendment is a good policy or not but reveal the different perspectives as expressed by different people and what makes it a controversial topic as it stands. Before, the proceeding, it is important to understand the competing or opposing interpretations concerning the amendment. According to Dennis Henigan (109) the initial intent of the amendment was to provide protection to the right of US states to maintain militias. Further, he states that the basic motif of the amendment was to protect people’s right of being armed as part of the militia albeit regulated through homeland security. This he explains was meant to reduce the pressure of the central government while empowering citizens their own security.
This perceptive of the second amendment is opposed to the idea that the amendment supports the right of private persons to keep and bear firearms. Other scholars are not of this school of thought and they thus argue that the amendment serves to affirm only the right of the states in maintaining militias or in other cases the National Guard (Johnson 87). Critically, both of these competing arguments can’t accurate. The issue with the first issue that the militia interpretation is that the second amendment is concerned with the right, and certainly the amendment is contained in the bill of rights. All the powers that are ascribed to the militia are clearly stated in articles I and II of the American constitution. There is no other
amendment of the first 10 that touches on giving the states any sort of power. Moreover, there is no other place in all the amendments that the government is granted power but the people are denied. One of the things that the federal constitutions so much fights for is to guarantee every citizen the right to freedom in line with the American dream. This is what the proponents of gun control hold and quote in defense against those who assert that gun control should be enacted.
Henigan (108) is in the unrelenting position of arguing that there is a large category of people who take the term “the people” to describe individuals under the first, fourth, ninth, and Tenth amendments. They claim that the sudden use of the same phrase to mean “states” does not beat logic; there is no consistency in their assertions and going by their interpretations. Besides, the syntax and diction of the first amendment contradicts the argument of Henigan. If the framers intent was to say that states have autonomy through the constitution to organize militias, they would say “states” while having state in mind and people when they implied the “people”. Evidently, the controversy has several dynamics that involves crucial points of other amendments of the constitution.
The question on whether the amendment was formed to ensure flourishing and continuation of the militias of the state as a way of defense or it was meant to ensure individuals had the right to keep and bear arms, is a significant characteristic of the raging controversy in the second amendment. Despite the apparent rhetoric on either side of the controversy, the answer to both
questions seems to be a yes. The attitude with which the Americans view the military is much different during the 1790s that how is depicted today. In the 1790s, the standing armies were not trusted, as they were used as machineries and tools for oppressing the Monarchs of Europe for many centuries past ("Constitutional Topic: The Second Amendment - The U.S. Constitution Online - Usconstitution.Net"). In the independence war, the army was regular but most of the battles had been undertaken by state militias under local officer’s command. Beyond the war, militias were required since the attacks were common whether by Indians, bandits, or troops from other American states.
State militias, today, are actively involved into every state’s National Guard. These military forces, while working part-time, are trained professionally and armed through the support of the government. Not any more are non-Guardsmen, regular militias expected to take up fire arms in defense of the country or state albeit being recognized by the US code as an unorganized entity (Halbrook 155). This presents a sharp contrast on how things were when the second amendment was being adopted. Most the state constitutions included the right to keep arms for the sole purpose of reinforcing the militia. Surprisingly, many had codes of laws that required young men to bear arms and supplies such as bullets and powder. State constitutions around the time when the Declaration of independence was taking place had the right to own guns although in different ways. The confederation articles were specific that the militias of the state should were to be maintained, but nowhere does it mention the right to keep arms. Therefore, any protections
of such a nature must be provided only by the state law. Though the Virginia Declaration of Rights mentioned the militia, it does not mention any right to bear arms; however, there might be an implication since the state failed to furnish weapons to militia men (158). Several other ratification debates did not indicate the use of arms or any such provision under the state laws.
Interpretations of the second amendment indicate that both the advocates and opponents of gun control are highly dependent on the secondary status of the amendment phrase. They are dependent on the main independent phrase, which unequivocally and emphatically declares that the right of the people to own guns shall not be infringed. It is important to note that the second amendment does not grant the right, but presupposes it. The analysis of the second amendment by the debaters have reached the extent of involving the professional use of experts and grammarians. Asked if the second amendment can be understood to mean that it’s only the militia who had the right to own arms, many advocates of gun control ideology denies. In addition, it worth nothing that, as a matter of logic, the amendment’s opening clause does not limit the original main clause. As Stephen Halbrook (152), a legal scholar argues, while the section one of the second amendment has an implication of part two, it doesn’t mean that id the first section of the clause fails, the second one becomes void and null. As scholar Roger Pilon (507) writes, the amendment alludes that the militia is sufficient although not a necessary condition protecting against the right’s infringement to keep arms.
Therefore, the debate rages on and each group of the controversy creates new definitions and interpretations.
The debate over the correct interpretation of the second amendment in connection with the right to own guns has reignited over and over in the history of America. Gun control advocates assert that the easiness of gun possession is one of the main causes of gun violence and hence the restriction of owning guns will help to save the lives of many people. On the other hand, opponents of the need to legislate gun control measures claim that such sort of restriction will be a direct infringement of the individual liberty of the American people, which is guaranteed in the constitution; they cite armed self-defense as a logic that should support the second amendment.
- "Constitutional Topic: The Second Amendment - The U.S. Constitution Online - Usconstitution.Net". Usconstitution.net. N.P., 2016. Web. 2 May 2016.
- Halbrook, Stephen P. "What the Framers Intended: A Linguistic Analysis of the Right to" Bear Arms"." Law and Contemporary Problems 49.1 (1986): 151-162.
- Henigan, Dennis A. "Arms, Anarchy and the Second Amendment." Val. UL Rev. 26 (1991): 107.
- Johnson, Theodore L. The Second Amendment Controversy-Explained. , 2002. Print.
- Lund, Nelson. "Second Amendment, Political Liberty, and the Right to Self-Preservation, The." Ala. L. Rev. 39 (1987): 103.
- Morales, Victor. "Scholars Debate Second Amendment To US Constitution". VOA. N.P., 2016. Web. 2 May 2016.
- Pilon, Roger. "Freedom, Responsibility, and the Constitution: On Recovering Our Founding Principles." Notre Dame L. Rev. 68 (1992): 507.