As of late, the Second Amendment has been debated as to what the true meaning of said amendment is. To understand the amendment on the right to bear arms, one must take into consideration the time period in which it was written. Times have changed, and so has the people’s understanding of that amendment. With all the attention it has been getting by the American government, it is important to get an understanding of the people’s thoughts and the true meaning of the Second Amendment, as stated by the Bill of Rights. Though the Bill of Rights was written in 1791, around the time of the Revolutionary War, the same general idea of the Second Amendment stands to this day. The times and technologies have obviously changed drastically since that time. Guns have modernized, from muskets to semiautomatic machine guns, and the true meaning of this amendment has been mudded by the courts’ interpretation of it and the American people’s interpretation of it.
The 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.” During the time this amendment was written, individual states had their own approaches to gun control. For example, Pennsylvania’s Declaration of Rights said the citizens had the right to bear arms, but nothing about a militia was mentioned, thus making the Second Amendment’s wording confusing and difficult to interpret the true meaning of (Põiklik 25). The Federal Appeals Court ruled in December of 2002 that “the right to keep and bear arms applied only to state and federal militias and not to individuals” (“Federal” 959). Then in 2008, the Supreme Court justices said that “the individual right to keep and bear arms is not a universal one and reasonable restrictions can be established” (Põiklik 27). Supreme Court, though, did not say how to accomplish this non-universal right. Many challenges have arisen for the Court from American citizens claiming to have their Second Amendment right infringed by the government. Supreme Court was forced to create a universal meaning to the amendment that would stand for all individuals and not just for certain individuals and situations. Justices concluded, after the many challenges, that the amendment has relation to military service, such as the type of guns that can be owned by the American public (Põiklik 29). Through re-contextualization of this amendment, the real meaning and understanding of it has been lost in the opinions of the Supreme Court and the American public.
American people are the ones who are essentially suffering from the lack of understanding of the Second Amendment. In all Supreme Court cases dealing with the Second Amendment, it has been an American citizen versus a branch of the American government or someone affiliated with the government, such as the United States v. Miller, District of Columbia v. Heller, and McDonald v. Chicago cases. Miller started in 1938 when Jack Miller and Frank Layton were arrested for being in possession of “an unregistered sawed-off shotgun” (Põiklik 26). This case made the Supreme Court decide that the Second Amendment protects guns that are related to military service types, not illegal guns like sawed-off shotguns. In the 2007 case, District of Columbia v. Heller, the majority opinion was based on, according to Justice John Paul Stevens, “‘a strained and unpersuasive reading’ of the text of the Second Amendment…” (Põiklik 30). The court did not agree that the Second Amendment applied only to militia service, but that it had “enshrined the individual right to own a gun” (Põiklik 31). In the case of McDonald v. Chicago in 2008, it was argued that the Second Amendment guaranteed the individual’s right to bear arms in the application of state and local gun control laws. McDonald and Heller are often said to be in direct relationship with each other because the court was divided by two opposing opinions. The ruling was considered a victory for the citizens of America who support the Second Amendment, but its practicality is only “short-term” (Põiklik 33). Today, this Amendment is still causing a division between the government and the American citizens.
Lately, the Second Amendment has been all over the news with outbreaks in shootings and gun violence across the country. Arguments arise that stricter gun control laws would help lower the gun violence rate, but the other side would argue that stricter gun control laws would only cause more grief and violence. One modern-day advocate, and citizen, of the Second Amendment is Ted Nugent. In an interview with Piers Morgan, Nugent said, “More guns equals less crime. Period” (McLaughlin 1). He also said that all the legal guns in the United States “are used millions of times a year to save innocent lives” (McLaughlin 1). If guns were banned, not just non-military type, innocent American citizens would not be able to protect themselves by the criminals who are illegally getting a hold of gun that are illegal and not registered with the NRA, or National Rifle Association. Nugent said, when told eighty people are shot a day, "78 of those 80 are let out of their cages by corrupt judges and prosecutors who know the recidivism is out of control, know that they'll commit the crimes again, and they let them walk through plea bargaining, early release, and programs” (McLaughlin 1). As a hunter, I myself do not agree with the modern statements made by the government. My father and I own legal guns, registered to us, that relate to military style. I have a right to keep and bear arms as stated by the Second Amendment and ruled by the Supreme Court and other courts in 1938, 2007, and 2008.
To this day, the true meaning of the Second Amendment is unknown due to the modernizing of times and technologies from when it was originally written in 1791, around the time of the Revolutionary War. The courts have their own opinions on the meaning of the Second Amendment, but the American citizens, too, have their own opinions. Lately, a lot of attention has been given to the amendment with the government wanting to make stricter gun laws, infringing the people’s right to keep and bear arms, according to some citizens. Even after looking at three different court cases dealing with the Second Amendment, ranging from 1938 to 2008, the true meaning is unknown, but the American people can get a better understanding of the amendment and help protect their right. Many citizens believe our Second Amendment right to bear arms is put into effect when the time comes to protect us from the government and to keep it in check, and that time is now.
"Federal Court on Meaning of the Second Amendment." Historic Documents of 2002. Washington: CQ Press, 2003. 959. Historic Documents Series Online Edition. Web.
McLaughlin, Katie. “Ted Nugent: ‘More guns equals less crimes.’” CNN.com. Cable News Network, 19 May 2011. Web.
Põiklik, Pille. "Recontextualisation Of The Second Amendment And Supreme Court Decisions In The New York Times." Brno Studies In English 38.1 (2012): 23-37. Academic Search Premier. Web.