In states that do not outlaw them, private militias are limited only by the criminal laws applicable to all of society. If the Second Amendment protects only a collective right, then only states would have the power to bring a legal action to enforce it and only for the purpose of maintaining a "well-regulated militia." Even the Supreme Court led by Chief Justice Earl Warren, which incorporated almost all the provisions of the Bill of Rights in the 1960s, largely ignored the Second Amendment. Please select which sections you would like to print: Corrections? 2003). As with many of the amendments, the exact wording proved critical to its interpretation. Under this view, the Second Amendment grants an unconditional right to bear arms for Self-Defense and for rebellion against a tyrannical government—when a government turns oppressive, private citizens have a duty to "insurrect," or take up arms against it. Let us know if you have suggestions to improve this article (requires login). Hook, Donald D. 1992. "The Second Amendment and Other Federal Constitutional Rights of the Private Militia." All content on this website, including dictionary, thesaurus, literature, geography, and other reference data is for informational purposes only. In 1791 a majority of states ratified the Bill of Rights, which included the Second Amendment. an amendment to the U.S. Constitution, ratified in 1791 as part of the Bill of Rights, guaranteeing the right to keep and bear arms as necessary to maintain a state militia Most material © 2005, 1997, 1991 by Penguin Random House LLC. On appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, Presser argued, in part, that the charges violated his Second Amendment right to bear arms. This uncertainty was ended, however, in District of Columbia v. Heller (2008), in which the Supreme Court examined the Second Amendment in exacting detail. Be on the lookout for your Britannica newsletter to get trusted stories delivered right to your inbox. Second Amendment. "Stockpiling Weapons: Can Private Militias Receive Protection under the First and Second Amendments?" This opinion is controversial. By signing up for this email, you are agreeing to news, offers, and information from Encyclopaedia Britannica. 2002. Many of the Framers of the U.S. Constitution rejected standing armies, preferring instead the model of a citizen army, equipped with weapons and prepared for defense. The U.S. Supreme Court has never struck down any piece of legislation on Second Amendment grounds, in part because justices have disagreed on whether the amendment is intended to protect the right to bear arms as an individual right, or as a component of … Under section 19-1-106 of the Wyoming Statutes, "No body of men other than the regularly organized national guard or the troops of the United States shall associate themselves together as a military company or organization, or parade in public with arms without license of the governor." Some emphasize that the Second Amendment should be interpreted as granting an unconditional personal right to bear arms for defensive and sporting purposes. Second Amendment, amendment to the Constitution of the United States, adopted in 1791 as part of the Bill of Rights, that provided a constitutional check on congressional power under Article I Section 8 to organize, arm, and discipline the federal militia. As of 2010, 23 states and territories maintained their own SDFs. The Court refused to accept the argument that the right to bear arms is a personal right of the people. The Second Amendment: 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. Law and Contemporary Problems 65 (spring). Private militias have been formed by individuals in America since the colonial period. Others adhere to an insurrection theory, under which the Second Amendment not only grants the personal right to bear arms, it gives citizens the right to rebel against a government perceived as tyrannical. In response to the last argument, critics maintain that because such firearms exist, it should be legal to use them against violent criminals who are themselves wielding such weapons. Not surprisingly, courts are conflicted over how to resolve this debate. ", Despite this generous language, the Court refused to incorporate the Second Amendment into the Fourteenth Amendment. In the 1990s, the Freemen came to the attention of federal prosecutors after members of the group allegedly wrote worthless checks and money orders to pay taxes and to defraud banks and credit card companies. In United States v. "The Bill of Rights and the Fourteenth Amendment." 757, 48 Stat. After this ordeal, the Supreme Court was in no mood to accept an expansive right to bear arms. In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, European colonists relied heavily on firearms to take land away from Native Americans and repel attacks by Native Americans and Europeans. The defendants were convicted by a jury, but the circuit court arrested the judgment, effectively overturning the verdict. Surrendered handguns are piled in … The Second Amendment to the Constitution 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. Approximately half the states maintain laws regulating private militias. This amendment protects the rights of citizens to "bear arms" or own weapons such as guns. San Francisco Recorder (February 19). T he Second Amendment states, "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." Lastly, they argue that the Constitution should be interpreted in accordance with a changing society and that the destructive capability of semiautomatic and automatic firearms was not envisioned by the Framers. The amendment even had defective punctuation; the comma before shall seemed grammatically unnecessary. This meant that the Illinois state law forbidding citizen militias was not unconstitutional. At the same time, the Court was sensitive to the subject of federal encroachment on States' Rights. Second Amendment, amendment to the Constitution of the United States, adopted in 1791 as part of the Bill of Rights, that provided a constitutional check on congressional power under Article I Section 8 to organize, arm, and discipline the federal militia. Tennessee Law Review 62 (spring). In Wyoming, however, state law forbids the very formation of private militias. In the 2008 landmark case District of Columbia v. Heller, the U.S. Supreme Court concluded that the Second Amendment includes the right of individuals to bear arms for self-defense. 1236–1240 [26 U.S.C.A. The meaning … No law regulating firearms has ever been struck down by the Supreme Court as a violation of the Second Amendment. However, gun control laws have turned many laypersons into scholars of the Second Amendment's history. The legislative measures that inspire most Second Amendment discussions are Gun Control laws. Around the time of the Revolutionary War, male citizens were required to own firearms for fighting against the British forces. 2000. The Second Amendment: The Right to Own Guns. The Second Amendment has become a controversial amendment in recent years. Two men were also charged with threatening public officials. The Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution reads: 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. Montana Law Review 58 (winter). Springfield, N.J.: Enslow. the people have a right to bear arms for the defence of themselves and the state; and as standing armies in the time of peace are dangerous to liberty, they ought not to be kept up; And that the military should be kept under strict subordination to, and governed by, the civil power. Our editors will review what you’ve submitted and determine whether to revise the article. This illegal and non-solution to a non-problem is not meaningless. Indeed, the historical backdrop—highlighted by a general disdain for professional armies—would seem to support this theory. The Second Amendment reads, “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and … According to the Court in Miller, the Second Amendment does not guarantee the right to own a firearm unless the possession or use of the firearm has "a reasonable relationship to the preservation or efficiency of a well regulated militia.". Heller that the Second Amendment sanctioned the right to own and carry a gun except in the rarest of circumstances. 1994. Enrich your vocabulary with the English Definition … The Second Amendment was adopted into the United States Constitution on December 15, 1791, along with the other amendments in the Bill of Rights. The relatively narrow holdings in the Heller and McDonald decisions left many Second Amendment legal issues unsettled, including the constitutionality of many federal gun-control regulations, whether the right to carry or conceal a weapon in public was protected, and whether noncitizens are protected through the Fourteenth Amendment’s equal protection clause. 1206 (1939), defendants Jack Miller and Frank Layton were charged in federal court with unlawful transportation of firearms in violation of certain sections of the National Firearms Act of June 26, 1934 (ch. The Supreme Court answered that question in 2010, with its ruling on McDonald v. Chicago. In Cruikshank, approximately one hundred persons were tried jointly in a Louisiana federal court with felonies in connection with an April 13, 1873, assault on two African–American men. Anyone convicted of violating the provisions of the law is subject to a fine of not more than $1,000, imprisonment of six months, or both, for each offense. The Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution reads: 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. Some people have disagreed with the Supreme Court's definition of tyranny. In affirming that decision, the Supreme Court declared that "the second amendment means no more than that [the right to bear arms] shall not be infringed by Congress, and has no other effect than to restrict the powers of the national government. Many people want more laws to prevent people from owning guns. This federal ban expired in 2004. Many of these people label the state and federal governments as tyrannical based on issues such as taxes and government regulations. The Wyoming law also prohibits the public funding of private militias. According to Framers such as Elbridge Gerry of Massachusetts and George Mason of Virginia a standing army was susceptible to tyrannical use by a power-hungry government. According to these theorists, the Second Amendment was designed to allow citizens to rebel against the government. At a time of renewed debate over guns in America, what does the Second Amendment mean? Since the mid-nineteenth century, state legislatures have been passing laws that infringe a perceived right to bear arms. New York: Watts. In United States v. Emerson, 270 F.3d 203 (5th Cir. The Supreme Court also affirmed previous rulings that the Second Amendment ensured the right of individuals to take part in the defending of their liberties by taking up arms in an organized militia. If the Second Amendment protects only an individual right to bear arms, then only individuals could bring suit to challenge gun-control laws that curb their liberty to buy, sell, own, or possess firearms and other guns. However, the court was clear to emphasize that an individual’s right to an “organized militia” is not “the sole institutional beneficiary of the Second Amendment’s guarantee.”. The amendment has become increasingly more controversial since … What is the Second Amendment and why can the 'right to bear arms' cause so much argument and debate? The Court cited Cruikshank for the proposition that the Second Amendment means only that the federal government may not infringe on the right of states to form their own militias. According to constitutional theorists, the Framers who feared a central government extracted the amendment as a compromise from those in favor of centralized authority over the states. 1996. Notice that it is the right of the people — NOT the right of the militia. Second Amendment Law and Legal Definition The Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution provides: " 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." St. John's Journal of Legal Commentary 16 (winter). In a narrow 5–4 majority, delivered by Antonin Scalia, the Supreme Court held that self-defense was the “central component” of the amendment and that the District of Columbia’s “prohibition against rendering any lawful firearm in the home operable for the purpose of immediate self-defense” to be unconstitutional. This interpretation first came in United States v. Cruikshank, 92 U.S. 542, 23 L. Ed. In the 2000s, federal courts continue to revisit the scope and detail of the Second Amendment right to bear arms. The United States appealed. The Public Safety and Recreational Firearms Use Protection Act in 1994 banned private use of assault weapons, such as certain semiautomatic rifles. In particular federal courts have recast much of the debate as one over whether the Second Amendment protects a "collective" right or an "individual" right to bear arms. A clear majority of the Founding Fathers unquestionably believed in a universal right to bear arms. The Second Amendment holds the distinction of being the only amendment to the Bill of Rights that essentially goes unenforced. The Second Amendment, ratified in 1791, was proposed by James Madison to allow the creation of civilian forces that can counteract a tyrannical federal government. According to these theorists, the operative words of the amendment are "[a] well regulated Militia … shall not be infringed." At the first session of Congress in March 1789, the Second Amendment was submitted as a counterweight to the federal powers of Congress and the president. ", In Presser v. Illinois, 116 U.S. 252, 6 S. Ct. 580, 29 L. Ed. Updates? In its final form, the amendment presented a challenge to interpreters. One of the criminal counts charged that the mob intended to hinder the right of the two men to bear arms. The interpretation of what the founding fathers intended for it to represent has been unclear since its ratification in (See also gun control. Love it or hate it, the Second Amendment provides the constitutional framework for American gun laws. Although no court has concluded that the original intent underlying the Second Amendment supports a claim for both an individual- and a collective rights based interpretation of the right to bear arms, the compelling historical arguments marshaled on both sides of the debate would suggest that another court faced with the same debate may reach such a conclusion. However, in its opinion, the Court in Presser delivered a reading of the Second Amendment that seemed to suggest an absolute right of persons to bear arms: "It is undoubtedly true that all citizens capable of bearing arms constitute the reserved military force or reserve militia of the United States," and "states cannot … prohibit the people from keeping and bearing arms. Bogus, Carl T., ed. The Second Amendment, or Amendment II, of the United States Constitution, is the amendment and the section of the Bill of Rights that says that people have the right to keep and bear arms. 2003. Specifically, Miller and Layton had transported shotguns with barrels less than 18 inches long, without the registration required under the act. Barry, Monica Sue. 615 (1886), Herman Presser was charged in Illinois state court with parading and drilling an unauthorized militia in the streets of Chicago in December 1879, in violation of certain sections of the Illinois Military Code. 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