A Brief History Of The Second Amendment
Start writing a post
Politics and Activism

A Brief History Of The Second Amendment

People reference it all the time, but what are they really referring to?

A Brief History Of The Second Amendment

Recently, I have been reading up on the current debate over gun control. As with most issues nowadays, I saw one word in particular get thrown around a lot--“rights.” This is a word that, in my opinion, has become hackneyed. I feel as if people throw it around haphazardly, using it in order to feel empowered and justified— a certain sense of American Revolution-esque, gung-ho euphoria and resolve— without really knowing where it comes from and what it really means.

For example:

A YouTube comment responding to someone claiming that nobody wants to take away your guns-- "You know as well as I do that they can and will use any excuse or label to restrict your right to own guns. They're on record as saying that their goal is to ban guns."

Or this page on Ted Cruz’s campaign website:

Or this recent statement by the NRA on Obama's executive actions: "The NRA will continue to fight to protect the fundamental, individual Right to Keep and Bear Arms as guaranteed under our Constitution. We will not allow law-abiding gun owners to be harassed or intimidated for engaging in lawful, constitutionally protected activity – nor will we allow them to become scapegoats for President Obama's failed policies."

And so, I think there is a need to understand the Second Amendment to the Constitution quite simply because I am not entirely sure if people and organizations such as these know what they are talking about. The reason I think they might not know what they are talking about is that I don’t know what they are talking about. Very few people explain what the amendment says, where it comes from, and how it is and should be interpreted.

And so, for my sake and theirs, here is a brief history of the Second Amendment.

Where It Came from and What It Says

After the Declaration of Independence from the British Empire, the newly formed United States government operated under the Articles of Confederation. The national governing body established under this document proved ineffective in many ways after the American Revolution ended, and so in 1787, after much deliberation amongst delegates from each state, the Constitution was drafted. Anti-federalists, those who were against a strong central government and in favor of more powerful state governments, were reluctant to ratify the Constitution because they feared that if the federal government was given so much power, it would only come to oppress the states and their peoples the same way the recent British oppressors had.

In order to allay these concerns, after the states ratified the Constitution, the Federalist James Madison drafted a dozen amendments, of which 10 were ratified, that guaranteed the rights of the citizens and states within this new “more perfect union.”

The Bill of Rights is made up of these amendments, the second of 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.”

More broadly, the use of the word “rights,” can be traced back to the Enlightenment, mainly from the philosopher John Locke, who, according to the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy, believed that “the state of nature was apolitical in the sense that there were no governments and each individual retained all of his or her natural rights. People possessed these natural rights (including the right to attempt to preserve one’s life, to seize unclaimed valuables, and so forth) because they were given by God to all of his people.”

This philosophy was one the Framers were well-versed in, and it is exhibited in Thomas Jefferson’s famed “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” statement in the Declaration of Independence.

How the Second Amendment Has Been Interpreted

Understanding the intentions of those who drafted and ratified the amendment has proved to be a complicated business. Over the course of American history, there have been essentially two interpretations: the first stating that the Second Amendment protects individuals’ rights to bear firearms, known as “individual right theory,” and the second stating that the amendment only serves to prohibit legislation that takes away a state’s right to protect itself, known as “collective rights theory.”

In the 1939 Supreme Court case United States v. Miller, the Court declared that Congress could regulate any weapon that does not have a "reasonable relationship to the preservation or efficiency of a well regulated militia.” In so doing, Congress took a collective rights theory approach.

In the 2008 and 2010 Supreme Court cases of The District of Columbia v. Heller and McDonald v. Chicago, respectively, the Supreme Court went against the Miller precedent in the first case and "proclaimed that the Second Amendment established an individual right for U.S. citizens to possess firearms and struck down the D.C. handgun ban as violative of that right,” and in the second case they stated that this ruling extends to the states as well as the federal governments.

From all this, one can conclude that when one says or gives the impression that their right to bear arms comes from the Second Amendment, they are making a fundamental error. The Second Amendment guarantees their right. It does not provide it.

Furthermore, it can be seen that growing need to highlight who is taking this right away instead of highlighting where the right comes from in the first place is evidence of the fact that people do not want to keep their guns because it is their right, but more so because they like it.

One can also conclude that regardless of ignorance such as this, according to the Supreme Court, the Constitution allows for the possession of firearms whether or not one is aware of the origins of their rights.

In other words, you can still buy a gun without really knowing why you are allowed to have one.

This way of thinking can be summed up quite well in something the science fiction writer Isaac Asimov once said: “Anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that 'my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.'

Report this Content
This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.

How Much Of A Coffee Snob You Are, Based On Where You Live

Your state may determine how picky you are about your coffee.


When it comes to coffee, everyone has different criteria for what goes into their "perfect cup." Some caffeine lovers, though, are extra particular when it comes to their beloved beverage. One survey found that the state you're from (or the one you live in now) may play a part in determining how much of a coffee snob you actually are.

LiveShopper Sassie, the company behind this Coffee Project survey, received input from 1,000 coffee drinkers via their mobile app, PrestoShopper, to ask various questions about their coffee drinking habits and preferences. In return, these survey respondents got money back for their coffee — something any user who downloads the app can do as well (yes, even you).

Keep Reading... Show less

12 Relationship Therapists To Follow On Instagram For The Most Fulfilling Love Life, Doctor's Orders

It's 2020, you should only be following accounts that inspire you.


While you continue working on prioritizing your health and happiness in 2020, why not transform your social media feeds to be places that inspire and teach you? Long gone are the days where you follow accounts that make you feel bad about yourself (unfollow them because... no thank you).

Keep Reading... Show less

Where To Find The Best Coffee Drinks In America, According To A Survey

Here's the coffee shop where you should get your morning brew.


Coffee, for billions of people, is one of the only things that can get us out of bed (after hitting snooze a time or two), especially in 2020. Because, if we're being honest, is there anything that beats a quality cup of coffee on those mornings when all we wanted to do is roll over and go back to sleep? The answer is no. And if you're headed to a coffee shop to pick up your caffeinated beverage, you don't want to sleep on the best coffee drinks in America.

According to LiveShopper Sassie's Coffee Project survey, when it comes to chain coffee shops, there are definitely preferred spots you'll want to hit up for your go-to order — whether you order the classic, frozen, or flavored coffee, an espresso, tea, or other. To figure out the hot spots, 1,000 coffee drinkers across the United States took to LiveShopper's mobile app, PrestoShopper, to answer various questions about their coffee drinking habits and preferences. In return, these survey respondents got money back for their coffee — something any user who downloads the app can do as well (yes, even you).

Keep Reading... Show less
Health and Wellness

I Spoke To A Mental Health Therapist About How We Can Put Wellness First In 2020

It's all about being intuitive and finding a balance.

Shalyni Paiyappilly

We could all use a mental health check-in, especially as we approach the end of a wild calendar year. Each of us has faced obstacles we probably didn't see coming in January, and whether you're feeling confident or terrified about the end of the year, a mental health reset is probably a good idea.

Shalyni Paiyappilly is a mental health therapist and yoga and meditation teacher who has remained diligent in helping her patients and students stay healthy, whether virtually or in person. She took some time to share how her roles have evolved since New York City first shut down in March 2020, as well as how the climate surrounding mental health has shifted and grown even more apparent in 2020.

Keep Reading... Show less
Content Inspiration

How To Write About The 2020 Election

If you're a first-time voter or voting by mail for the first time, we want to hear your story.


The general election on Tuesday, November 3, 2020, will decide not only the next president of the United States but also which political party controls the House of Representatives and the Senate. Young and first-time voters will play a crucial part in determining the result.

Keep Reading... Show less
Health and Wellness

I Loved This Face Mask So Much That I Sent One To My Mom

A good, comfortable mask is a hot commodity these days.


At this point in our pandemic year, a good face mask is a necessity. A mask is required to enter many establishments in most states (you can find your state's regulations here), and even if you're in a county that does not have an enforced mask mandate, a business may still require that you wear one before coming inside. At the beginning of these mandates, it seemed like one face mask would do the trick, but now I'm keeping a face mask in my purse, in my coat pocket, right next to my keys... everywhere I could possibly need a mask at a moment's notice. My family, while in an entirely different part of the country, is doing the same thing. They have a car mask, a backpack mask, a jacket mask — everywhere you strategically place a tube of chapstick, you're now stocking a mask.

Keep Reading... Show less

Articles To Write If You're All About Saving More Money, And Waking Up A Little Bit Earlier

Get your day started right — and keep that budget tight.


For all the young professionals, parents, and students out there who've been working, learning, or even teaching remote — 2020 has likely been the longest year of your life. If you didn't know (sorry), we've been locked down for over 200 days now, and chances are, you are ready for it to be OVER.

Keep Reading... Show less

Thursday night, Ariana Grande released "Positions", her sixth studio album and one of her best to date. She gave us pop, R&B, and jazz. She gave us powerhouse and soft spoken vocals. She gave us anthems, bedroom jams, and ballads. Basically, "Positions" has all the replay value in the world and a song for everyone.

Because it is so good, it's only right to rank the songs. This list is not in order of best to worst, because there are simply no "worst" songs. It's in order of great to utterly stellar.

Keep Reading... Show less
Iron Horse Entertainment

November is upon us — and once it's November, the holidays are like a freight train because they are here and gone so quickly.

It's definitely important to cherish these holiday months, but it also means that the new year is right around the corner! Snuggle up and get cozy with these new Netflix TV shows and movies as they rid out the old ones.

Keep Reading... Show less

After One Woman Lost Her Mom To Domestic Violence Before Her Eyes, She Reminds Us It 'Can Happen To Anyone'

"I hope those suffering in silence know that they are not alone."

Courtesy of Sarah Ripoli

Even as Domestic Violence Awareness month comes to an end, the fight to raise awareness and speak out to save lives will not stop — especially during a pandemic in which individuals worldwide are forced into quarantine with their abusers. For Sarah Ripoli, a 27-year-old woman who was witness to her mother's death by domestic violence when she was just 6 years old, this couldn't be more true.

Today, just about 20 years after her mom's murder, the Angel Energy founder is using her voice, and her business, to continue the conversation around domestic violence every day while also donating 25% of proceeds to domestic violence charities like Safe+Sound, One Love, National Domestic Violence Hotline, Women Rising, The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, and Child Witness to Violence Project — to name just a handful.

Keep Reading... Show less

Every Product From Sarah Hyland's Sexy CMA Look Was Under $15 From Maybelline

If it's good enough for the stars, it's good enough for you, too.


Sarah Hyland has been thrust back into the spotlight with her new show, "Lady Parts," as well as appearing at award shows, and her artists and designers have been giving the public some of the products that they've used.

The best part? A lot of them you can but at your local drug store, including the makeup that was used on her for the 2020 CMAs. Here is a step-by-step from Hyland's designer, Allan Avendano, that you can follow for the ultimate camera-ready glam look.

Keep Reading... Show less

I admit there was a time not so long ago when you seemed heaven-sent.

Keep Reading... Show less

We are well into spooky season, which means almost every person's partner has heard them talk about pumpkin spice and "Hocus Pocus" for the last 30 days. I applaud my own boyfriend for bearing to look at me in my decked out Halloween socks that I never seem to have a shortage on. Sadly, the end of the spooky season is right around the corner. But, not to fear, use these five unique date night ideas to spice up your last date October date night.

Keep Reading... Show less

The Jonas Brothers Have A New Christmas Song And I Honestly Need 5 More Minutes With This News

I think this makes it acceptable to start listening to Christmas music now, yes?


It is that time of year where the most controversial question comes into play — and no, it is NOT political — is it too early to start listening to holiday music?

Keep Reading... Show less
Facebook Comments