Gov: Second Amendment Rights


The Second, Third, and Fourth Amendments were a response to the suppression of rights under British colonial rule. These three amendments were designed to ensure that such abuses would not take place under the new American government.

The Second Amendment says, “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.” Although the Constitution allowed Congress to create a national army and navy, the framers were wary of standing armies. They feared that the central government might use a powerful army to suppress citizens’ rights. Militias, in their view, provided a better guarantee of freedom and security. They also knew that militia members usually supplied their own weapons. So they worded the Second Amendment to ensure that the government would not be able to take away people’s weapons, thereby, weakening the militias. Interpretations of the Second Amendment have varied over the years. This amendment has not been incorporated, which means that most regulation of firearms is in the hands of state and local governments.

The first federal gun control laws placed a tax on certain powerful firearms and required background checks on buyers in order to limit the sale of such guns. In some cases, gun owners had to register their weapons.

In the United States v. Miller, the Supreme Court upheld this law. In this case, the Court supported the conviction of two men who had failed to register a sawed off shotgun. The Court’s decision directly tied gun ownership to militias. Because militias never used sawed off shotguns for common defense, the Court determined that government had the right to regulate such weapons.

The Miller case is the only Supreme Court decision that directly addresses Second Amendments rights. Although many Americans who oppose gun control disagree on the decision, gun lobbyists, such as the National Rifle Association (NRA), have made little effort to challenge the decision in court. Instead they have focused their energies on lobbying Congress to prevent the enactment of new gun control laws.



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