United States Constitution

PREAMBLE : We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution



The Second Amendment

Text of Constitution:

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.

The 'Travis Translation' of Constitution:

Since we need a National Guard to secure the country, citizens have the right to own firearms (guns).

The Right to Bear Arms Important Cases
The debate over gun control in the United States is one that reaches far back into English law. Though the 2nd Amendment certainly codifies some right relating to gun ownership, the text of the amendment is so vague (in some ways, intentionally), that the precise line that delineates what the government may or may not regulate with regard to guns has always been somewhat unclear.One underlying theoretical question is this: was the amendment designed to protect private, individual gun ownership, or the possession of guns by state-run militias? At first glance, the amendment’s purpose seems wrapped up in militias. However, despite that seeming explicit connection, the Supreme Court has repeatedly rejected the idea that there is no individual right to possess firearms. In the early case of Presser v. Illinois (1886), the Supreme Court stated that the right to bear arms was not necessarily a group right. Instead, the Court held that a law was constitutional provided it did not interfere with the individual right. The Court recently reaffirmed the individual right to bear arms in District of Columbia v. Heller (2008).Still, despite the establishment of the individual right to bear arms and the amendment’s insistence that the right “not be infringed,” the Supreme Court has repeatedly recognized instances where governments are permitted to regulate gun ownership, at least to some degree.

First, it should be noted that – though the 2nd Amendment is part of the Bill of Rights, and originally applied merely to the federal government, it has been incorporated into the 14th Amendment and is now also binding on state governments. The very recent case of McDonald v. Chicago (2010) confirmed the incorporation.

That issue aside, the Court has acknowledged qualifications to the 2nd Amendment. In United States v. Miller (1939), the Court upheld the National Firearms Act of 1934 as constitutional. The act required owners of certain types of guns (e.g., some models of 12 gauge shot gun) to register the weapons. The plaintiffs asserted that this violated the 2nd Amendment. But the Court rejected that argument. Though Miller has actually left a good deal of confusion in its wake (the Court’s reasoning somewhat contradictorily reaffirmed the individual right to bear arms while emphasizing the importance of militias). But regardless, the Court was unanimous: gun regulations are not necessarily all unconstitutional.

 Presser v. Illinois (1886)

United States v. Miller (1939)

District of Columbia v. Heller (2008)

McDonald v. Chicago (2010)