Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution - Bill of Rights

"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."

Preservation and Proposition

Our mission is to document the pivotal Second Amendment events that occurred in Frontier Mercersburg, and its environs, and to heighten awareness of the importance of these events in the founding of our Nation.

We are dedicated to the preservation of the place where the Second Amendment was "born" and to the proposition that the Second Amendment (the "right to bear arms") is the keystone of our Liberty and the Republic.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Are 2nd Amendment rights absolute?

By Chuck Sweeny - 2/13/2013

Gun advocates tell me the amendment “means what it says,” in other words, it’s an absolute statement. But its application isn’t absolute. It’s complicated.

Here’s what it says: “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 founders assumed that the amendment guaranteed an individual right. In recent decades, gun-control advocates have contended the amendment is no longer relevant because our professional Armed Forces guarantee the nation’s security.

In 2008, the U.S. Supreme Court decided to interpret the right to keep and bear arms when it heard a case called Heller v. Washington, D.C., in which a man challenged that city’s ban on handgun possession. Mr. Heller, a special police officer whose job was to guard a federal building, tried to get a city permit to keep a handgun in his home; he was denied.
Heller lost his case at the U.S. District Court level, but the D.C. Court of Appeals reversed the decision, agreeing with Heller.

The Supreme Court affirmed 5-4 that the amendment does guarantee an individual’s right to keep and bear firearms. In his majority opinion, Justice Antonin Scalia said the Second Amendment, like the first and fourth, recognized a natural right that existed prior to the Constitution. The well-regulated militia consisted of armed men, coming together as a militia, to guard against an all-powerful central government, should one ever arise.

The D.C. Court of Appeals decision that the Supreme Court upheld framed the issue in its political and historical context: “The militia comprised all males physically capable of acting in concert for the common defense. The antifederalists feared that the federal government would disarm the people in order to disable this citizens’ militia, enabling a politicized standing army or a select militia to rule. The response was to deny Congress the power to abridge the ancient right of individuals to keep and bear arms, so that the ideal of a citizens’ militia would be preserved.”

But the Supreme Court also held that the amendment’s right to keep and bear arms is not absolute.

As Scott A. Hendrickson, J.D., Ph.D., of Creighton University explained in the Omaha World Herald, Scalia also said, “Like most rights, the right secured by the Second Amendment is not unlimited.”

Said Hendrickson, “Scalia went on to note that the opinion should not be read to ‘cast doubt’ on laws prohibiting gun possession by certain individuals, forbidding the carrying of guns in sensitive places or laws imposing conditions on the commercial sale of guns. The court also hinted that limitations on ‘dangerous and unusual weapons’ might pass constitutional muster.”

Scalia was correct. Most rights do have their limits. The First Amendment won’t protect you from prosecution if you yell “Fire!” in a crowded theater. The Fourth Amendment won’t protect you from all searches and seizures, just “unreasonable” ones.

But for those gun-control advocates who contend that the Second Amendment is obsolete because it was written when firearms were single-shot muskets, then they must agree that the First Amendment guarantee to free speech is obsolete, too, because in 1789 the Internet, TV and radio hadn’t been invented.

I am among the 85 percent to 90 percent of Americans who think it is constitutional to require criminal background checks on everyone who buys a gun at a gun shop, a gun show, or from a private seller. No exceptions. The NRA used to advocate this, but it has flip-flopped.

The government should also greatly increase funding for mental health services. We need better record-sharing to make sure dangerously mentally ill people are never allowed to buy guns. Let’s “throw the book” at people who sell guns to criminals.

The daily slaughter on the streets of Chicago should be declared a national emergency. Gov. Pat Quinn should send in the Illinois National Guard to protect residents of gang-infested neighborhoods and root out the thugs.

Banning certain types of semi-automatic weapon because they look scary will only allow politicians to say they’ve “done something.” Most gun crimes are committed with handguns. Instead, let’s limit ammo clips to 10 rounds, as our president has suggested.

Senior Editor Chuck Sweeny: 815-987-1366;; @chucksweeny

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