NRA: No Second-Guessing the Second Amendment

Constitution of the United States

In 1776, America’s Founders came together in Philadelphia to draw up a “Declaration of Independence,” ending political ties to Great Britain. Written by Thomas Jefferson, the Declaration explains people’s rights and how people create governments:

WE hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness-That to secure these Rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just Powers from the Consent of the Governed.

By Robert Pew In modern English: We don’t get our rights from the government; we’re born with those rights, and the government should protect them. Eleven years later, after independence had been won, our Founders assembled once again to draw up a plan for governing the new nation. That plan became the Constitution of the United States of America.

Constitution of the United States During the debate over the Constitution, many Americans were worried that a strong federal government would trample on the individual rights of citizens, as the British had done. To protect the basic rights of Americans, the Founders added the first 10 amendments to the Constitution. Those amendments are known as the Bill of Rights. They represent the fundamental freedoms that are at the heart of our society, including the First Amendment freedoms of speech and religion, and the Second Amendment right of the people to keep and bear arms.

The meaning of the Second Amendment has been debated for decades. Does the Second Amendment protect an individual right for all Americans? Or does it only protect the right to keep and bear arms while participating in an organized force, such as the National Guard? Or does it only protect the “right” of the states to have a National Guard in the first place? Some people have claimed there was no individual right to keep and bear arms. However, anyone who understands the Declaration of Independence knows that rights-by definition-belong to individuals. And in the Bill of Rights, the freedoms of religion, freedom of speech and the rest all refer to individual liberties.

The Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms is no different. The first Congress had no doubt about its meaning. Most of the Founders were gun owners and hunters. George Washington and Thomas Jefferson exchanged letters about their gun collections. The Founders had just finished winning their freedoms with guns in their hands, and soon passed a law requiring most male citizens to own at least one gun and 30 rounds of ammunition. They believed citizens should be able to protect themselves and their country against attacks on life and liberty.

So, where did anyone get the idea that the Second Amendment doesn’t protect an individual right? That theory was invented in the 20th century, by people who rejected what seemed like common sense to our Founding Fathers. Instead, they claimed that the Second Amendment only protects the government.

Now, the Supreme Court has thrown out that idea.

In 1975, Washington, D.C. passed some of the most extreme gun laws in the nation. Handguns were banned. All guns had to be stored disassembled and locked, making them useless for self-defense. City leaders claimed it would make the city safer. But Washington’s murder rate soared, and our nation’s capital soon became known as America’s murder capital.

In 2003, a group of Washington residents filed a lawsuit challenging these harsh gun laws. They said that Washington’s gun laws violated the Second Amendment because the laws took away the right to use firearms for self-defense, even in their own homes.

The first court that heard the case said that D.C.’s laws were constitutional. The residents appealed, and the appeals court agreed that the laws violated the right to keep and bear arms, after all.

Now, the city appealed. By 2008, the case, which by then was known as D.C. vs. Heller, had gone to the Supreme Court. To make their decision, the Supreme Court justices studied the words and history of the Second Amendment. In a 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court agreed with the citizens: The Second Amendment protects an individual right, not a “state’s right.” The decision struck down the District’s laws that banned handguns and that kept people from using guns for self-defense in their homes.

No Supreme Court decision ever ends a political debate, though. Now, the NRA and citizens around the country are going to court to challenge states and cities with restrictive gun laws. But the landmark Heller decision provided a key answer to the most important part of the debate: The Second Amendment protects an individual right to keep and bear arms.

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Comments (27)

  1. The, 2 Amendment, is the “PRIMARY” Amendment to the, “BILL OF RIGHTS and the Constitution”….. Without this critical Amendment, all the others are just written lines on a piece of paper. It is this Amendment that requires and provides every American with the ability to “Support and Defend the Constitution of the United States Against All Enemies, Foreign or Domestic.” “Foreign enemies” are easily identified. It’s the “Domestic” ones that are the hardest to identify and combat against. These people use the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and the Supreme Court to deprive other Americans of their Civil Rights and to force their beliefs and ideals on them. When these people are allowed to modify, purposely misinterpret, and/or just totally ignore the Rights spelled out in the Constitution and Bill of Rights, it want be long before all your RIGHTS are gone…… Once these Rights are gone, the only way to get them back,is another revolution.

  2. So you think it is incompetence? I say it is agenda.
    Consider this:
    Does the First Amendment protect an individual right for all Americans? Or does it only protect the right to free speech while participating in an organized force, such as Planned Parenthood or Boy Scouts? Or does it only protect the “right” of the states to have a approved groups speak approvingly in the first place?
    This sounds silly. I merely exchanged the 2nd amendment terms with 1st amendment terms.
    The fact that SCOTUS almost always splits 4 conservative 3 liberal means aganda drives decisions.

  3. WE THE PEOPLE elect those who govern us and in the same respect, WE RETAIN THE RIGHT to remove such persons through impeachment or the ballot. WE ARE “the powers that be”. The American citizen. Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness are GUARANTEED ladies and gentlemen of this forum. I, as an American citizen, ensure these three through RESPONSIBLE firearms ownership and PARTICIPATION in the voting process, as well as membership in like-minded organizations such as the National Rifle Association and Texas State Rifle Association who keep an eye on politicians who seek to pervert our Constitution and Bill of Rights for their own agendas. If we fail to monitor those we have elected, we will no longer continue as a republic. I thank each of you for your opinion as you have shown through participation you cherish your rights too, to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. God Bless America and God Bless Texas!

    1. very true and if all else fails through force. that is also why it was written. an unalienable right is a right that can not be given or taken away. it appears to me that we have already exceeded the control we have given the government and they appear to want to control us. government needs to be reduced. for instance they war on what ever strikes their fancy. take drugs another war that will never be won and should have never started. it is no ones business what i do until i am hurting someone else. my life and my decisions not my uncle sam’s.controlling me is not freedom and has caused more crime and accomplished nothing.

  4. We’ve been brainwashed into believing that only people in robes and politicians have the ability to “interpret” the Constitution. Our Founding Fathers wrote it so that the average citizen can understand it.
    It’s up to us to let our Government know that we will not allow them to pervert the Constitution.

  5. ‘1. read Thomas Paine’s ‘Common Sense’ [Jan 1776] and its affect on the 2nd Continental Congress [we were at war with GB since Apr 1775 but still considered ourselves British]
    2. Jun, 1776 the 2CC selected a committee including Ben Franklin, John Adams and young whippersnapper named Thomas Jefferson [33 at the time]
    3. the task to write the Declaration of Independence fell upon Jefferson…he ‘borrowed’ concepts from John Locke, Jean Rousseau and Baron de Montesque about a new radical concept called the Social Contract i[also elaborated upon in ‘Common Sense’]…ultimate authority for government comes from the people [individuals not the state] and the people give up some of their individual rights to the government in exchange for the absolute protection of individual Life, Liberty and Property [Locke’s words] or Pursuit of Happiness [Jefferson’s words]
    4. The Declaration of Independence IS the Social Contract; and the government violated the contract repeatedly [para 2] and therefore had no authority to govern the People [read it, don’t assume you know it]
    5. when the Constitution was written some 12 years later [the Ultimate law not ordinary law] and ratified by 3/4’s of the State governments [closest to the people] an immediate argument began by the Anti-Federalists. They could not believe that there was no Bill of Rights….rights that protect the people, the individual, from an abusive central government.
    6. the Federalists countered with the Federalist Papers [read them]
    7. James Madison [the Father of the Constitution] finally agreed the first order of business by the 1st Congress of the US was to write the Bill of Rights, the 1st ten amendments to the Constitution, which guaranteed the rights of the people protected from a potentially tyrannical government…our Social Contract…the 2nd Amendment IS and individual right.

    Read…case closed…revisionist history is a fable

    Also, every officer of the United States and the of the 50 states take an oath to the Constitution…everyone who took this oath [all executive [police], legislative and judicial officers] are bound by this sacred oath to the people that they serve…’to support and defend the Constitution of the United States…’

    Infringement of these rights is a clear violation of the oath to the people whom the government serve and protect.

  6. I should also being pointed out, that the 2nd Amendment has no “qualifiers” or “exceptions” written into it, as to who can or cannot “keep and bear Arms”.

    And because the 2nd is part of the Constitution, it is the “supreme Law of the Land”. – Article VI, paragraph 2

  7. If anyone thinks that it has never been necessary for the citizenry of the USA to use firearms to protect themselves from government tyranny they are not knowledgeable of at least one instance that occurred within the past 75 years; I refer to the Battle of Athens, TN. For those who are not familiar with the subject, you can become highly informed by googling “Battle of Athens Tennessee.”

  8. The right of THE PEOPLE we the citizens of the United States are the “PEOPLE ” mentioned in the 2nd amendment and our rights are not up for negotiation or interpretation

  9. Of those who argue that the 2nd amendment does not give an individual right to citizens, most of the intellectuals (judges included), know full well that their arguments are directly opposed to the constitution. The may firmly believe that you don’t need a gun, but regardless of that, they believe that the common folk are too stupid to be allowed to take care of themselves. Thus they think you will believe their specious arguments. Tis similar to the NAZI’s proclaiming that the Jews were the descendants of apes and pigs. They knew it was obvious bs, but if it degraded the opposition and they got their way, that was all that counted to them.

  10. Bear with me here… The Constitution is not speaking to the people; but instead is the people speaking to the then – newly forming government.

    It is the essential rulebook written by the “People” containing our conditions and requirements that MUST be followed for the establishment and operation of this government, and for all the years that followed.

    It is nothing short of incompetence by anyone in government for failing to understand the Constitution was designed to limit their authority. After all, that was the entire point in writing it. We did it this way especially because we had just freed ourselves from a tyrannical king.

    So, keeping in-mind that every single thing written into the Constitution and its Amendments are exclusively for the purpose of instructing the government on its limitation of power over individuals, it should have been impossible for the Second Amendment to have ever become so misunderstood.

    Aside from easily manipulated liberal sheeple, I submit then that our Second Amendment has never really been “misunderstood”, but instead has had its true meaning perverted by corruptible judges and politicians with nefarious motives focused on disarming citizens in order to shift the power.

    It is utterly disgusting – the billions of tax dollars and private moneys forced to be spent defending the Second Amendment – when all along anyone with half a brain knows what it really says.

    1. Paraphrase. “The Constitution is the People telling Govt what it can do.”

      I have never considered the concept that way, and I applaud the way you lay it out!

    2. Mike Watkins,

      And I thank you for taking the time to read what I wrote, and more so the time spent for you to comment about it.

      If there were more folks such as you, the Constitution would be better understood and never questioned as it is today.

  11. dprato; You mean until taxes reached such a level. The government hasn’t given us anything. It’s all our money.

    1. I have no idea what you are talking about nor the reference to anything I have said on this article. Perhaps you ought to offer a better explanation for your comment.

  12. Too bad the judiciary doesn’t always see it the same way. Decisions by the 4th and 9th Cir. Courts demonstrate either unbelieveable ignorance or active subversion of the Heller decision. And what of the 4 justices that opposed the ruling? Who corrects their beliefs?

  13. for the benefit of ALL GUNNERS, i recommend getting a copy of:THE BILL OF RIGHTS-ORIGINAL MEANING AND CURRENT UNDERSTANDING, edited by Eugene W Hickok Jr., chapter 9.—-THE ORIGINAL UNDERSTANDING OF THE 2ND AMENDMENT. a lot of very smart people took a lot of time to discuss these topics. WE THE INDIVIDUAL HAVE THE RIGHT. WE THE PEOPLE should not have to continue demanding, what has already been decided, LONG BEFORE ANY OF US WERE BORN. IMHO.

    1. When I was in School and learning about the growth of the United States of America, I was taught the Constitution, the Bill of Rights and the unadulterated meanings of the words contained. WHO gave the political “geniuses” the right to twist meanings and words to suit their agenda? WHO is sitting on their haunches allowing this to happen ?? DRAIN THE SWAMP and get rid of the greedy and power mongers that are attempting a take over. WAKE THE HELL UP AMERICA !!!

  14. Another item that no one seems to ever really mention was this. Obviously many of the folks who first settled this Country from foreign countries brought firearms with them for protection and hunting. So from the earliest beginning of the settling of this Country firearms were a necessity. Even before there was a USA and we were still Colonies in order to belong to a militia you had to own your own firearm as there was no one who furnished you with one. If you didn’t have a firearm you could not really serve in the local militia unless you supplied your own gun, ball and powder. So militia’s were only in existence if they had the people who had the firearms first. Even after the Constitution was written that was still the case and early militia members still had to furnish their own arms until Governments evolved to furnish them for them. Up until the civil war many of the troops that fought for the North or South were in essence State militia’s designated by and furnished by their respective States. So in this case firearm ownership preceded the ability to have a militia and therefore tying the requirement to own a gun to being in a militia is historically incorrect. It was the other way around.

    1. I agree with what you say on principle, that firearms ownership preceded joining the militia. But also I believe the concept of “militia” predates the invention of firearms by millennia. Militia being an ad hoc band of citizens of a locality, formed to defend against an outside threat. As opposed to a standing army which exists even in peaceful times when no immediate need for an armed force exists.

      Clubs, knives, spears, bows, crossbows, and firearms, in succession, have served as militia weapons.

    2. I think if you reread my comment it had nothing to do with your concept of militias. My reference was specifically to firearms being brought over to this Country by foreign explorers for protection and hunting and that firearms were here before militias per se were formed in this settlements developed. If you didn’t have a firearm you could not be in the militia. I doubt that there were many settlers who carried bows, etc. My comment had nothing to do with what may have evolved outside this Country or outside of the context of the 2nd Amendment and the wording in the Constitution.

  15. The wording of the 2nd amendment leaves NO DOUBT as to what it meant then and still means today, and will as long as we have the Bill of Rights. The right to KEEP and bear arms is not just referring to wartime. If it were, the wording would have been very different in definition of wartime and definitely would not have been worded to KEEP and bear arms. The “powers that be” need to stop trying to twist this amendment to suit their own agendas.

    1. it has nothing to do with the bill of rights. those things are unalienable or are the rights everyone is born with. the bill of rights was just to state those rights so no body would be confuse about them. the rights cannot be give or taken away from you. of course our government has taken a lot of those rights and wants more it seems.our government wants conformists not individuals. the only problem with that is process comes from individuals not conformists. when everyone thinks and reacts the same, how do you do something better.

    1. If you read the Federalist Papers you will see that the founders had observed and were worried about the government not following the constitution i.e. tyranny. The 2nd amendment was put forth for the citizens to have the ability to overthrown the government in the event of tyranny. They were not addressing protection from neighbors or the ability to hunt.

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