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2nd Amendment to the United States Constitution

2nd Amendment

Click here or scroll down for a summary text of Amendment 20 of the Constitution.

2nd Amendment of the 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

What Is the 2nd Amendment?

The 2nd Amendment to the United States Constitution is a single sentence with profound implications. It is also known as “the right to bear arms” amendment.

What Right Does the Second Amendment Give Citizens?

As part of the Bill of Rights, this amendment safeguards US citizens’ right to bear arms. The right to bear arms has been jealously defended up to the present day.

US Constitution
The 2nd Amendment forms part of the Bill of Rights.

What Is a Well-Regulated Militia?

At the end of the eighteenth century, ‘militia’ meant any group of citizens who had joined together intending to protect their communities. Militias were also organized to protect towns, cities, and the new states.

Why Was the 2nd Amendment Created?

Previous experience made people distrustful of centralized government and reluctant to give them too much power.

Men in uniform
Experience has taught the American population to be wary of centralized government.

Soldiers had seen how the British government had kept control of the American colonies, so they did not want the new United States federal government to have similar power.

The Second Amendment’s effect was to give the federal government no authority to disarm the state militias. This means that the states still had the means to protect themselves against any form of oppression.

Creation of a National Army

A strong body of opinion held that the federal government should not create a permanent national army.

US soldier
There was much opposition to the idea of creating a national army in the early Republic.

Instead, a national army should only be brought into existence when there were real foreign threats to the United States.

However, the Constitutional Convention of 1787 did grant the federal government authority to raise and maintain a national army.

The Right To Bear Arms

The arguments about exactly what it meant began as soon as the 2nd Amendment was ratified as part of the Bill of Rights on December 15, 1791. Some argued that as it specifically mentions ‘militias,’ then the right to bear arms only applied to those who were part of an organized militia.

The 2nd Amendment is interpreted to mean that every citizen has the right to bear arms.

Others argued that the right to bear arms applied to every citizen. This latter interpretation is the one in force today.

Interpreting the Second Amendment as a protection for individuals who wish to bear arms has led to much debate about how strictly the principle should be applied.

Powerful voices on both sides of the argument have spoken out.

Support for Gun Control

Those in favor of gun control argue that many gun owners are not fit to do so and that there should be more gun control and fewer gun rights.

Gun control protest
America is deeply divided on the issue of gun control.

They want a stricter vetting system so that those deemed to have criminal records or mental health problems are refused the right.

The Brady Bill of 1993 was a significant victory for them, as it introduced background checks on purchasers of handguns.

Opposition to Gun Control

Those who oppose gun control include the National Rifle Association, founded in 1871 and has been vociferous in campaigning for gun rights.

Sculpture of a pistol
The NRA has been unwavering on its stance on the 2nd Amendment.

Gun Ownership Legal Rulings

In 1886 the Supreme Court stated that the Second Amendment applied only to the federal government, and the individual states could control gun ownership. 

However, they later overturned this decision and ruled that neither the federal government nor the states could impose gun ownership restrictions and interfere with the Second Amendment protection of a citizen to own a weapon.

In doing this, they established the principle that self-defense was a basic human right and that gun ownership was a part of that right.

The Supreme Court did suggest areas where limitations were reasonable, and court cases continue to this day that challenges those suggestions.

United States Supreme Court
The United States Supreme Court has established that self-defense is basic human right.

Citizens Still Have the Right To Bear Arms

Gun rights supporters continue to enjoy the right to bear arms, despite many mass shootings, even with an assault weapon. 

These have outraged many citizens about gun safety. Still, supporters of gun ownership argue that gun control laws and gun regulation are an abuse of their constitutional rights and an individual’s right. 

Those constitutional rights to firearm possession remain in place, just as they have done since the eighteenth century.

22 Responses

  1. It is very simple! The words were chosen carefully and for good reason. The right of the people to bear arms was created to provide the people with a means of protecting themselves from anyone or anything that infringed upon their rights. Of life freedom and the PURSUIT of happiness. And in the beginning of the sentence it makes clear that the people not only can but is deemed NECESSARY to form a militia to protect a FREE state.
    It is clear the word ”state” is not limited to real property but also the people within. That means everyone.

    Nowhere does it say that we should be limited to the arms available at the present time or restricted from any particular newly invented firearms in the future. To do so will eliminate the peoples ability to defend.

    The only way to stop a bad person or people with a gun/arms is with a gun/arms of equal or greater efficiency.

    “These rights shall not be infringed”. . PERIOD

    American patriot, Phillip Trueblood

    1. Phillip,
      While we are not necessarily on opposite sides, there are statements in your argument that are nonsensical and don’t help the cause.
      Restricting “any particular newly invented firearms in the future. To do so will eliminate the peoples ability to defend.” Simply a false statement. Restricting me from owning a fully automatic weapon or a bazooka has not eliminated my ability to defend. My 12 gauge is quite sufficient for home defense and doesn’t endanger my neighbors, as an assault rifle with a 2200 ft/sec + muzzle velocity would. In public I can carry my concealed 45, for which I am licensed and trained. I personally choose not to for purely statistical reasons.
      “The only way to stop a bad person or people with a gun/arms is with a gun/arms of equal or greater efficiency.” This is an old, simple minded cliche that suggests if all “good” guys carried guns, “just in case”, that society would be safer. Decades of statistics, and evidence from virtually every nation on Earth (including super independence minded Australia), shows that this is simply not the case. More guns, widely distributed, has proven to result in a much more dangerous society. The numbers are there if you just take the time.

      1. The concept of an individual’s unfettered right to bear arms, ostensibly as set out in Article II of the Constitution, as envisioned by Its’ signatories, and as freely ignored and, moreover, referenced as the legal basis and authority for an argument to own and discharge one’s personal weapon against another for any perceived injustice against the person ranging from money and other exchange, and including but not limited to, intimacy with one’s partner, gang killings over thrusts for power and control, damage to one’s automobile, hostility resulting from drunken stupidity and/or drug intoxication, arguments over mask-wearing during a global pandemic, being compelled to wait in a line, squabbles related to purchasing gasoline, hating a cashier for doing her/his job, killing for a ‘laugh’, etc. contributes nothing to ‘We the People’, but rather creates a condition of civil war.

        In a nation founded on principles of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, where the judicial process and the Courts exist to adjudicate impropriety of conduct, internecine killing for vengeance is an absurdity of unimaginable proportions.

        Mr. Malone’s assertions and argument are well worth considering at length, inasmuch as his letter stands as an excellent starting point for the legislators to initiate practical, effective weapons control.

        One final point, if I may. Toronto is essentially gun-free. In a city of some 7.5 million people, we have suffered on the order of some 47 murders this year to date, shootings . How is this possible? Our freedom subsists on the desire to live in peace, and to treat each other with courtesy and respect.

        Would that my dear American nay-saying friends pick up on these two basic principles of freedom.

        Michael D. Pappas, C.E.T.

    2. I have a shotgun I’ve never fired. Clean it now again, rag’s & oil. Reminds me of my younger, more sure days as a young paratrooper. Did’nt have to fire a more deadly designed assault weapon. Had it ready and never shot less than 38. Knew that weapon better than my… I’d feel better if a very fundamental non-recorded class on basic firearms blah,blah. I’ve seen to many fantasy fubar rambos out and about to dismiss people’s concerns about “weapon” safety as an attempt to force me to rely upon another’s life and death decision. I wish..hold out two hands &….tough topic,

    3. The Second Amendment was written to appease “national government” skeptics with a guarantee that state militias were legally protected, so that the representatives of “slave state ” would sign the Constitution. The (mainly southern) state Democrats were not sold on the idea of a “Federal” assumption of power over residents of states, which might question growing opposition to the use of slave labor. The Civil War resolved the issue, and the 2nd Amendment is now meaningless.

      1. Ha ha. Wishful thinking John. 2nd amendment is alive and well. But it is Sad that only five of the nine judges in the Supreme Court will vote to protect this right.

    4. “It is clear the word “state” is not limited to real property but also to the people within. That means everyone”.
      Well as long as you were white. Slaves of course couldn’t own guns or any other weapon for that matter. In fact, part of the reasoning behind the 2nd Amendment was for white people in a state to put down slave revolts and insurrections, because it could take too long for the federal government to raise and dispatch troops to put it down. Hence the need for whites to have guns. Many southern states had slave patrols that were required of all able-bodied men age 18-40. They had to spend a couple of weeks a year going around to the forced labor camps (i.e. plantations) looking for weapons slaves might have hidden in their quarters.

  2. Criminals DO NOT obey the law!!! So, if we the law abiding citizens, have our right to bear arms taken away from us, we become defenseless! This must never happen! We must do everything in our power to make sure of it!

  3. The right to bear arms to keep a free state…We, in my opinion, are past the point where our laws and government have ceased to protect citizens from oppression. I think the reason the FBI goaded attack on Jan. 6th is being framed more harshly than the year of violence, destruction and murder in cities all across this country is to scare people from the constitutional duty to protect our freedom when the threat is from our own government. Every member of the three branches of government take a sworn oath…what they are now calling a “affirmation” to uphold the constitution and protect from foreign and domestic enemies. From day one of this administration is seems they’re doing the opposite. How long do we have before our currency is completely devalued, some cities are already distroyed…we have been humiliated and weakened on the global stage…and if it’s not glaringly obvious that someone besides our “elected” president is running the country now, you are blind. This..the second amendment is, or was, our stopgap to prevent things from ever getting to where we are now. If our Republican lawmakers won’t start pushing back with articles of impeachment, criminal charges(which there is evidence for so many) something! I personally am fed up with hearing the latest infraction and having zero done! Our lawmakers should not be above the law and they have to start being held accountable! I’m sure this will get me flagged and put on some list, but I don’t care. I live in America and I refuse to cower and act otherwise..we have free speech. I will exercise that right as long as I’m breathing.

  4. The Second Amendment is not so clearly defined, The gun loving public just leaps over this part… “A well-regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State” Time has taught us a very painful lesson, not everyone should be given the right to own a firearm. Those that are the most adamant about allowing any and all people gun ownership, probably should not own one themselves. Why would any rational individual be against stronger gun control? As a Marine Corps Viet Nam veteran I am 100% for taking a closer look at our existing laws both State and Federal.

    1. Once you allow any regulation, or modification, it’s just a matter of time until all your rights are taken. Ask Australia

      1. And…Let’s compare the mass homicides in the United States to those of Australia. You have the right to slaughter children with automatic weapons here in he USA.. That’s what you call freedom?

    2. A well- regulated militia, back then would be no different than a group of skeptical us citizens.. The anti- federalist are the ones who made majority of these well-regulated militia’s.. They didn’t want a strong federal government , they wanted a weak government, and stronger states, they had experienced firsthand by the British.. So we have to think of how it was back when it was written..The way ppl talked back then was different, plus they spoke and worded things according what they had experienced.. I don’t see how it benefits all these big cities who have gun free zones, all this does is make it easier for the criminals and in by doing this they cherry pick the constitution to fit their agenda.. This has been argued since it was written and will be till The Good Lord comes back.. Thanks for your service sir

  5. so how can the courts strip your gun rights away if you are found guilty on a felon charge. if its a nondangers charge. doesn’t the constitutioun over seed any law passed by the courts.

  6. I have only two questions for those that stand on the concept of unbridled ownership of any weapon or magazine of any size and that question is. ” Would you still feel the same if one the children that died in Uvalde Texas was your child?” “When you went in to the corner’s office to identify the tattered body of your child, would you still be able to go to the NRA and say thanks for allowing use to have military weapons and magazines without care or responsibility.

    1. Yes I would, I have 5 children and 10 grandchildren. Tell me if a drunk driver runs over one of your children and kills that child do you believe that the type of automobile or brand of alcohol should be outlawed. No, you would want that person prosecuted. Since there has been mass murders by automobiles over the years, cars are still legal and so is the consumption of alcoholic drinks. It’s the person that kills not the weapons even though the weapon is used to kill it’s the person that controls the weapon. When they outlaw alcohol and automobiles then I’ll give thought about guns.

      1. The sole purpose of guns is to cause injury or death, whether for food, murder, or self defense. Vehicle’s intended purpose is to get you from one place to another. There are regulations for the use of alcohol and vehicle. But it comes to guns, gun lovers think anyone should be able to have guns, whether they are responsible. So what is wrong with being responsible gun owners who can follow some reasonable rules to keep everyone safe?

        1. AMEN Zoe! And if I may add, in spite of all those regulations on alcohol and vehicles, there is obviously no shortage of either!!!!! Nor accessibility.

      2. Effectiveness of Mothers Against Drunk Driving; the MADD campaign has helped to get over 1,000 new laws involving alcohol passed on both a local and national level, including laws regarding server liability, the setting up of sobriety checkpoints, and raising the minimum drinking age. According to the CDC, since 1984, when the MLDA was changed to 21 years old, there has been a 16% decline in alcolhol related accidents. This was one of 1000 new laws put into place.
        The point being, as long as we make this an all-or-nothing conversation, we will continue to fail treacherously at protecting the unarmed citizens of this country from the constant and reckless threat of armed citizens.

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