The Second Amendment to the US Constitution
The Second Amendment to the Constitution of the United States protects people’s right to keep and bear arms. This Amendment was ratified in 1791 and gained massive support from citizens. Guns were part of the activities carried out during the pre-revolutionary period in the 1760s that saw many American citizens oppose the British rule. The American citizens, commonly referred to as Patriots, relied on firearms to fight and oppose the British rule (Fleming, 2016). Unfortunately, over the years, guns have become a threat to all the citizens of the United States because anyone can access firearms. Consequently, gun control measures debates have taken a center stage. Today, many American citizens with the support of government officials believe that the Second Amendment allows unnecessary ownership of firearms responsible for several deaths witnessed across the country. Only a few people, especially those with the belief the guns are crucial for self-defense support the proposed gun laws. Today, it is believed that citizens of the United States possess more guns than people in any other country in the world.
English colonists, who used firearms as tools and weapons during hunting sprees and against the natives respectively, were the first to bring them to the United States. Native Indians were initially receptive of the newcomers and welcomed them as their guests and friends. However, hostility arose when the number of European colonists increased, and they settled on Indians’ farms driving them away and killing them. Indians rebelled and fought back but colonists killed them with their superior weapons. Additionally, early gun laws in America required citizens to possess firearms with no restrictions to the same. For instance, it was normal to see men carrying their guns to church (Fleming, 2016). The main reason laws were passed was to ensure that everyone was armed in case of a rebellious Indian attack. In fact, the British government and the time provided guns for men who could not afford to buy their own (Fleming, 2016). The Second Amendment of the Constitution was influenced mainly by English laws and customs, and this came several years after the United States gained independence from the British.
Evolution of Gun Laws
During the eighteenth century, gun possession was topic of discussion in the United States. On the one hand, many Americans believed that firearms were responsible for the unnecessary deaths witnessed in the country at the time. On the other hand, a section of Americans believed that possession of firearms was important when it comes to self-defense (Gerber, 2011). It should be noted that the American government at the time used firearms to oppress citizens. During the colonial wars pitting the native Americans against the British, people discovered that it was possible to manipulate the masses through weapons and that self -defense was possible if a person was armed. Hence, Tucker, who took part in the writing of the Constitution, agreed with the Second Amendment in the view that any restriction on the individual right to possess arms under the pretext of color or any other reason was a threat to personal liberty (Gerber, 2011). Additionally, he stated that the right to keep arms was an individual right just like the freedom of religion and speech.
In 1789, during the first session of the Congress, Madison presented his proposal to the House of Representatives. In the proposal, Madison reiterated that the right of people to keep arms should not be infringed (Gerber, 2011). The founders of America believed that self-defense was essential to the civilians. Moreover, they relied on the English Bill of Rights for the means of creating the protection of the rights of the people. Between 1774 and 1775, the British attempted to disarm the Americans but parliament passed the Coercive Acts law that closed the port of Boston (Fleming, 2016). This happened just before the revolutionary war angering colonists who proceeded to form militias that comprised of armies that had fought for independence. In 1791, the Second Amendment was ratified, and gun ownership was declared a right. The amendments that had been proposed by Madison were reviewed. Later, a law was passed stating that a well-regulated militia shall not be infringed because of its necessity to the security of a free state and the individuals’ right to keep and bear arms, (Gerber 2011). Additionally, in 1871, to promote the use of riffles, soldiers founded the National Rifle Association that lobbied for the freedom to own and use guns in the U.S. at that time.
Court Cases and Historical Events That Affected the Amendment
The Bliss v. Commonwealth was the first instance when the Second Amendment came into question. The case arose when a man was indicted for the possession of a sword concealed in a cane in Kentucky. The man was convicted and paid a fine of $100. The man, Bliss, later appealed the court decision citing the Commonwealth Constitution that said that no citizen found in possession of arms for self- defense of state protection should be questioned. The court reversed Bliss’ conviction with only one judge dissenting. In the Dred Scott v. Sandiford, 1856 case, the US Supreme Court in its ruling again affirmed the Second Amendment when it declared that former slaves also had the rights to keep and carry arms as they had full rights as American citizens. Additionally, in the Heller v. District of Colombia, 2008, the US Supreme Court repealed a handgun ban in Washington DC as it termed the ban unconstitutional. The court ruled according to the Second Amendment that allowed individuals to keep guns, mostly for self-defense (Streissguth, 2011). The Second Amendment lists handguns among the several types of guns meaning that it is legal for an individual to possess the same within the boundaries of the United States. Finally, in 2010, the Supreme Court invalidated an earlier ruling that banned the use of handguns in Chicago in McDonald v. Chicago. The provisions of the Second Amendment made it clear that an individual’s rights as per the Constitution could not be overlooked (Charles, 2009).
The Federal Firearms Act requiring licensure of dealers, 1938, was an attempt at gun control in which the FFL determined that guns were not to be sold to people who had been convicted of some crimes. It also required anyone who was selling or shipping guns to be licensed through the Department of Commerce. Additionally, following the assassination of John F. Kennedy, new federal laws were introduced as gun control measures, in 1968. For instance, mailing of rifles and shotguns were prohibited. Furthermore, earlier enacted rules banning felons from owning guns were also tightened.
To sum up, the mentioned court cases show the extent to which the Second Amendment has affected court decisions in the U.S. over the years. Undoubtedly, the court must protect citizens in line with the Constitution. However, the recent shooting in Las Vegas has shown the need to review the Second Amendment. Gun control is crucial with the latest developments in the U.S., and the relevant authorities must not overlook it. During the post-independence era in America, it was necessary to possess guns, as the settlers had not accepted the realities of the newfound freedom. Moreover, there was a need to own guns because the military was being used to oppress the civilians. However, the situation is different presently since the role of protecting civilians fall on the police and military. Presently, America has the largest number of gun owners in the world. Hence, laws should be enacted to limit the number of guns in the possession of civilians.
Charles, P. J. (2009). The Second Amendment: The intent and its interpretation by the states and the Supreme Court. Jefferson, N.C: McFarland & Co.
Fleming, J. (2016). The Second Amendment and the American Gun: Evolution and Development of a Right under Siege. Cork:
Gerber, L. (2011). The Second Amendment: The Right to Bear Arms (e-Book). New York: Rosen Digital.
Streissguth, T. (2011). District of Columbia v. Heller: The right to bear arms case. Berkeley Heights, NJ: Enslow Publishers.