What used to be a law to protect the nation’s security has now become a law to protect the nation’s right to kill. The Second Amendment, which states that “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” has sparked much debate in modern American government and society. Some argue that the Amendment has been distorted, which is the reason for the multiple mass shootings that have occurred in recent years. Others claim that the Second Amendment has not been changed and gives all citizens the right to own guns. However the Amendment is interpreted, its meaning at the time of its creation is significantly different from its meaning today.
On September 3, 1783, America won a war for independence from Britain. While the victory was a cause for celebration, America was still facing a plethora of internal and external threats. Internally, the rise of Federalist and Anti-Federalist parties threatened to divide the nation, and the Haitian revolution had caused many Southern planters to fear that their slaves would follow suit. Additionally, as American expansion moved forward, conflict with Native Americans was proving troublesome. Externally, many European powers watched America struggle to form a stable, centralized government and predicted that the newly formed democracy would not last long. This prediction only increased the nation’s sense of vulnerability and fear of Imperialist takeover. All these factors led to the need for a standing army, with civilians ready to fight at any moment. As a result, the Second Amendment was drafted and approved in Kamerine wang CA December, 1791, the intention being that states could legally supply their militias with arms in times of crisis.
Today, however, state militias are no longer needed, as America has a stable government and military, and each state has ample law enforcement to keep communities safe. Because of this change, many believe that organizations like the National Rifle Association are misinterpreting the Second Amendment to promote gun lobby interests. But the 2008 District of Columbia v. Heller case proves otherwise. This case was the first to deliberate the scope of the Ves Second Amendment. A previous case had placed a ban on handguns and required that rifles and shotguns lawfully owned in the District of Columbia be kept “unloaded and disassembled or bound by a trigger lock.” The Supreme Court, however, in the Heller case claimed that the ban on handguns violated the Second Amendment and concluded that U. S. citizens can possess firearms for lawful purposes even if those gun owners are unconnected to the militia. This ruling ends the dispute about owning firearms if an individual does not belong to a militia. Still, the Supreme Court has also made clear that the right is limited and requires regulation. The question now is how guns should be regulated and how the limits of the Second Amendment should be defined.
Deciding upon the terms of American gun control, unfortunately, is a complex undertaking. How many gun laws can the government create that will not create an infringement of the people’s rights? John Paul Stevens, former Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, was one of the dissenters in the ruling for the Heller Case. In 2014, he wrote an article for The Washington Post entitled “The five extra words that can fix the Second Amendment.” Stevens suggested that the Second Amendment be phrased as “A well regulated Malerme wang CA Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms when serving in the Militia shall not be infringed.” In March 2018, Stevens went a step further to suggest that the Second Amendment be repealed in the New York Times article ” John Paul Stevens: Repeal the Second Amendment.” Whether the government rephrases or repeals the Amendment, the government will need to add regulations such as bans on military-like guns or stricter background checks in order to stop the vicious cycle of mass shootings and citizens’ defending their right to guns for self-defense.
It is misleading to say that the Amendment is currently being misinterpreted. It is not; the constitutionality of private gun ownership is a matter already decided by the Supreme Court. Rather, the government and the public should focus more on how we can improve the Second Amendment and specify the limitations on the right to bear arms. Energy put into that pursuit would create a safer nation for us all.
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