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The Guarantee of the Right to Bear Arms Is a Source of Discussion

Second Amendment: Interpretation of meaning a source of discussion

For years, there has been disagreement about the meaning of the language of the Second Amendment. The issue of gun control continues to remain a topic of much discussion. Generally, one view is that the Second Amendment protects “the people” as a collective body, rather than as individuals. According to this “collective view,” the federal government cannot take away arms from state militias. Proponents of this theory say that there is no right to possession of firearms other than by those who belong to a “well-regulated Militia.” The contrasting theory is that “the people” are individuals, who each have a right to possess firearms.

Usually, whenever legal theories differ, people and courts look to the decisions of the United States Supreme Court for guidance. In this situation, this may not be as helpful. The Court tends to avoid ruling on Second Amendment issues. The last major decision involving the Second Amendment was in 1939. The Court seemed to agree with the proposition that the Second Amendment protected only a collective right to bear arms. Recently, however, some individual Justices of the Court have apparently suggested a willingness to adhere to the individual rights theory.

Although much recent attention seems to have been paid by the press, legislators, and special interest groups to the issue of gun control and the right to bear arms, it remains to be seen whether courts will come to a uniform consensus regarding the meaning of the Second Amendment.

Proponents of individuals’ rights to have firearms

Those who subscribe to the individuals’ rights interpretation of the Second Amendment tend to believe the language provides a right to the defense of one’s self and one’s property. Not surprisingly, they do not support bans on most–if not all–guns. They believe that such a ban would be a violation of individuals’ civil liberties.

In October 2004, a state court ruled that gun manufacturers who sold legal weapons, in a legal manner, were not liable to two police officers who were the victims of a shooting.

In 2004, a federal law banning assault weapons expired. When the 10-year ban was lifted, the manufacture of certain semiautomatic weapons became permissible. Opponents of the 1994 law said that it never effectively prevented the purchase of semiautomatic weapons.

Many are somewhat neutral on issue of gun control

Despite the attention paid in the media to the issue of gun control, it has been suggested that many Americans and even a number of civil rights organizations are actually neutral on the issue. For instance, a civil liberties organization may believe that the Second Amendment provides for a “collective right” to bear arms; it may also believe that the Second Amendment does not prevent gun ownership, albeit under reasonable regulations and restrictions.

Copyright 2011 LexisNexis, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc.

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