The Right to Bear Arms

The Second Amendment ranks among the most contentious provisions in the Constitution. It simply 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.” The question remains: Does that mean individuals have an inviolable right to possess a gun, or does it simply mean that states have the right to create an armed militia?

The Third Amendment, which prohibits government quartering of soldiers in private homes, can be viewed as a corollary to the Second Amendment. Madison included it because during the Revolutionary War, British soldiers frequently commandeered citizens' homes against their will. The framers did not want the states or federal government doing the same.

Gun owners and their powerful lobbying group, the National Rifle Association (NRA), contend that citizens have an absolute right to bear arms. Many states and the federal government have enacted laws restricting gun ownership, which the courts have upheld. The courts have reasoned that the framers intended for the Second Amendment to allow states to continue having armed militias (remember, state militias won the Revolutionary War), and not to give individuals an inviolable right to a gun.

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