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Second Amendment | Wex Legal Dictionary / Encyclopedia …

The Second Amendment of the United States Constitution reads: “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.” Such language has created considerable debate regarding the Amendment’s intended scope. On the one hand, some believe that the Amendment’s phrase “the right of the people to keep and bear Arms” creates an individual constitutional right for citizens of the United States. Under this “individual right theory,” the United States Constitution restricts legislative bodies from prohibiting firearm possession, or at the very least, the Amendment renders prohibitory and restrictive regulation presumptively unconstitutional. On the other hand, some scholars point to the prefatory language “a well regulated Militia” to argue that the Framers intended only to restrict Congress from legislating away a state’s right to self-defense. Scholars have come to call this theory “the collective rights theory.” A collective rights theory of the Second Amendment asserts that citizens do not have an individual right to possess guns and that local, state, and federal legislative bodies therefore possess the authority to regulate firearms without implicating a constitutional right.

In 1939 the U.S. Supreme Court considered the matter in United States v. Miller. 307 U.S. 174. The Court adopted a collective rights approach in this case, determining that Congress could regulate a sawed-off shotgun that had moved in interstate commerce under the National Firearms Act of 1934 because the evidence did not suggest that the shotgun “has some reasonable relationship to the preservation or efficiency of a well regulated milita . . . .” The Court then explained that the Framers included the Second Amendment to ensure the effectiveness of the military.

This precedent stood for nearly 70 years when in 2008 the U.S. Supreme Court revisited the issue in the case of District of Columbia v. Heller (07-290). The plaintiff in Heller challenged the constitutionality of the Washington D.C. handgun ban, a statute that had stood for 32 years. Many considered the statute the most stringent in the nation. In a 5-4 decision, the Court, meticulously detailing the history and tradition of the Second Amendment at the time of the Constitutional Convention, proclaimed that the Second Amendment established an individual right for U.S. citizens to possess firearms and struck down the D.C. handgun ban as violative of that right. The majority carved out Miller as an exception to the general rule that Americans may possess firearms, claiming that law-abiding citizens cannot use sawed-off shotguns for any law-abiding purpose. Similarly, the Court in its dicta found regulations of similar weaponry that cannot be used for law-abiding purposes as laws that would not implicate the Second Amendment. Further, the Court suggested that the United States Constitution would not disallow regulations prohibiting criminals and the mentally ill from firearm possession.

Thus, the Supreme Court has revitalized the Second Amendment. The Court continued to strengthen the Second Amendment through the 2010 decision inMcDonald v. City of Chicago(08-1521). The plaintiff inMcDonaldchallenged the constitutionally of the Chicago handgun ban, which prohibited handgun possession by almost all private citizens. In a 5-4 decisions, the Court, citing the intentions of the framers and ratifiers of the Fourteenth Amendment, held that the Second Amendment applies to the states through theincorporation doctrine.However, the Court did not have a majority on which clause of the Fourteenth Amendment incorporates the fundamental right to keep and bear arms for the purpose of self-defense. While Justice Alito and his supporters looked to the Due Process Clause, Justice Thomas in his concurrence stated that the Privileges and Immunities Clause should justify incorporation.

However, several questions still remain unanswered, such as whether regulations less stringent than the D.C. statute implicate the Second Amendment, whether lower courts will apply their dicta regarding permissible restrictions, andwhat level of scrutiny the courts should apply when analyzing a statute that infringes on the Second Amendment. As a general note, when analyzing statutes and ordinances, courts use three levels of scrutiny, depending on the issue at hand:

Recent lower-court case law since Heller suggests that courts are willing to uphold

More recently, the Supreme Court reinforced its Hellerruling in itsCaetano v. Massachusetts(2016) decision. The Court found that the lower “Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court was wrong in the three reasons it offered for why the state could ban personal possession or use of a stun gun without violating the Second Amendment.” The Supreme Court, however, remanded the case without further instructions, so this per curiam ruling did not do much to further clarify the Supreme Court’s stance on the Second Amendment.

See constitutional amendment.

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Second Amendment | Wex Legal Dictionary / Encyclopedia …

Second Amendment legal definition of Second Amendment

The Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution reads:

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 subject matter and unusual phrasing of this amendment led to much controversy and analysis, especially in the last half of the twentieth century. Nevertheless, the meaning and scope of the amendment have long been decided by the Supreme Court.

Firearms played an important part in the colonization of America. In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, European colonists relied heavily on firearms to take land away from Native Americans and repel attacks by Native Americans and Europeans. Around the time of the Revolutionary War, male citizens were required to own firearms for fighting against the British forces. Firearms were also used in hunting.

In June 1776, one month before the signing of the Declaration of Independence, Virginia became the first colony to adopt a state constitution. In this document, the state of Virginia pronounced that “a well regulated Militia, composed of the body of the people, trained to arms, is the proper, natural, and safe defence of a free State.” After the colonies declared their independence from England, other states began to include the right to bear arms in their constitution. Pennsylvania, for example, declared that

the people have a right to bear arms for the defence of themselves and the state; and as standing armies in the time of peace are dangerous to liberty, they ought not to be kept up; And that the military should be kept under strict subordination to, and governed by, the civil power.

The wording of clauses about bearing arms in late-eighteenth-century state constitutions varied. Some states asserted that bearing arms was a “right” of the people, whereas others called it a “duty” of every able-bodied man in the defense of society.

Pennsylvania was not alone in its express discouragement of a standing (professional) army. Many of the Framers of the U.S. Constitution rejected standing armies, preferring instead the model of a citizen army, equipped with weapons and prepared for defense. According to Framers such as Elbridge Gerry of Massachusetts and George Mason of Virginia a standing army was susceptible to tyrannical use by a power-hungry government.

At the first session of Congress in March 1789, the Second Amendment was submitted as a counterweight to the federal powers of Congress and the president. According to constitutional theorists, the Framers who feared a central government extracted the amendment as a compromise from those in favor of centralized authority over the states. The Revolutionary War had, after all, been fought in large part by a citizen army against the standing armies of England.

The precise wording of the amendment was changed two times before the U.S. Senate finally cast it in its present form. As with many of the amendments, the exact wording proved critical to its interpretation.

In 1791 a majority of states ratified the Bill of Rights, which included the Second Amendment. In its final form, the amendment presented a challenge to interpreters. It was the only amendment with an opening clause that appeared to state its purpose. The amendment even had defective punctuation; the comma before shall seemed grammatically unnecessary.

Legal scholars do not agree about this comma. Some have argued that it was intentional and that it was intended to make militia the subject of the sentence. According to these theorists, the operative words of the amendment are “[a] well regulated Militia shall not be infringed.” Others have argued that the comma was a mistake, and that the operative words of the sentence are “the right of the people to bear arms shall not be infringed.” Under this reading, the first part of the sentence is the rationale for the absolute, personal right of the people to own firearms. Indeed, the historical backdrophighlighted by a general disdain for professional armieswould seem to support this theory.

Some observers argue further that the Second Amendment grants the right of insurrection. According to these theorists, the Second Amendment was designed to allow citizens to rebel against the government. Thomas Jefferson is quoted as saying that “a little rebellion every now and then is a good thing.”

The Supreme Court makes the ultimate determination of the Constitution’s meaning, and it has defined the amendment as simply granting to the states the right to maintain a militia separate from federally controlled militias. This interpretation first came in United States v. Cruikshank, 92 U.S. 542, 23 L. Ed. 588 (1875). In Cruikshank, approximately one hundred persons were tried jointly in a Louisiana federal court with felonies in connection with an April 13, 1873, assault on two AfricanAmerican men. One of the criminal counts charged that the mob intended to hinder the right of the two men to bear arms. The defendants were convicted by a jury, but the circuit court arrested the judgment, effectively overturning the verdict. In affirming that decision, the Supreme Court declared that “the second amendment means no more than that [the right to bear arms] shall not be infringed by Congress, and has no other effect than to restrict the powers of the national government.”

In Presser v. Illinois, 116 U.S. 252, 6 S. Ct. 580, 29 L. Ed. 615 (1886), Herman Presser was charged in Illinois state court with parading and drilling an unauthorized militia in the streets of Chicago in December 1879, in violation of certain sections of the Illinois Military Code. One of the sections in question prohibited the organization, drilling, operation, and parading of militias other than U.S. troops or the regular organized volunteer militia of the state. Presser was tried by the judge, convicted, and ordered to pay a fine of $10. On appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, Presser argued, in part, that the charges violated his Second Amendment right to bear arms. The Court disagreed and upheld Presser’s conviction. The Court cited Cruikshank for the proposition that the Second Amendment means only that the federal government may not infringe on the right of states to form their own militias. This meant that the Illinois state law forbidding citizen militias was not unconstitutional. However, in its opinion, the Court in Presser delivered a reading of the Second Amendment that seemed to suggest an absolute right of persons to bear arms: “It is undoubtedly true that all citizens capable of bearing arms constitute the reserved military force or reserve militia of the United States,” and “states cannot prohibit the people from keeping and bearing arms.”

Despite this generous language, the Court refused to incorporate the Second Amendment into the Fourteenth Amendment. Under the first section of the Fourteenth Amendment, passed in 1868, states may not abridge the Privileges and Immunities of citizens of the United States. The privileges and immunities of citizens are listed in the Bill of Rights, of which the Second Amendment is part. Presser had argued that states may not, by virtue of the Fourteenth Amendment, abridge the right to bear arms. The Court refused to accept the argument that the right to bear arms is a personal right of the people. According to the Court, “The right to drill or parade with arms, without, and independent of, an act of congress or law of the state authorizing the same, is not an attribute of national citizenship.”

The Presser opinion is best understood in its historical context. The Northern states and the federal government had just fought the Civil War against Southern militias unauthorized by the federal government. After this ordeal, the Supreme Court was in no mood to accept an expansive right to bear arms. At the same time, the Court was sensitive to the subject of federal encroachment on States’ Rights.

Private militias are armed military groups that are composed of private citizens and not recognized by federal or state governments. Private militias have been formed by individuals in America since the colonial period. In fact, the Revolutionary War against England was fought in part by armies comprising not professional soldiers but ordinary male citizens.

Approximately half the states maintain laws regulating private militias. Generally, these laws prohibit the parading and exercising of armed private militias in public, but do not forbid the formation of private militias. In Wyoming, however, state law forbids the very formation of private militias. Under section 19-1-106 of the Wyoming Statutes, “No body of men other than the regularly organized national guard or the troops of the United States shall associate themselves together as a military company or organization, or parade in public with arms without license of the governor.” The Wyoming law also prohibits the public funding of private militias. Anyone convicted of violating the provisions of the law is subject to a fine of not more than $1,000, imprisonment of six months, or both, for each offense.

In states that do not outlaw them, private militias are limited only by the criminal laws applicable to all of society. Thus, if an armed private militia seeks to parade and exercise in a public area, its members will be subject to arrest on a variety of laws, including disturbing-the-peace, firearms, or even riot statutes.

Many private militias are driven by the insurrection theory of the Second Amendment. Under this view, the Second Amendment grants an unconditional right to bear arms for Self-Defense and for rebellion against a tyrannical governmentwhen a government turns oppressive, private citizens have a duty to “insurrect,” or take up arms against it.

The U.S. Supreme Court has issued a qualified rejection of the insurrection theory. According to the Court in Dennis v. United States, 341 U.S. 494, 71 S. Ct. 857, 95 L. Ed. 1137 (1951), “[W]hatever theoretical merit there may be to the argument that there is a ‘right’ to rebellion against dictatorial governments is without force where the existing structure of the government provides for peaceful and orderly change.” Scholars have interpreted this to mean that as long as the government provides for free elections and trials by jury, private citizens have no right to take up arms against the government.

Some people have disagreed with the Supreme Court’s definition of tyranny. Many of these people label the state and federal governments as tyrannical based on issues such as taxes and government regulations. Others cite governments ponsored racial and ethnic Integration as driving forces in their campaign against the federal and state governments. Many of these critics have formed private militias designed to resist perceived government oppression.

Some private militias have formed their own government. The legal problems of these private militias are generally unrelated to military activities. Instead, any criminal charges usually arise from activities associated with their political beliefs. The Freemen of Montana is one such militia. This group denied the legitimacy of the federal government and created its own township called Justus. The Freemen established its own court system, posted bounties for the arrest of police officers and judges, and held seminars on how to challenge laws its members viewed as beyond the scope of the Constitution. According to neighbors, the group also established its own common-law court system and built its own jail for the imprisonment of trespassers and government workers, or “public hirelings.”

In the 1990s, the Freemen came to the attention of federal prosecutors after members of the group allegedly wrote worthless checks and money orders to pay taxes and to defraud banks and credit card companies. One Freeman had also allegedly threatened a federal judge, and some had allegedly refused to pay taxes for at least a decade.

In March 1996, law enforcement officials obtained warrants for the arrest of many of the Freemen. However, remembering the violence that occurred when officials attempted to serve arrest warrants on another armed group in Waco, Texas, in 1993, law enforcement authorities did not invade the Freemen’s 960-acre ranch in Jordan, Montana. Although the Freemen constituted an armed challenge to all government authority, its beliefs and its military activities were not illegal, and most of its members were charged with nonviolent crimes, such as Fraud and related conspiracy. Two men were also charged with threatening public officials. In addition, several Freemen faced charges of criminal syndicalism, which is the advocacy of violence for political goals.

Amar, Akhil Reed. 2002. “Second Thoughts.” Law and Contemporary Problems 65 (spring).

Barry, Monica Sue. 1996. “Stockpiling Weapons: Can Private Militias Receive Protection under the First and Second Amendments?” Thomas Jefferson Law Review 18 (spring).

Hardaway, Robert, Elizabeth Gormley, and Bryan Taylor. 2002. “The Inconvenient Militia Clause of the Second Amendment: Why the Supreme Court Declines to Resolve the Debate over the Right to Bear Arms.” St. John’s Journal of Legal Commentary 16 (winter).

Dennis v. United States.

Several decades later, the Supreme Court ignored the contradictory language in Presser and cemented a limited reading of the Second Amendment. In United States v. Miller, 307 U.S. 174, 59 S. Ct. 816, 83 L. Ed. 1206 (1939), defendants Jack Miller and Frank Layton were charged in federal court with unlawful transportation of firearms in violation of certain sections of the National Firearms Act of June 26, 1934 (ch. 757, 48 Stat. 12361240 [26 U.S.C.A. 1132 et seq.]). Specifically, Miller and Layton had transported shotguns with barrels less than 18 inches long, without the registration required under the act.

The district court dismissed the indictment, holding that the act violated the Second Amendment. The United States appealed. The Supreme Court reversed the decision and sent the case back to the trial court. The Supreme Court stated that the Second Amendment was fashioned “to assure the continuation and render possible the effectiveness of militia forces.”

The Miller opinion confirmed the restrictive language of Presser and solidified a narrow reading of the Second Amendment. According to the Court in Miller, the Second Amendment does not guarantee the right to own a firearm unless the possession or use of the firearm has “a reasonable relationship to the preservation or efficiency of a well regulated militia.”

The legislative measures that inspire most Second Amendment discussions are Gun Control laws. Since the mid-nineteenth century, state legislatures have been passing laws that infringe a perceived right to bear arms. Congress has also asserted the power to regulate firearms. No law regulating firearms has ever been struck down by the Supreme Court as a violation of the Second Amendment.

Historically, the academic community has largely ignored the Second Amendment. However, gun control laws have turned many laypersons into scholars of the Second Amendment’s history. The arguments for a broader interpretation are many and varied. Most center on the Original Intent of the Framers. Some emphasize that the Second Amendment should be interpreted as granting an unconditional personal right to bear arms for defensive and sporting purposes. Others adhere to an insurrection theory, under which the Second Amendment not only grants the personal right to bear arms, it gives citizens the right to rebel against a government perceived as tyrannical.

In response to these arguments, supporters of the prevailing Second Amendment interpretation maintain that any right to bear arms should be secondary to concerns for public safety. They also point out that other provisions in the Constitution grant power to Congress to quell insurrections, thus contradicting the insurrection theory. Lastly, they argue that the Constitution should be interpreted in accordance with a changing society and that the destructive capability of semiautomatic and automatic firearms was not envisioned by the Framers.

In response to the last argument, critics maintain that because such firearms exist, it should be legal to use them against violent criminals who are themselves wielding such weapons.

In the 2000s, federal courts continue to revisit the scope and detail of the Second Amendment right to bear arms. In particular federal courts have recast much of the debate as one over whether the Second Amendment protects a “collective” right or an “individual” right to bear arms. If the Second Amendment protects only a collective right, then only states would have the power to bring a legal action to enforce it and only for the purpose of maintaining a “well-regulated militia.” If the Second Amendment protects only an individual right to bear arms, then only individuals could bring suit to challenge gun-control laws that curb their liberty to buy, sell, own, or possess firearms and other guns.

Not surprisingly, courts are conflicted over how to resolve this debate. In United States v. Emerson, 270 F.3d 203 (5th Cir. 2001), the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit found that the original intent of the Founding Fathers supported an individual-rights interpretation of the Second Amendment, while the Ninth Circuit came to the opposite conclusion in Nordyke v. King, 319 F.3d 1185 (9th Cir. 2003). Although no court has concluded that the original intent underlying the Second Amendment supports a claim for both an individual- and a collective rights based interpretation of the right to bear arms, the compelling historical arguments marshaled on both sides of the debate would suggest that another court faced with the same debate may reach such a conclusion.

Amar, Akhil Reed. 1992. “The Bill of Rights and the Fourteenth Amendment.” Yale Law Journal 101 (April).

Becker, Edward R. 1997. “The Second Amendment and Other Federal Constitutional Rights of the Private Militia.” Montana Law Review 58 (winter).

Bogus, Carl T., ed. 2000. The Second Amendment in Law and History: Historians and Constitutional Scholars on the Right to Bear Arms. New York: New Press.

Dolan, Edward F., and Margaret M. Scariano. 1994. Guns in the United States. New York: Watts.

Dunlap, Charles J., Jr. 1995. “Revolt of the Masses: Armed Civilians and the Insurrectionary Theory of the Second Amendment.” Tennessee Law Review 62 (spring).

Hanson, Freya Ottem. 1998. The Second Amendment: The Right to Own Guns. Springfield, N.J.: Enslow.

Hook, Donald D. 1992. Gun Control: The Continuing Debate. Washington, D.C.: Second Amendment Foundation.

Hoppin, Jason. 2003. “Ninth Circuit Upholds Controversial Ruling on Second Amendment.” Legal Intelligencer (May 8).

. 2003. “Second Amendment Fight Steals Show in Gun Ban Case: Panel Enters Fray over Individual Rights.” San Francisco Recorder (February 19).

McAffee, Thomas B. 1997. “Constitutional Limits on Regulating Private Militia Groups.” Montana Law Review 58 (winter).

Gun Control.

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Second Amendment legal definition of Second Amendment

Second Amendment | Wex Legal Dictionary / Encyclopedia …

The Second Amendment of the United States Constitution reads: “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.” Such language has created considerable debate regarding the Amendment’s intended scope. On the one hand, some believe that the Amendment’s phrase “the right of the people to keep and bear Arms” creates an individual constitutional right for citizens of the United States. Under this “individual right theory,” the United States Constitution restricts legislative bodies from prohibiting firearm possession, or at the very least, the Amendment renders prohibitory and restrictive regulation presumptively unconstitutional. On the other hand, some scholars point to the prefatory language “a well regulated Militia” to argue that the Framers intended only to restrict Congress from legislating away a state’s right to self-defense. Scholars have come to call this theory “the collective rights theory.” A collective rights theory of the Second Amendment asserts that citizens do not have an individual right to possess guns and that local, state, and federal legislative bodies therefore possess the authority to regulate firearms without implicating a constitutional right.

In 1939 the U.S. Supreme Court considered the matter in United States v. Miller. 307 U.S. 174. The Court adopted a collective rights approach in this case, determining that Congress could regulate a sawed-off shotgun that had moved in interstate commerce under the National Firearms Act of 1934 because the evidence did not suggest that the shotgun “has some reasonable relationship to the preservation or efficiency of a well regulated milita . . . .” The Court then explained that the Framers included the Second Amendment to ensure the effectiveness of the military.

This precedent stood for nearly 70 years when in 2008 the U.S. Supreme Court revisited the issue in the case of District of Columbia v. Heller (07-290). The plaintiff in Heller challenged the constitutionality of the Washington D.C. handgun ban, a statute that had stood for 32 years. Many considered the statute the most stringent in the nation. In a 5-4 decision, the Court, meticulously detailing the history and tradition of the Second Amendment at the time of the Constitutional Convention, proclaimed that the Second Amendment established an individual right for U.S. citizens to possess firearms and struck down the D.C. handgun ban as violative of that right. The majority carved out Miller as an exception to the general rule that Americans may possess firearms, claiming that law-abiding citizens cannot use sawed-off shotguns for any law-abiding purpose. Similarly, the Court in its dicta found regulations of similar weaponry that cannot be used for law-abiding purposes as laws that would not implicate the Second Amendment. Further, the Court suggested that the United States Constitution would not disallow regulations prohibiting criminals and the mentally ill from firearm possession.

Thus, the Supreme Court has revitalized the Second Amendment. The Court continued to strengthen the Second Amendment through the 2010 decision inMcDonald v. City of Chicago(08-1521). The plaintiff inMcDonaldchallenged the constitutionally of the Chicago handgun ban, which prohibited handgun possession by almost all private citizens. In a 5-4 decisions, the Court, citing the intentions of the framers and ratifiers of the Fourteenth Amendment, held that the Second Amendment applies to the states through theincorporation doctrine.However, the Court did not have a majority on which clause of the Fourteenth Amendment incorporates the fundamental right to keep and bear arms for the purpose of self-defense. While Justice Alito and his supporters looked to the Due Process Clause, Justice Thomas in his concurrence stated that the Privileges and Immunities Clause should justify incorporation.

However, several questions still remain unanswered, such as whether regulations less stringent than the D.C. statute implicate the Second Amendment, whether lower courts will apply their dicta regarding permissible restrictions, andwhat level of scrutiny the courts should apply when analyzing a statute that infringes on the Second Amendment. As a general note, when analyzing statutes and ordinances, courts use three levels of scrutiny, depending on the issue at hand:

Recent lower-court case law since Heller suggests that courts are willing to uphold

More recently, the Supreme Court reinforced its Hellerruling in itsCaetano v. Massachusetts(2016) decision. The Court found that the lower “Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court was wrong in the three reasons it offered for why the state could ban personal possession or use of a stun gun without violating the Second Amendment.” The Supreme Court, however, remanded the case without further instructions, so this per curiam ruling did not do much to further clarify the Supreme Court’s stance on the Second Amendment.

See constitutional amendment.

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Second Amendment | Wex Legal Dictionary / Encyclopedia …

Amendment II – The United States Constitution

The right to keep and bear arms is a lot like the right to freedom of speech. In each case, the Constitution expressly protects a liberty that needs to be insulated from the ordinary political process. Neither right, however, is absolute. The First Amendment, for example, has never protected perjury, fraud, or countless other crimes that are committed through the use of speech. Similarly, no reasonable person could believe that violent criminals should have unrestricted access to guns, or that any individual should possess a nuclear weapon.

Inevitably, courts must draw lines, allowing government to carry out its duty to preserve an orderly society, without unduly infringing the legitimate interests of individuals in expressing their thoughts and protecting themselves from criminal violence. This is not a precise science or one that will ever be free from controversy.

One judicial approach, however, should be unequivocally rejected. During the nineteenth century, courts routinely refused to invalidate restrictions on free speech that struck the judges as reasonable. This meant that speech got virtually no judicial protection. Government suppression of speech can usually be thought to serve some reasonable purpose, such as reducing social discord or promoting healthy morals. Similarly, most gun control laws can be viewed as efforts to save lives and prevent crime, which are perfectly reasonable goals. If thats enough to justify infringements on individual liberty, neither constitutional guarantee means much of anything.

During the twentieth century, the Supreme Court finally started taking the First Amendment seriously. Today, individual freedom is generally protected unless the government can make a strong case that it has a real need to suppress speech or expressive conduct, and that its regulations are tailored to that need. The legal doctrines have become quite complex, and there is room for disagreement about many of the Courts specific decisions. Taken as a whole, however, this body of case law shows what the Court can do when it appreciates the value of an individual right enshrined in the Constitution.

The Second Amendment also raises issues about which reasonable people can disagree. But if the Supreme Court takes this provision of the Constitution as seriously as it now takes the First Amendment, which it should do, there will be some easy issues as well.

District of Columbia v. Heller (2008) is one example. The right of the people protected by the Second Amendment is an individual right, just like the right[s] of the people protected by the First and Fourth Amendments. The Constitution does not say that the Second Amendment protects a right of the states or a right of the militia, and nobody offered such an interpretation during the Founding era. Abundant historical evidence indicates that the Second Amendment was meant to leave citizens with the ability to defend themselves against unlawful violence. Such threats might come from usurpers of governmental power, but they might also come from criminals whom the government is unwilling or unable to control.

McDonald v. City of Chicago (2010) was also an easy case under the Courts precedents. Most other provisions of the Bill of Rights had already been applied to the states because they are deeply rooted in this Nations history and tradition. The right to keep and bear arms clearly meets this test.

The text of the Constitution expressly guarantees the right to bear arms, not just the right to keep them. The courts should invalidate regulations that prevent law-abiding citizens from carrying weapons in public, where the vast majority of violent crimes occur. First Amendment rights are not confined to the home, and neither are those protected by the Second Amendment.

Nor should the government be allowed to create burdensome bureaucratic obstacles designed to frustrate the exercise of Second Amendment rights. The courts are vigilant in preventing government from evading the First Amendment through regulations that indirectly abridge free speech rights by making them difficult to exercise. Courts should exercise the same vigilance in protecting Second Amendment rights.

Some other regulations that may appear innocuous should be struck down because they are little more than political stunts. Popular bans on so-called assault rifles, for example, define this class of guns in terms of cosmetic features, leaving functionally identical semi-automatic rifles to circulate freely. This is unconstitutional for the same reason that it would violate the First Amendment to ban words that have a French etymology, or to require that French fries be called freedom fries.

In most American states, including many with large urban population centers, responsible adults have easy access to ordinary firearms, and they are permitted to carry them in public. Experience has shown that these policies do not lead to increased levels of violence. Criminals pay no more attention to gun control regulations than they do to laws against murder, rape, and robbery. Armed citizens, however, prevent countless crimes and have saved many lives. Whats more, the most vulnerable peopleincluding women, the elderly, and those who live in high crime neighborhoodsare among the greatest beneficiaries of the Second Amendment. If the courts require the remaining jurisdictions to stop infringing on the constitutional right to keep and bear arms, their citizens will be more free and probably safer as well.

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Amendment II – The United States Constitution

Second Amendment legal definition of Second Amendment

The Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution reads:

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 subject matter and unusual phrasing of this amendment led to much controversy and analysis, especially in the last half of the twentieth century. Nevertheless, the meaning and scope of the amendment have long been decided by the Supreme Court.

Firearms played an important part in the colonization of America. In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, European colonists relied heavily on firearms to take land away from Native Americans and repel attacks by Native Americans and Europeans. Around the time of the Revolutionary War, male citizens were required to own firearms for fighting against the British forces. Firearms were also used in hunting.

In June 1776, one month before the signing of the Declaration of Independence, Virginia became the first colony to adopt a state constitution. In this document, the state of Virginia pronounced that “a well regulated Militia, composed of the body of the people, trained to arms, is the proper, natural, and safe defence of a free State.” After the colonies declared their independence from England, other states began to include the right to bear arms in their constitution. Pennsylvania, for example, declared that

the people have a right to bear arms for the defence of themselves and the state; and as standing armies in the time of peace are dangerous to liberty, they ought not to be kept up; And that the military should be kept under strict subordination to, and governed by, the civil power.

The wording of clauses about bearing arms in late-eighteenth-century state constitutions varied. Some states asserted that bearing arms was a “right” of the people, whereas others called it a “duty” of every able-bodied man in the defense of society.

Pennsylvania was not alone in its express discouragement of a standing (professional) army. Many of the Framers of the U.S. Constitution rejected standing armies, preferring instead the model of a citizen army, equipped with weapons and prepared for defense. According to Framers such as Elbridge Gerry of Massachusetts and George Mason of Virginia a standing army was susceptible to tyrannical use by a power-hungry government.

At the first session of Congress in March 1789, the Second Amendment was submitted as a counterweight to the federal powers of Congress and the president. According to constitutional theorists, the Framers who feared a central government extracted the amendment as a compromise from those in favor of centralized authority over the states. The Revolutionary War had, after all, been fought in large part by a citizen army against the standing armies of England.

The precise wording of the amendment was changed two times before the U.S. Senate finally cast it in its present form. As with many of the amendments, the exact wording proved critical to its interpretation.

In 1791 a majority of states ratified the Bill of Rights, which included the Second Amendment. In its final form, the amendment presented a challenge to interpreters. It was the only amendment with an opening clause that appeared to state its purpose. The amendment even had defective punctuation; the comma before shall seemed grammatically unnecessary.

Legal scholars do not agree about this comma. Some have argued that it was intentional and that it was intended to make militia the subject of the sentence. According to these theorists, the operative words of the amendment are “[a] well regulated Militia shall not be infringed.” Others have argued that the comma was a mistake, and that the operative words of the sentence are “the right of the people to bear arms shall not be infringed.” Under this reading, the first part of the sentence is the rationale for the absolute, personal right of the people to own firearms. Indeed, the historical backdrophighlighted by a general disdain for professional armieswould seem to support this theory.

Some observers argue further that the Second Amendment grants the right of insurrection. According to these theorists, the Second Amendment was designed to allow citizens to rebel against the government. Thomas Jefferson is quoted as saying that “a little rebellion every now and then is a good thing.”

The Supreme Court makes the ultimate determination of the Constitution’s meaning, and it has defined the amendment as simply granting to the states the right to maintain a militia separate from federally controlled militias. This interpretation first came in United States v. Cruikshank, 92 U.S. 542, 23 L. Ed. 588 (1875). In Cruikshank, approximately one hundred persons were tried jointly in a Louisiana federal court with felonies in connection with an April 13, 1873, assault on two AfricanAmerican men. One of the criminal counts charged that the mob intended to hinder the right of the two men to bear arms. The defendants were convicted by a jury, but the circuit court arrested the judgment, effectively overturning the verdict. In affirming that decision, the Supreme Court declared that “the second amendment means no more than that [the right to bear arms] shall not be infringed by Congress, and has no other effect than to restrict the powers of the national government.”

In Presser v. Illinois, 116 U.S. 252, 6 S. Ct. 580, 29 L. Ed. 615 (1886), Herman Presser was charged in Illinois state court with parading and drilling an unauthorized militia in the streets of Chicago in December 1879, in violation of certain sections of the Illinois Military Code. One of the sections in question prohibited the organization, drilling, operation, and parading of militias other than U.S. troops or the regular organized volunteer militia of the state. Presser was tried by the judge, convicted, and ordered to pay a fine of $10. On appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, Presser argued, in part, that the charges violated his Second Amendment right to bear arms. The Court disagreed and upheld Presser’s conviction. The Court cited Cruikshank for the proposition that the Second Amendment means only that the federal government may not infringe on the right of states to form their own militias. This meant that the Illinois state law forbidding citizen militias was not unconstitutional. However, in its opinion, the Court in Presser delivered a reading of the Second Amendment that seemed to suggest an absolute right of persons to bear arms: “It is undoubtedly true that all citizens capable of bearing arms constitute the reserved military force or reserve militia of the United States,” and “states cannot prohibit the people from keeping and bearing arms.”

Despite this generous language, the Court refused to incorporate the Second Amendment into the Fourteenth Amendment. Under the first section of the Fourteenth Amendment, passed in 1868, states may not abridge the Privileges and Immunities of citizens of the United States. The privileges and immunities of citizens are listed in the Bill of Rights, of which the Second Amendment is part. Presser had argued that states may not, by virtue of the Fourteenth Amendment, abridge the right to bear arms. The Court refused to accept the argument that the right to bear arms is a personal right of the people. According to the Court, “The right to drill or parade with arms, without, and independent of, an act of congress or law of the state authorizing the same, is not an attribute of national citizenship.”

The Presser opinion is best understood in its historical context. The Northern states and the federal government had just fought the Civil War against Southern militias unauthorized by the federal government. After this ordeal, the Supreme Court was in no mood to accept an expansive right to bear arms. At the same time, the Court was sensitive to the subject of federal encroachment on States’ Rights.

Private militias are armed military groups that are composed of private citizens and not recognized by federal or state governments. Private militias have been formed by individuals in America since the colonial period. In fact, the Revolutionary War against England was fought in part by armies comprising not professional soldiers but ordinary male citizens.

Approximately half the states maintain laws regulating private militias. Generally, these laws prohibit the parading and exercising of armed private militias in public, but do not forbid the formation of private militias. In Wyoming, however, state law forbids the very formation of private militias. Under section 19-1-106 of the Wyoming Statutes, “No body of men other than the regularly organized national guard or the troops of the United States shall associate themselves together as a military company or organization, or parade in public with arms without license of the governor.” The Wyoming law also prohibits the public funding of private militias. Anyone convicted of violating the provisions of the law is subject to a fine of not more than $1,000, imprisonment of six months, or both, for each offense.

In states that do not outlaw them, private militias are limited only by the criminal laws applicable to all of society. Thus, if an armed private militia seeks to parade and exercise in a public area, its members will be subject to arrest on a variety of laws, including disturbing-the-peace, firearms, or even riot statutes.

Many private militias are driven by the insurrection theory of the Second Amendment. Under this view, the Second Amendment grants an unconditional right to bear arms for Self-Defense and for rebellion against a tyrannical governmentwhen a government turns oppressive, private citizens have a duty to “insurrect,” or take up arms against it.

The U.S. Supreme Court has issued a qualified rejection of the insurrection theory. According to the Court in Dennis v. United States, 341 U.S. 494, 71 S. Ct. 857, 95 L. Ed. 1137 (1951), “[W]hatever theoretical merit there may be to the argument that there is a ‘right’ to rebellion against dictatorial governments is without force where the existing structure of the government provides for peaceful and orderly change.” Scholars have interpreted this to mean that as long as the government provides for free elections and trials by jury, private citizens have no right to take up arms against the government.

Some people have disagreed with the Supreme Court’s definition of tyranny. Many of these people label the state and federal governments as tyrannical based on issues such as taxes and government regulations. Others cite governments ponsored racial and ethnic Integration as driving forces in their campaign against the federal and state governments. Many of these critics have formed private militias designed to resist perceived government oppression.

Some private militias have formed their own government. The legal problems of these private militias are generally unrelated to military activities. Instead, any criminal charges usually arise from activities associated with their political beliefs. The Freemen of Montana is one such militia. This group denied the legitimacy of the federal government and created its own township called Justus. The Freemen established its own court system, posted bounties for the arrest of police officers and judges, and held seminars on how to challenge laws its members viewed as beyond the scope of the Constitution. According to neighbors, the group also established its own common-law court system and built its own jail for the imprisonment of trespassers and government workers, or “public hirelings.”

In the 1990s, the Freemen came to the attention of federal prosecutors after members of the group allegedly wrote worthless checks and money orders to pay taxes and to defraud banks and credit card companies. One Freeman had also allegedly threatened a federal judge, and some had allegedly refused to pay taxes for at least a decade.

In March 1996, law enforcement officials obtained warrants for the arrest of many of the Freemen. However, remembering the violence that occurred when officials attempted to serve arrest warrants on another armed group in Waco, Texas, in 1993, law enforcement authorities did not invade the Freemen’s 960-acre ranch in Jordan, Montana. Although the Freemen constituted an armed challenge to all government authority, its beliefs and its military activities were not illegal, and most of its members were charged with nonviolent crimes, such as Fraud and related conspiracy. Two men were also charged with threatening public officials. In addition, several Freemen faced charges of criminal syndicalism, which is the advocacy of violence for political goals.

Amar, Akhil Reed. 2002. “Second Thoughts.” Law and Contemporary Problems 65 (spring).

Barry, Monica Sue. 1996. “Stockpiling Weapons: Can Private Militias Receive Protection under the First and Second Amendments?” Thomas Jefferson Law Review 18 (spring).

Hardaway, Robert, Elizabeth Gormley, and Bryan Taylor. 2002. “The Inconvenient Militia Clause of the Second Amendment: Why the Supreme Court Declines to Resolve the Debate over the Right to Bear Arms.” St. John’s Journal of Legal Commentary 16 (winter).

Dennis v. United States.

Several decades later, the Supreme Court ignored the contradictory language in Presser and cemented a limited reading of the Second Amendment. In United States v. Miller, 307 U.S. 174, 59 S. Ct. 816, 83 L. Ed. 1206 (1939), defendants Jack Miller and Frank Layton were charged in federal court with unlawful transportation of firearms in violation of certain sections of the National Firearms Act of June 26, 1934 (ch. 757, 48 Stat. 12361240 [26 U.S.C.A. 1132 et seq.]). Specifically, Miller and Layton had transported shotguns with barrels less than 18 inches long, without the registration required under the act.

The district court dismissed the indictment, holding that the act violated the Second Amendment. The United States appealed. The Supreme Court reversed the decision and sent the case back to the trial court. The Supreme Court stated that the Second Amendment was fashioned “to assure the continuation and render possible the effectiveness of militia forces.”

The Miller opinion confirmed the restrictive language of Presser and solidified a narrow reading of the Second Amendment. According to the Court in Miller, the Second Amendment does not guarantee the right to own a firearm unless the possession or use of the firearm has “a reasonable relationship to the preservation or efficiency of a well regulated militia.”

The legislative measures that inspire most Second Amendment discussions are Gun Control laws. Since the mid-nineteenth century, state legislatures have been passing laws that infringe a perceived right to bear arms. Congress has also asserted the power to regulate firearms. No law regulating firearms has ever been struck down by the Supreme Court as a violation of the Second Amendment.

Historically, the academic community has largely ignored the Second Amendment. However, gun control laws have turned many laypersons into scholars of the Second Amendment’s history. The arguments for a broader interpretation are many and varied. Most center on the Original Intent of the Framers. Some emphasize that the Second Amendment should be interpreted as granting an unconditional personal right to bear arms for defensive and sporting purposes. Others adhere to an insurrection theory, under which the Second Amendment not only grants the personal right to bear arms, it gives citizens the right to rebel against a government perceived as tyrannical.

In response to these arguments, supporters of the prevailing Second Amendment interpretation maintain that any right to bear arms should be secondary to concerns for public safety. They also point out that other provisions in the Constitution grant power to Congress to quell insurrections, thus contradicting the insurrection theory. Lastly, they argue that the Constitution should be interpreted in accordance with a changing society and that the destructive capability of semiautomatic and automatic firearms was not envisioned by the Framers.

In response to the last argument, critics maintain that because such firearms exist, it should be legal to use them against violent criminals who are themselves wielding such weapons.

In the 2000s, federal courts continue to revisit the scope and detail of the Second Amendment right to bear arms. In particular federal courts have recast much of the debate as one over whether the Second Amendment protects a “collective” right or an “individual” right to bear arms. If the Second Amendment protects only a collective right, then only states would have the power to bring a legal action to enforce it and only for the purpose of maintaining a “well-regulated militia.” If the Second Amendment protects only an individual right to bear arms, then only individuals could bring suit to challenge gun-control laws that curb their liberty to buy, sell, own, or possess firearms and other guns.

Not surprisingly, courts are conflicted over how to resolve this debate. In United States v. Emerson, 270 F.3d 203 (5th Cir. 2001), the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit found that the original intent of the Founding Fathers supported an individual-rights interpretation of the Second Amendment, while the Ninth Circuit came to the opposite conclusion in Nordyke v. King, 319 F.3d 1185 (9th Cir. 2003). Although no court has concluded that the original intent underlying the Second Amendment supports a claim for both an individual- and a collective rights based interpretation of the right to bear arms, the compelling historical arguments marshaled on both sides of the debate would suggest that another court faced with the same debate may reach such a conclusion.

Amar, Akhil Reed. 1992. “The Bill of Rights and the Fourteenth Amendment.” Yale Law Journal 101 (April).

Becker, Edward R. 1997. “The Second Amendment and Other Federal Constitutional Rights of the Private Militia.” Montana Law Review 58 (winter).

Bogus, Carl T., ed. 2000. The Second Amendment in Law and History: Historians and Constitutional Scholars on the Right to Bear Arms. New York: New Press.

Dolan, Edward F., and Margaret M. Scariano. 1994. Guns in the United States. New York: Watts.

Dunlap, Charles J., Jr. 1995. “Revolt of the Masses: Armed Civilians and the Insurrectionary Theory of the Second Amendment.” Tennessee Law Review 62 (spring).

Hanson, Freya Ottem. 1998. The Second Amendment: The Right to Own Guns. Springfield, N.J.: Enslow.

Hook, Donald D. 1992. Gun Control: The Continuing Debate. Washington, D.C.: Second Amendment Foundation.

Hoppin, Jason. 2003. “Ninth Circuit Upholds Controversial Ruling on Second Amendment.” Legal Intelligencer (May 8).

. 2003. “Second Amendment Fight Steals Show in Gun Ban Case: Panel Enters Fray over Individual Rights.” San Francisco Recorder (February 19).

McAffee, Thomas B. 1997. “Constitutional Limits on Regulating Private Militia Groups.” Montana Law Review 58 (winter).

Gun Control.

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Second Amendment legal definition of Second Amendment

John Paul Stevens: Repeal the Second Amendment

During the years when Warren Burger was our chief justice, from 1969 to 1986, no judge, federal or state, as far as I am aware, expressed any doubt as to the limited coverage of that amendment. When organizations like the National Rifle Association disagreed with that position and began their campaign claiming that federal regulation of firearms curtailed Second Amendment rights, Chief Justice Burger publicly characterized the N.R.A. as perpetrating one of the greatest pieces of fraud, I repeat the word fraud, on the American public by special interest groups that I have ever seen in my lifetime.

In 2008, the Supreme Court overturned Chief Justice Burgers and others long-settled understanding of the Second Amendments limited reach by ruling, in District of Columbia v. Heller, that there was an individual right to bear arms. I was among the four dissenters.

That decision which I remain convinced was wrong and certainly was debatable has provided the N.R.A. with a propaganda weapon of immense power. Overturning that decision via a constitutional amendment to get rid of the Second Amendment would be simple and would do more to weaken the N.R.A.s ability to stymie legislative debate and block constructive gun control legislation than any other available option.

That simple but dramatic action would move Saturdays marchers closer to their objective than any other possible reform. It would eliminate the only legal rule that protects sellers of firearms in the United States unlike every other market in the world. It would make our schoolchildren safer than they have been since 2008 and honor the memories of the many, indeed far too many, victims of recent gun violence.

An earlier version of a picture caption with this article misidentified the 18th-century firearm depicted. It is a musket, not a rifle.

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John Paul Stevens: Repeal the Second Amendment

Amendment II – The United States Constitution

The right to keep and bear arms is a lot like the right to freedom of speech. In each case, the Constitution expressly protects a liberty that needs to be insulated from the ordinary political process. Neither right, however, is absolute. The First Amendment, for example, has never protected perjury, fraud, or countless other crimes that are committed through the use of speech. Similarly, no reasonable person could believe that violent criminals should have unrestricted access to guns, or that any individual should possess a nuclear weapon.

Inevitably, courts must draw lines, allowing government to carry out its duty to preserve an orderly society, without unduly infringing the legitimate interests of individuals in expressing their thoughts and protecting themselves from criminal violence. This is not a precise science or one that will ever be free from controversy.

One judicial approach, however, should be unequivocally rejected. During the nineteenth century, courts routinely refused to invalidate restrictions on free speech that struck the judges as reasonable. This meant that speech got virtually no judicial protection. Government suppression of speech can usually be thought to serve some reasonable purpose, such as reducing social discord or promoting healthy morals. Similarly, most gun control laws can be viewed as efforts to save lives and prevent crime, which are perfectly reasonable goals. If thats enough to justify infringements on individual liberty, neither constitutional guarantee means much of anything.

During the twentieth century, the Supreme Court finally started taking the First Amendment seriously. Today, individual freedom is generally protected unless the government can make a strong case that it has a real need to suppress speech or expressive conduct, and that its regulations are tailored to that need. The legal doctrines have become quite complex, and there is room for disagreement about many of the Courts specific decisions. Taken as a whole, however, this body of case law shows what the Court can do when it appreciates the value of an individual right enshrined in the Constitution.

The Second Amendment also raises issues about which reasonable people can disagree. But if the Supreme Court takes this provision of the Constitution as seriously as it now takes the First Amendment, which it should do, there will be some easy issues as well.

District of Columbia v. Heller (2008) is one example. The right of the people protected by the Second Amendment is an individual right, just like the right[s] of the people protected by the First and Fourth Amendments. The Constitution does not say that the Second Amendment protects a right of the states or a right of the militia, and nobody offered such an interpretation during the Founding era. Abundant historical evidence indicates that the Second Amendment was meant to leave citizens with the ability to defend themselves against unlawful violence. Such threats might come from usurpers of governmental power, but they might also come from criminals whom the government is unwilling or unable to control.

McDonald v. City of Chicago (2010) was also an easy case under the Courts precedents. Most other provisions of the Bill of Rights had already been applied to the states because they are deeply rooted in this Nations history and tradition. The right to keep and bear arms clearly meets this test.

The text of the Constitution expressly guarantees the right to bear arms, not just the right to keep them. The courts should invalidate regulations that prevent law-abiding citizens from carrying weapons in public, where the vast majority of violent crimes occur. First Amendment rights are not confined to the home, and neither are those protected by the Second Amendment.

Nor should the government be allowed to create burdensome bureaucratic obstacles designed to frustrate the exercise of Second Amendment rights. The courts are vigilant in preventing government from evading the First Amendment through regulations that indirectly abridge free speech rights by making them difficult to exercise. Courts should exercise the same vigilance in protecting Second Amendment rights.

Some other regulations that may appear innocuous should be struck down because they are little more than political stunts. Popular bans on so-called assault rifles, for example, define this class of guns in terms of cosmetic features, leaving functionally identical semi-automatic rifles to circulate freely. This is unconstitutional for the same reason that it would violate the First Amendment to ban words that have a French etymology, or to require that French fries be called freedom fries.

In most American states, including many with large urban population centers, responsible adults have easy access to ordinary firearms, and they are permitted to carry them in public. Experience has shown that these policies do not lead to increased levels of violence. Criminals pay no more attention to gun control regulations than they do to laws against murder, rape, and robbery. Armed citizens, however, prevent countless crimes and have saved many lives. Whats more, the most vulnerable peopleincluding women, the elderly, and those who live in high crime neighborhoodsare among the greatest beneficiaries of the Second Amendment. If the courts require the remaining jurisdictions to stop infringing on the constitutional right to keep and bear arms, their citizens will be more free and probably safer as well.

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Amendment II – The United States Constitution

Democrat suggests ‘Second Amendment’ remedy vs. Trump …

A New York Democratic congressman is being accused of promoting violence against President Trump after suggesting during a town hall that citizens may have to take up arms against the president if he doesnt follow the law.

I mean, this is where the Second Amendment comes in quite frankly, because you know, what if the president was to ignore the courts? What would you do? What would we do? Rep. Tom Suozzi, D-N.Y., said during a March 12 Q&A session with constituents in Huntington, on Long Island.

Its really a matter of putting public pressure on the president, he said.

The exchange was captured on a Facebook Live stream.

New York Democratic Rep. Tom Suozzi made the “Second Amendment” comment about Trump during a March 12 town hall meeting.(Screengrab from Facebook Live video)

After Suozzi referenced the Second Amendment, a constituent asked him to explain the amendment.

The Second Amendment is the right to bear arms, the Democrat said. Thats why we have it.

Republicans are accusing Suozzi of promoting violence.

“I mean, this is where the Second Amendment comes in quite frankly,” said New York Democratic Rep. Tom Suozzi.

“When resistance and obstruction don’t work out, Tom Suozzi proposes violence, National Republican Congressional Committee spokesman Chris Martin said in a statement. He’s completely out of touch.”

A spokesperson for Suozzi denied that the congressman was calling for “armed insurrection” against Trump.

Taking a page from such great Americans as Thomas Jefferson, James Madison and Alexander Hamilton, Congressman Suozzi explained why our founding fathers created the Second Amendment as a way for citizens to fight back against a tyrannical government that does not follow the rule of law,”senior adviser Kim Devlin said in a Monday statement to Fox News.

Devlin added: “To suggest his comments meant anything else or that he was advocating for an armed insurrection against the existing president is both irresponsible and ridiculous.

Suozzi made the comment about the Second Amendment when a constituent asked him a question about Trump and the United States constitutional system of checks and balances.

Suozzi predicted the issue could be going to the courts as well.

Suozzi, who served as Nassau County executive from 2002 to 2009, was elected to Congress in 2016 and is seeking re-election this fall.

Alex Pappas is a politics reporter at FoxNews.com. Follow him on Twitter at @AlexPappas.

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Democrat suggests ‘Second Amendment’ remedy vs. Trump …

Congressman suggests Second Amendment as means of opposing …

A Democratic congressman from Long Island implied that Americans should grab weapons and oppose President Trump by force, if the commander-in-chief doesnt follow the Constitution.

Rep. Tom Suozzi made the remark to constituents at a town hall last week, saying that folks opposed to Trump might resort to the Second Amendment.

Its really a matter of putting public pressure on the president, Suozzi said in a newly released video of the March 12 talk in Huntington. This is where the Second Amendment comes in, quite frankly, because you know, what if the president was to ignore the courts? What would you do? What would we do?

A listener then blurts out, Whats the Second Amendment?

The left-leaning Democrat says, The Second Amendment is the right to bear arms.

The spectators laughed some nervously. Republicans were not amused.

This video is incredibly disturbing. Its surreal to watch a sitting member of Congress suggest that his constituents should take up arms against the president of the United States, said National Republican Campaign Committee spokesman Chris Martin.

Suozzi political adviser Kim Devlin denied the pol was advocating for an armed insurrection.

But the Suozzi campaign at the same time seemed to double down on the comments, as they forwarded a line penned by Thomas Jefferson that called for armed resistance.

What country can preserve its liberties if their rulers are not warned from time to time that their people preserve the spirit of resistance. Let them take arms, the quote said.

Suozzis comment seems to conflict with his recent push for gun control following the Parkland, Florida, school shooting.

Suozzi even participated in the March 14 student walkout for gun control outside the US Capitol and called on the young people of his district to back tightened gun laws.

I think we should engage the high school students of #NY03, and all of Long Island, to promote gun violence prevention legislation, he said in a Feb. 21 tweet.

Trump himself has in the past used language similar to Suozzis. During the 2016 campaign, he told a crowd at a rally in North Carolina that if Hillary Clinton were elected and able to nominate a Supreme Court justice, there would be nothing that gun supporters could do. He then added: Although the Second Amendment people maybe there is, I dont know.

The remark was widely seen as a veiled call for violence, though Trump denied that was his meaning.

Suozzi, a first-term congressman elected in 2016, is seeking re-election this fall. He formerly served as Nassau County executive.

He is expected to easily win the Democratic primary and face GOP challenger Dan Debono, a former US Navy SEAL, in the general election.

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Congressman suggests Second Amendment as means of opposing …

Congressman suggests Second Amendment as means of opposing …

A Democratic congressman from Long Island implied that Americans should grab weapons and oppose President Trump by force, if the commander-in-chief doesnt follow the Constitution.

Rep. Tom Suozzi made the remark to constituents at a town hall last week, saying that folks opposed to Trump might resort to the Second Amendment.

Its really a matter of putting public pressure on the president, Suozzi said in a newly released video of the March 12 talk in Huntington. This is where the Second Amendment comes in, quite frankly, because you know, what if the president was to ignore the courts? What would you do? What would we do?

A listener then blurts out, Whats the Second Amendment?

The left-leaning Democrat says, The Second Amendment is the right to bear arms.

The spectators laughed some nervously. Republicans were not amused.

This video is incredibly disturbing. Its surreal to watch a sitting member of Congress suggest that his constituents should take up arms against the president of the United States, said National Republican Campaign Committee spokesman Chris Martin.

Suozzi political adviser Kim Devlin denied the pol was advocating for an armed insurrection.

But the Suozzi campaign at the same time seemed to double down on the comments, as they forwarded a line penned by Thomas Jefferson that called for armed resistance.

What country can preserve its liberties if their rulers are not warned from time to time that their people preserve the spirit of resistance. Let them take arms, the quote said.

Suozzis comment seems to conflict with his recent push for gun control following the Parkland, Florida, school shooting.

Suozzi even participated in the March 14 student walkout for gun control outside the US Capitol and called on the young people of his district to back tightened gun laws.

I think we should engage the high school students of #NY03, and all of Long Island, to promote gun violence prevention legislation, he said in a Feb. 21 tweet.

Trump himself has in the past used language similar to Suozzis. During the 2016 campaign, he told a crowd at a rally in North Carolina that if Hillary Clinton were elected and able to nominate a Supreme Court justice, there would be nothing that gun supporters could do. He then added: Although the Second Amendment people maybe there is, I dont know.

The remark was widely seen as a veiled call for violence, though Trump denied that was his meaning.

Suozzi, a first-term congressman elected in 2016, is seeking re-election this fall. He formerly served as Nassau County executive.

He is expected to easily win the Democratic primary and face GOP challenger Dan Debono, a former US Navy SEAL, in the general election.

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Congressman suggests Second Amendment as means of opposing …

Second Amendment | Wex Legal Dictionary / Encyclopedia …

The Second Amendment of the United States Constitution reads: “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.” Such language has created considerable debate regarding the Amendment’s intended scope. On the one hand, some believe that the Amendment’s phrase “the right of the people to keep and bear Arms” creates an individual constitutional right for citizens of the United States. Under this “individual right theory,” the United States Constitution restricts legislative bodies from prohibiting firearm possession, or at the very least, the Amendment renders prohibitory and restrictive regulation presumptively unconstitutional. On the other hand, some scholars point to the prefatory language “a well regulated Militia” to argue that the Framers intended only to restrict Congress from legislating away a state’s right to self-defense. Scholars have come to call this theory “the collective rights theory.” A collective rights theory of the Second Amendment asserts that citizens do not have an individual right to possess guns and that local, state, and federal legislative bodies therefore possess the authority to regulate firearms without implicating a constitutional right.

In 1939 the U.S. Supreme Court considered the matter in United States v. Miller. 307 U.S. 174. The Court adopted a collective rights approach in this case, determining that Congress could regulate a sawed-off shotgun that had moved in interstate commerce under the National Firearms Act of 1934 because the evidence did not suggest that the shotgun “has some reasonable relationship to the preservation or efficiency of a well regulated milita . . . .” The Court then explained that the Framers included the Second Amendment to ensure the effectiveness of the military.

This precedent stood for nearly 70 years when in 2008 the U.S. Supreme Court revisited the issue in the case of District of Columbia v. Heller (07-290). The plaintiff in Heller challenged the constitutionality of the Washington D.C. handgun ban, a statute that had stood for 32 years. Many considered the statute the most stringent in the nation. In a 5-4 decision, the Court, meticulously detailing the history and tradition of the Second Amendment at the time of the Constitutional Convention, proclaimed that the Second Amendment established an individual right for U.S. citizens to possess firearms and struck down the D.C. handgun ban as violative of that right. The majority carved out Miller as an exception to the general rule that Americans may possess firearms, claiming that law-abiding citizens cannot use sawed-off shotguns for any law-abiding purpose. Similarly, the Court in its dicta found regulations of similar weaponry that cannot be used for law-abiding purposes as laws that would not implicate the Second Amendment. Further, the Court suggested that the United States Constitution would not disallow regulations prohibiting criminals and the mentally ill from firearm possession.

Thus, the Supreme Court has revitalized the Second Amendment. The Court continued to strengthen the Second Amendment through the 2010 decision inMcDonald v. City of Chicago(08-1521). The plaintiff inMcDonaldchallenged the constitutionally of the Chicago handgun ban, which prohibited handgun possession by almost all private citizens. In a 5-4 decisions, the Court, citing the intentions of the framers and ratifiers of the Fourteenth Amendment, held that the Second Amendment applies to the states through theincorporation doctrine.However, the Court did not have a majority on which clause of the Fourteenth Amendment incorporates the fundamental right to keep and bear arms for the purpose of self-defense. While Justice Alito and his supporters looked to the Due Process Clause, Justice Thomas in his concurrence stated that the Privileges and Immunities Clause should justify incorporation.

However, several questions still remain unanswered, such as whether regulations less stringent than the D.C. statute implicate the Second Amendment, whether lower courts will apply their dicta regarding permissible restrictions, andwhat level of scrutiny the courts should apply when analyzing a statute that infringes on the Second Amendment. As a general note, when analyzing statutes and ordinances, courts use three levels of scrutiny, depending on the issue at hand:

Recent lower-court case law since Heller suggests that courts are willing to uphold

More recently, the Supreme Court reinforced its Hellerruling in itsCaetano v. Massachusetts(2016) decision. The Court found that the lower “Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court was wrong in the three reasons it offered for why the state could ban personal possession or use of a stun gun without violating the Second Amendment.” The Supreme Court, however, remanded the case without further instructions, so this per curiam ruling did not do much to further clarify the Supreme Court’s stance on the Second Amendment.

See constitutional amendment.

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Second Amendment | Wex Legal Dictionary / Encyclopedia …

Amendment II – The United States Constitution

The right to keep and bear arms is a lot like the right to freedom of speech. In each case, the Constitution expressly protects a liberty that needs to be insulated from the ordinary political process. Neither right, however, is absolute. The First Amendment, for example, has never protected perjury, fraud, or countless other crimes that are committed through the use of speech. Similarly, no reasonable person could believe that violent criminals should have unrestricted access to guns, or that any individual should possess a nuclear weapon.

Inevitably, courts must draw lines, allowing government to carry out its duty to preserve an orderly society, without unduly infringing the legitimate interests of individuals in expressing their thoughts and protecting themselves from criminal violence. This is not a precise science or one that will ever be free from controversy.

One judicial approach, however, should be unequivocally rejected. During the nineteenth century, courts routinely refused to invalidate restrictions on free speech that struck the judges as reasonable. This meant that speech got virtually no judicial protection. Government suppression of speech can usually be thought to serve some reasonable purpose, such as reducing social discord or promoting healthy morals. Similarly, most gun control laws can be viewed as efforts to save lives and prevent crime, which are perfectly reasonable goals. If thats enough to justify infringements on individual liberty, neither constitutional guarantee means much of anything.

During the twentieth century, the Supreme Court finally started taking the First Amendment seriously. Today, individual freedom is generally protected unless the government can make a strong case that it has a real need to suppress speech or expressive conduct, and that its regulations are tailored to that need. The legal doctrines have become quite complex, and there is room for disagreement about many of the Courts specific decisions. Taken as a whole, however, this body of case law shows what the Court can do when it appreciates the value of an individual right enshrined in the Constitution.

The Second Amendment also raises issues about which reasonable people can disagree. But if the Supreme Court takes this provision of the Constitution as seriously as it now takes the First Amendment, which it should do, there will be some easy issues as well.

District of Columbia v. Heller (2008) is one example. The right of the people protected by the Second Amendment is an individual right, just like the right[s] of the people protected by the First and Fourth Amendments. The Constitution does not say that the Second Amendment protects a right of the states or a right of the militia, and nobody offered such an interpretation during the Founding era. Abundant historical evidence indicates that the Second Amendment was meant to leave citizens with the ability to defend themselves against unlawful violence. Such threats might come from usurpers of governmental power, but they might also come from criminals whom the government is unwilling or unable to control.

McDonald v. City of Chicago (2010) was also an easy case under the Courts precedents. Most other provisions of the Bill of Rights had already been applied to the states because they are deeply rooted in this Nations history and tradition. The right to keep and bear arms clearly meets this test.

The text of the Constitution expressly guarantees the right to bear arms, not just the right to keep them. The courts should invalidate regulations that prevent law-abiding citizens from carrying weapons in public, where the vast majority of violent crimes occur. First Amendment rights are not confined to the home, and neither are those protected by the Second Amendment.

Nor should the government be allowed to create burdensome bureaucratic obstacles designed to frustrate the exercise of Second Amendment rights. The courts are vigilant in preventing government from evading the First Amendment through regulations that indirectly abridge free speech rights by making them difficult to exercise. Courts should exercise the same vigilance in protecting Second Amendment rights.

Some other regulations that may appear innocuous should be struck down because they are little more than political stunts. Popular bans on so-called assault rifles, for example, define this class of guns in terms of cosmetic features, leaving functionally identical semi-automatic rifles to circulate freely. This is unconstitutional for the same reason that it would violate the First Amendment to ban words that have a French etymology, or to require that French fries be called freedom fries.

In most American states, including many with large urban population centers, responsible adults have easy access to ordinary firearms, and they are permitted to carry them in public. Experience has shown that these policies do not lead to increased levels of violence. Criminals pay no more attention to gun control regulations than they do to laws against murder, rape, and robbery. Armed citizens, however, prevent countless crimes and have saved many lives. Whats more, the most vulnerable peopleincluding women, the elderly, and those who live in high crime neighborhoodsare among the greatest beneficiaries of the Second Amendment. If the courts require the remaining jurisdictions to stop infringing on the constitutional right to keep and bear arms, their citizens will be more free and probably safer as well.

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Amendment II – The United States Constitution

Amendment II – The United States Constitution

The right to keep and bear arms is a lot like the right to freedom of speech. In each case, the Constitution expressly protects a liberty that needs to be insulated from the ordinary political process. Neither right, however, is absolute. The First Amendment, for example, has never protected perjury, fraud, or countless other crimes that are committed through the use of speech. Similarly, no reasonable person could believe that violent criminals should have unrestricted access to guns, or that any individual should possess a nuclear weapon.

Inevitably, courts must draw lines, allowing government to carry out its duty to preserve an orderly society, without unduly infringing the legitimate interests of individuals in expressing their thoughts and protecting themselves from criminal violence. This is not a precise science or one that will ever be free from controversy.

One judicial approach, however, should be unequivocally rejected. During the nineteenth century, courts routinely refused to invalidate restrictions on free speech that struck the judges as reasonable. This meant that speech got virtually no judicial protection. Government suppression of speech can usually be thought to serve some reasonable purpose, such as reducing social discord or promoting healthy morals. Similarly, most gun control laws can be viewed as efforts to save lives and prevent crime, which are perfectly reasonable goals. If thats enough to justify infringements on individual liberty, neither constitutional guarantee means much of anything.

During the twentieth century, the Supreme Court finally started taking the First Amendment seriously. Today, individual freedom is generally protected unless the government can make a strong case that it has a real need to suppress speech or expressive conduct, and that its regulations are tailored to that need. The legal doctrines have become quite complex, and there is room for disagreement about many of the Courts specific decisions. Taken as a whole, however, this body of case law shows what the Court can do when it appreciates the value of an individual right enshrined in the Constitution.

The Second Amendment also raises issues about which reasonable people can disagree. But if the Supreme Court takes this provision of the Constitution as seriously as it now takes the First Amendment, which it should do, there will be some easy issues as well.

District of Columbia v. Heller (2008) is one example. The right of the people protected by the Second Amendment is an individual right, just like the right[s] of the people protected by the First and Fourth Amendments. The Constitution does not say that the Second Amendment protects a right of the states or a right of the militia, and nobody offered such an interpretation during the Founding era. Abundant historical evidence indicates that the Second Amendment was meant to leave citizens with the ability to defend themselves against unlawful violence. Such threats might come from usurpers of governmental power, but they might also come from criminals whom the government is unwilling or unable to control.

McDonald v. City of Chicago (2010) was also an easy case under the Courts precedents. Most other provisions of the Bill of Rights had already been applied to the states because they are deeply rooted in this Nations history and tradition. The right to keep and bear arms clearly meets this test.

The text of the Constitution expressly guarantees the right to bear arms, not just the right to keep them. The courts should invalidate regulations that prevent law-abiding citizens from carrying weapons in public, where the vast majority of violent crimes occur. First Amendment rights are not confined to the home, and neither are those protected by the Second Amendment.

Nor should the government be allowed to create burdensome bureaucratic obstacles designed to frustrate the exercise of Second Amendment rights. The courts are vigilant in preventing government from evading the First Amendment through regulations that indirectly abridge free speech rights by making them difficult to exercise. Courts should exercise the same vigilance in protecting Second Amendment rights.

Some other regulations that may appear innocuous should be struck down because they are little more than political stunts. Popular bans on so-called assault rifles, for example, define this class of guns in terms of cosmetic features, leaving functionally identical semi-automatic rifles to circulate freely. This is unconstitutional for the same reason that it would violate the First Amendment to ban words that have a French etymology, or to require that French fries be called freedom fries.

In most American states, including many with large urban population centers, responsible adults have easy access to ordinary firearms, and they are permitted to carry them in public. Experience has shown that these policies do not lead to increased levels of violence. Criminals pay no more attention to gun control regulations than they do to laws against murder, rape, and robbery. Armed citizens, however, prevent countless crimes and have saved many lives. Whats more, the most vulnerable peopleincluding women, the elderly, and those who live in high crime neighborhoodsare among the greatest beneficiaries of the Second Amendment. If the courts require the remaining jurisdictions to stop infringing on the constitutional right to keep and bear arms, their citizens will be more free and probably safer as well.

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Amendment II – The United States Constitution

Second Amendment legal definition of Second Amendment

The Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution reads:

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 subject matter and unusual phrasing of this amendment led to much controversy and analysis, especially in the last half of the twentieth century. Nevertheless, the meaning and scope of the amendment have long been decided by the Supreme Court.

Firearms played an important part in the colonization of America. In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, European colonists relied heavily on firearms to take land away from Native Americans and repel attacks by Native Americans and Europeans. Around the time of the Revolutionary War, male citizens were required to own firearms for fighting against the British forces. Firearms were also used in hunting.

In June 1776, one month before the signing of the Declaration of Independence, Virginia became the first colony to adopt a state constitution. In this document, the state of Virginia pronounced that “a well regulated Militia, composed of the body of the people, trained to arms, is the proper, natural, and safe defence of a free State.” After the colonies declared their independence from England, other states began to include the right to bear arms in their constitution. Pennsylvania, for example, declared that

the people have a right to bear arms for the defence of themselves and the state; and as standing armies in the time of peace are dangerous to liberty, they ought not to be kept up; And that the military should be kept under strict subordination to, and governed by, the civil power.

The wording of clauses about bearing arms in late-eighteenth-century state constitutions varied. Some states asserted that bearing arms was a “right” of the people, whereas others called it a “duty” of every able-bodied man in the defense of society.

Pennsylvania was not alone in its express discouragement of a standing (professional) army. Many of the Framers of the U.S. Constitution rejected standing armies, preferring instead the model of a citizen army, equipped with weapons and prepared for defense. According to Framers such as Elbridge Gerry of Massachusetts and George Mason of Virginia a standing army was susceptible to tyrannical use by a power-hungry government.

At the first session of Congress in March 1789, the Second Amendment was submitted as a counterweight to the federal powers of Congress and the president. According to constitutional theorists, the Framers who feared a central government extracted the amendment as a compromise from those in favor of centralized authority over the states. The Revolutionary War had, after all, been fought in large part by a citizen army against the standing armies of England.

The precise wording of the amendment was changed two times before the U.S. Senate finally cast it in its present form. As with many of the amendments, the exact wording proved critical to its interpretation.

In 1791 a majority of states ratified the Bill of Rights, which included the Second Amendment. In its final form, the amendment presented a challenge to interpreters. It was the only amendment with an opening clause that appeared to state its purpose. The amendment even had defective punctuation; the comma before shall seemed grammatically unnecessary.

Legal scholars do not agree about this comma. Some have argued that it was intentional and that it was intended to make militia the subject of the sentence. According to these theorists, the operative words of the amendment are “[a] well regulated Militia shall not be infringed.” Others have argued that the comma was a mistake, and that the operative words of the sentence are “the right of the people to bear arms shall not be infringed.” Under this reading, the first part of the sentence is the rationale for the absolute, personal right of the people to own firearms. Indeed, the historical backdrophighlighted by a general disdain for professional armieswould seem to support this theory.

Some observers argue further that the Second Amendment grants the right of insurrection. According to these theorists, the Second Amendment was designed to allow citizens to rebel against the government. Thomas Jefferson is quoted as saying that “a little rebellion every now and then is a good thing.”

The Supreme Court makes the ultimate determination of the Constitution’s meaning, and it has defined the amendment as simply granting to the states the right to maintain a militia separate from federally controlled militias. This interpretation first came in United States v. Cruikshank, 92 U.S. 542, 23 L. Ed. 588 (1875). In Cruikshank, approximately one hundred persons were tried jointly in a Louisiana federal court with felonies in connection with an April 13, 1873, assault on two AfricanAmerican men. One of the criminal counts charged that the mob intended to hinder the right of the two men to bear arms. The defendants were convicted by a jury, but the circuit court arrested the judgment, effectively overturning the verdict. In affirming that decision, the Supreme Court declared that “the second amendment means no more than that [the right to bear arms] shall not be infringed by Congress, and has no other effect than to restrict the powers of the national government.”

In Presser v. Illinois, 116 U.S. 252, 6 S. Ct. 580, 29 L. Ed. 615 (1886), Herman Presser was charged in Illinois state court with parading and drilling an unauthorized militia in the streets of Chicago in December 1879, in violation of certain sections of the Illinois Military Code. One of the sections in question prohibited the organization, drilling, operation, and parading of militias other than U.S. troops or the regular organized volunteer militia of the state. Presser was tried by the judge, convicted, and ordered to pay a fine of $10. On appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, Presser argued, in part, that the charges violated his Second Amendment right to bear arms. The Court disagreed and upheld Presser’s conviction. The Court cited Cruikshank for the proposition that the Second Amendment means only that the federal government may not infringe on the right of states to form their own militias. This meant that the Illinois state law forbidding citizen militias was not unconstitutional. However, in its opinion, the Court in Presser delivered a reading of the Second Amendment that seemed to suggest an absolute right of persons to bear arms: “It is undoubtedly true that all citizens capable of bearing arms constitute the reserved military force or reserve militia of the United States,” and “states cannot prohibit the people from keeping and bearing arms.”

Despite this generous language, the Court refused to incorporate the Second Amendment into the Fourteenth Amendment. Under the first section of the Fourteenth Amendment, passed in 1868, states may not abridge the Privileges and Immunities of citizens of the United States. The privileges and immunities of citizens are listed in the Bill of Rights, of which the Second Amendment is part. Presser had argued that states may not, by virtue of the Fourteenth Amendment, abridge the right to bear arms. The Court refused to accept the argument that the right to bear arms is a personal right of the people. According to the Court, “The right to drill or parade with arms, without, and independent of, an act of congress or law of the state authorizing the same, is not an attribute of national citizenship.”

The Presser opinion is best understood in its historical context. The Northern states and the federal government had just fought the Civil War against Southern militias unauthorized by the federal government. After this ordeal, the Supreme Court was in no mood to accept an expansive right to bear arms. At the same time, the Court was sensitive to the subject of federal encroachment on States’ Rights.

Private militias are armed military groups that are composed of private citizens and not recognized by federal or state governments. Private militias have been formed by individuals in America since the colonial period. In fact, the Revolutionary War against England was fought in part by armies comprising not professional soldiers but ordinary male citizens.

Approximately half the states maintain laws regulating private militias. Generally, these laws prohibit the parading and exercising of armed private militias in public, but do not forbid the formation of private militias. In Wyoming, however, state law forbids the very formation of private militias. Under section 19-1-106 of the Wyoming Statutes, “No body of men other than the regularly organized national guard or the troops of the United States shall associate themselves together as a military company or organization, or parade in public with arms without license of the governor.” The Wyoming law also prohibits the public funding of private militias. Anyone convicted of violating the provisions of the law is subject to a fine of not more than $1,000, imprisonment of six months, or both, for each offense.

In states that do not outlaw them, private militias are limited only by the criminal laws applicable to all of society. Thus, if an armed private militia seeks to parade and exercise in a public area, its members will be subject to arrest on a variety of laws, including disturbing-the-peace, firearms, or even riot statutes.

Many private militias are driven by the insurrection theory of the Second Amendment. Under this view, the Second Amendment grants an unconditional right to bear arms for Self-Defense and for rebellion against a tyrannical governmentwhen a government turns oppressive, private citizens have a duty to “insurrect,” or take up arms against it.

The U.S. Supreme Court has issued a qualified rejection of the insurrection theory. According to the Court in Dennis v. United States, 341 U.S. 494, 71 S. Ct. 857, 95 L. Ed. 1137 (1951), “[W]hatever theoretical merit there may be to the argument that there is a ‘right’ to rebellion against dictatorial governments is without force where the existing structure of the government provides for peaceful and orderly change.” Scholars have interpreted this to mean that as long as the government provides for free elections and trials by jury, private citizens have no right to take up arms against the government.

Some people have disagreed with the Supreme Court’s definition of tyranny. Many of these people label the state and federal governments as tyrannical based on issues such as taxes and government regulations. Others cite governments ponsored racial and ethnic Integration as driving forces in their campaign against the federal and state governments. Many of these critics have formed private militias designed to resist perceived government oppression.

Some private militias have formed their own government. The legal problems of these private militias are generally unrelated to military activities. Instead, any criminal charges usually arise from activities associated with their political beliefs. The Freemen of Montana is one such militia. This group denied the legitimacy of the federal government and created its own township called Justus. The Freemen established its own court system, posted bounties for the arrest of police officers and judges, and held seminars on how to challenge laws its members viewed as beyond the scope of the Constitution. According to neighbors, the group also established its own common-law court system and built its own jail for the imprisonment of trespassers and government workers, or “public hirelings.”

In the 1990s, the Freemen came to the attention of federal prosecutors after members of the group allegedly wrote worthless checks and money orders to pay taxes and to defraud banks and credit card companies. One Freeman had also allegedly threatened a federal judge, and some had allegedly refused to pay taxes for at least a decade.

In March 1996, law enforcement officials obtained warrants for the arrest of many of the Freemen. However, remembering the violence that occurred when officials attempted to serve arrest warrants on another armed group in Waco, Texas, in 1993, law enforcement authorities did not invade the Freemen’s 960-acre ranch in Jordan, Montana. Although the Freemen constituted an armed challenge to all government authority, its beliefs and its military activities were not illegal, and most of its members were charged with nonviolent crimes, such as Fraud and related conspiracy. Two men were also charged with threatening public officials. In addition, several Freemen faced charges of criminal syndicalism, which is the advocacy of violence for political goals.

Amar, Akhil Reed. 2002. “Second Thoughts.” Law and Contemporary Problems 65 (spring).

Barry, Monica Sue. 1996. “Stockpiling Weapons: Can Private Militias Receive Protection under the First and Second Amendments?” Thomas Jefferson Law Review 18 (spring).

Hardaway, Robert, Elizabeth Gormley, and Bryan Taylor. 2002. “The Inconvenient Militia Clause of the Second Amendment: Why the Supreme Court Declines to Resolve the Debate over the Right to Bear Arms.” St. John’s Journal of Legal Commentary 16 (winter).

Dennis v. United States.

Several decades later, the Supreme Court ignored the contradictory language in Presser and cemented a limited reading of the Second Amendment. In United States v. Miller, 307 U.S. 174, 59 S. Ct. 816, 83 L. Ed. 1206 (1939), defendants Jack Miller and Frank Layton were charged in federal court with unlawful transportation of firearms in violation of certain sections of the National Firearms Act of June 26, 1934 (ch. 757, 48 Stat. 12361240 [26 U.S.C.A. 1132 et seq.]). Specifically, Miller and Layton had transported shotguns with barrels less than 18 inches long, without the registration required under the act.

The district court dismissed the indictment, holding that the act violated the Second Amendment. The United States appealed. The Supreme Court reversed the decision and sent the case back to the trial court. The Supreme Court stated that the Second Amendment was fashioned “to assure the continuation and render possible the effectiveness of militia forces.”

The Miller opinion confirmed the restrictive language of Presser and solidified a narrow reading of the Second Amendment. According to the Court in Miller, the Second Amendment does not guarantee the right to own a firearm unless the possession or use of the firearm has “a reasonable relationship to the preservation or efficiency of a well regulated militia.”

The legislative measures that inspire most Second Amendment discussions are Gun Control laws. Since the mid-nineteenth century, state legislatures have been passing laws that infringe a perceived right to bear arms. Congress has also asserted the power to regulate firearms. No law regulating firearms has ever been struck down by the Supreme Court as a violation of the Second Amendment.

Historically, the academic community has largely ignored the Second Amendment. However, gun control laws have turned many laypersons into scholars of the Second Amendment’s history. The arguments for a broader interpretation are many and varied. Most center on the Original Intent of the Framers. Some emphasize that the Second Amendment should be interpreted as granting an unconditional personal right to bear arms for defensive and sporting purposes. Others adhere to an insurrection theory, under which the Second Amendment not only grants the personal right to bear arms, it gives citizens the right to rebel against a government perceived as tyrannical.

In response to these arguments, supporters of the prevailing Second Amendment interpretation maintain that any right to bear arms should be secondary to concerns for public safety. They also point out that other provisions in the Constitution grant power to Congress to quell insurrections, thus contradicting the insurrection theory. Lastly, they argue that the Constitution should be interpreted in accordance with a changing society and that the destructive capability of semiautomatic and automatic firearms was not envisioned by the Framers.

In response to the last argument, critics maintain that because such firearms exist, it should be legal to use them against violent criminals who are themselves wielding such weapons.

In the 2000s, federal courts continue to revisit the scope and detail of the Second Amendment right to bear arms. In particular federal courts have recast much of the debate as one over whether the Second Amendment protects a “collective” right or an “individual” right to bear arms. If the Second Amendment protects only a collective right, then only states would have the power to bring a legal action to enforce it and only for the purpose of maintaining a “well-regulated militia.” If the Second Amendment protects only an individual right to bear arms, then only individuals could bring suit to challenge gun-control laws that curb their liberty to buy, sell, own, or possess firearms and other guns.

Not surprisingly, courts are conflicted over how to resolve this debate. In United States v. Emerson, 270 F.3d 203 (5th Cir. 2001), the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit found that the original intent of the Founding Fathers supported an individual-rights interpretation of the Second Amendment, while the Ninth Circuit came to the opposite conclusion in Nordyke v. King, 319 F.3d 1185 (9th Cir. 2003). Although no court has concluded that the original intent underlying the Second Amendment supports a claim for both an individual- and a collective rights based interpretation of the right to bear arms, the compelling historical arguments marshaled on both sides of the debate would suggest that another court faced with the same debate may reach such a conclusion.

Amar, Akhil Reed. 1992. “The Bill of Rights and the Fourteenth Amendment.” Yale Law Journal 101 (April).

Becker, Edward R. 1997. “The Second Amendment and Other Federal Constitutional Rights of the Private Militia.” Montana Law Review 58 (winter).

Bogus, Carl T., ed. 2000. The Second Amendment in Law and History: Historians and Constitutional Scholars on the Right to Bear Arms. New York: New Press.

Dolan, Edward F., and Margaret M. Scariano. 1994. Guns in the United States. New York: Watts.

Dunlap, Charles J., Jr. 1995. “Revolt of the Masses: Armed Civilians and the Insurrectionary Theory of the Second Amendment.” Tennessee Law Review 62 (spring).

Hanson, Freya Ottem. 1998. The Second Amendment: The Right to Own Guns. Springfield, N.J.: Enslow.

Hook, Donald D. 1992. Gun Control: The Continuing Debate. Washington, D.C.: Second Amendment Foundation.

Hoppin, Jason. 2003. “Ninth Circuit Upholds Controversial Ruling on Second Amendment.” Legal Intelligencer (May 8).

. 2003. “Second Amendment Fight Steals Show in Gun Ban Case: Panel Enters Fray over Individual Rights.” San Francisco Recorder (February 19).

McAffee, Thomas B. 1997. “Constitutional Limits on Regulating Private Militia Groups.” Montana Law Review 58 (winter).

Gun Control.

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Second Amendment legal definition of Second Amendment

The Second Amendment, That’s Why. It’s The Answer On Both …

Karen Bleier/AFP/Getty Images

Karen Bleier/AFP/Getty Images

“The Second Amendment.”

If you’ve lived in America, you’ve heard those words spoken with feeling.

The feeling may have been forceful, even vehement.

“Why? The Second Amendment, that’s why.”

The same words can be heard uttered in bitterness, as if in blame.

“Why? The Second Amendment, that’s why.”

Or then again, with reverence, an invocation of the sacred rather like “the Second Coming.”

Talk of gun rights and gun control is back on full boil after 17 people were killed in the Parkland, Fla., school shooting, so the conversation turns to the Second Amendment quickly and often.

We are talking, of course, about the Second Amendment to U.S. Constitution, in the Bill of Rights.

It reads in full:

“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.”

Simple. And not simple. Assuming it means just what it says, just what does it actually say?

Scholars have parsed the words, and courts and lawyers have argued over their meaning. Historians have debated what was meant by “well-regulated militia” back in 1789.

Some say the framers only meant to protect well-organized militias in the respective states, forerunners of today’s National Guard. Others say the framers also intended to shield the guns of individuals, the weapons they would use if those militias were called upon to fight.

Heller brings some clarity

To some extent, the issue was clarified, if not settled, by the Heller decision of the U.S. Supreme Court in 2008. The 5-4 decision held that the Second Amendment meant individuals had an inherent right to own guns for lawful purposes.

Heller applied that standard to overturn a ban on privately held handguns, enacted in the District of Columbia. But the same basic reasoning has also been used to defend the private ownership of AR-15-type rifles such as the one used in Parkland and other mass shootings in recent years.

Congress tried to ban “assault-style” weapons in 1994 but put a 10-year sunset provision in the law. It survived court challenges at the time, but when the 10-year term had passed, the majority control of Congress had also passed from the Democrats, who had enacted the ban, to the Republicans, who let it lapse.

Since then, all efforts to restrict the sale of such weapons have failed. Even relatively bipartisan attempts at strengthening other restrictions, such as the Manchin-Toomey background check expansion bill in 2013, have fallen short of the necessary supermajority needed for passage in the Senate.

It was not, as President Trump alleged Wednesday, because of a lack of “presidential backup.” President Barack Obama supported the bill, as Sen. Pat Toomey, a Pennsylvania Republican, pointed out to Trump. Republicans filibustered the bill, which got 54 votes.

In each case, defenders of gun rights have invoked the Second Amendment, the text that casts a long shadow across all discussions of guns in the U.S. At times, it seems to all but end such discussion.

Parkland changes calculus

But now, the tide is running the other way. The Parkland shootings have created a new moment and a new movement, led by teenagers who survived the tragedy and took their protests to social media and beyond.

Suddenly, even Trump is tossing out ideas about keeping students safe, arming teachers, restraining gun sales through background checks and higher age limits, and even banning accessories such as “bump stocks” that enable nonautomatic weapons to fire rapidly and repeatedly.

And it’s still unclear what Trump wants exactly. Republicans on Capitol Hill seem flummoxed by Trump’s posture.

After Trump’s made-for-cable bipartisan meeting at the White House with members of Congress, Texas Republican John Cornyn, a leader on gun issues in the Senate, seemed to scratch his head.

“I think everybody is trying to absorb what we just heard,” Cornyn told reporters. “He’s a unique president, and I think if he was focused on a specific piece of legislation rather than a grab bag of ideas, then I think he could have a lot of influence, but right now we don’t have that.”

He added that he didn’t think simply because the president says he supports something that it would pass muster with Republicans. “I wouldn’t confuse what he said with what can actually pass,” Cornyn said. “I don’t expect to see any great divergence in terms of people’s views on the Second Amendment, for example.”

Ah, and there are those two words again Second Amendment.

If new restrictions are enacted a prospect far from certain, as Cornyn rightly points out they will surely be tested in the courts. There, it will be argued that they infringe on the rights of law-abiding citizens to “keep and bear” firearms.

In other words, they will run afoul of, that’s right, the Second Amendment.

Anticipating that, some gun control advocates and at least one lifelong Republican want to leap to the ultimate battlement and do it now. They want to repeal, or substantially alter, the formidable amendment itself.

That would seem logical, at least to these advocates. If some 70 percent of Americans want more gun control and the Second Amendment stands in their way, why shouldn’t they be able to do something about it?

Someday, it is conceivable, the people and politicians of the United States may be ready for that. But it will need to be a very different United States than we know today.

Why? Because amendments to the Constitution, once ratified, become fully part of the Constitution. Changing or removing them requires a two-stage process that has proved historically difficult.

The Founding Fathers were willing to be edited, it seems, but they did not want it to be easy. So they made the amending process a steep uphill climb, requiring a clear national consensus to succeed.

Why it takes consensus

A proposed amendment to the Constitution must first be passed by Congress with two-thirds majorities in both the House and the Senate.

The two chambers have not achieved such a margin for a newly written amendment to the Constitution in nearly half a century. The last such effort was the 26th Amendment (lowering the voting age nationwide from 21 to 18), and it cleared Capitol Hill in March 1971.

(There has been another amendment added since, in 1992, but it had been written and approved by Congress literally generations ago. More about that curious “zombie” amendment below.)

Even after surviving both chambers of Congress in 1971, the 18-year-old vote amendment still had to survive the second stage of the process the more difficult stage.

Just like all the other amendments before it, the new voting age had to be ratified by three-fourths of the states. That is currently at least 38 states. Another way to look at it: If as few as 13 states refuse, the amendment stalls.

This arduous process has winnowed out all but a handful of the amendments proposed over the past 230 years. Every Congress produces scores of proposals, sometimes well over 100. The 101st Congress (1989 to 1991) produced 214.

Some deal with obscure concerns; many address facets of the electoral process especially the Electoral College and the choosing of a president. Many are retreads from earlier sessions of Congress. The one thing most have in common is that they never even come to a vote.

Two that fell short

In 1995, a watershed year with big new GOP majorities in both chambers, two major constitutional amendments were brought to votes in the Capitol. One would have imposed term limits on members of Congress. It failed to get even close to two-thirds in the House, so the Senate did not bother.

The other proposed amendment would have required the federal government to balance its budget, not in theory down the road but in reality and in real time. It quickly got two-thirds in the House but failed to reach that threshold in the Senate by a single vote (one Republican in the chamber voted no).

So even relatively popular ideas with a big head of steam can hit the wall of the amendment process. How much more challenging would it be to tackle individual gun ownership in a country where so many citizens own guns and care passionately about their right to do so?

Overcoming the NRA and other elements of the gun lobby is only the beginning. The real obstacle would be tremendous support for guns in Southern, Western and rural Midwestern states, which would easily total up to more than enough states to block a gun control amendment.

There have been six amendments that got the needed margins in House and Senate but not the needed margin of support in the state legislatures. The most recent was the Equal Rights Amendment, a remarkably simple statement (“Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or any State on account of sex”) that cleared Congress with bipartisan support in 1972 and quickly won nods from most of the states.

But in the mid-1970s, a resistance campaign began and stymied the ERA in many of the remaining states. The resistance then managed to persuade several states to rescind their ratification votes. With momentum now reversed, the ERA died when its window for ratification closed.

Zombie amendments

Other amendments that met similar fates included one granting statehood to the District of Columbia. Like the ERA, the D.C. amendment had a time limit for ratification that expired. But other amendments sent out for ratification in the past did not have a limit, and so might still be ratified at least theoretically.

The granddaddy of these “zombie” amendments was the very first among the Bill of Rights, which began with 12 items rather than 10. The proposed amendment sought to regulate the number of constituents to be represented by a member of the House, and its numbers were soon outdated. So it has never been ratified and presumably will not be.

The one other amendment originally proposed in 1789 but not ratified as part of the original 10 amendments sat around for generations. Then it caught the attention of state legislatures in the late 1980s, at a time of popular reaction against pay raises for Congress. This amendment stated that a member of Congress who voted for a pay raise could not receive that raise until after the next election for the House of Representatives.

That amendment was dusted off and recirculated, and it reached the ratification threshold in 1992, more than 200 years after it had first been proposed. It is now the 27th Amendment to the Constitution, and the last at least so far.

A new Constitutional Convention?

If all this seems daunting, as it should, there is one alternative for changing the Constitution. That is the calling of a Constitutional Convention. This, too, is found in Article V of the Constitution and allows for a new convention to bypass Congress and address issues of amendment on its own.

To exist with this authority, the new convention would need to be called for by two-thirds of the state legislatures.

So if 34 states saw fit, they could convene their delegations and start writing amendments. Some believe such a convention would have the power to rewrite the entire 1787 Constitution, if it saw fit. Others say it would and should be limited to specific issues or targets, such as term limits or balancing the budget or changing the campaign-finance system or restricting the individual rights of gun owners.

There have been calls for an “Article V convention” from prominent figures on the left as well as the right. But there are those on both sides of the partisan divide who regard the entire proposition as suspect, if not frightening.

One way or another, any changes made by such a powerful convention would need to be ratified by three-fourths of the states just like amendments that might come from Congress.

And three-fourths would presumably be as high a hurdle for convention-spawned amendments as it has been for those from Congress dating to the 1700s.

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The Second Amendment, That’s Why. It’s The Answer On Both …

Second Amendment legal definition of Second Amendment

The Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution reads:

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 subject matter and unusual phrasing of this amendment led to much controversy and analysis, especially in the last half of the twentieth century. Nevertheless, the meaning and scope of the amendment have long been decided by the Supreme Court.

Firearms played an important part in the colonization of America. In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, European colonists relied heavily on firearms to take land away from Native Americans and repel attacks by Native Americans and Europeans. Around the time of the Revolutionary War, male citizens were required to own firearms for fighting against the British forces. Firearms were also used in hunting.

In June 1776, one month before the signing of the Declaration of Independence, Virginia became the first colony to adopt a state constitution. In this document, the state of Virginia pronounced that “a well regulated Militia, composed of the body of the people, trained to arms, is the proper, natural, and safe defence of a free State.” After the colonies declared their independence from England, other states began to include the right to bear arms in their constitution. Pennsylvania, for example, declared that

the people have a right to bear arms for the defence of themselves and the state; and as standing armies in the time of peace are dangerous to liberty, they ought not to be kept up; And that the military should be kept under strict subordination to, and governed by, the civil power.

The wording of clauses about bearing arms in late-eighteenth-century state constitutions varied. Some states asserted that bearing arms was a “right” of the people, whereas others called it a “duty” of every able-bodied man in the defense of society.

Pennsylvania was not alone in its express discouragement of a standing (professional) army. Many of the Framers of the U.S. Constitution rejected standing armies, preferring instead the model of a citizen army, equipped with weapons and prepared for defense. According to Framers such as Elbridge Gerry of Massachusetts and George Mason of Virginia a standing army was susceptible to tyrannical use by a power-hungry government.

At the first session of Congress in March 1789, the Second Amendment was submitted as a counterweight to the federal powers of Congress and the president. According to constitutional theorists, the Framers who feared a central government extracted the amendment as a compromise from those in favor of centralized authority over the states. The Revolutionary War had, after all, been fought in large part by a citizen army against the standing armies of England.

The precise wording of the amendment was changed two times before the U.S. Senate finally cast it in its present form. As with many of the amendments, the exact wording proved critical to its interpretation.

In 1791 a majority of states ratified the Bill of Rights, which included the Second Amendment. In its final form, the amendment presented a challenge to interpreters. It was the only amendment with an opening clause that appeared to state its purpose. The amendment even had defective punctuation; the comma before shall seemed grammatically unnecessary.

Legal scholars do not agree about this comma. Some have argued that it was intentional and that it was intended to make militia the subject of the sentence. According to these theorists, the operative words of the amendment are “[a] well regulated Militia shall not be infringed.” Others have argued that the comma was a mistake, and that the operative words of the sentence are “the right of the people to bear arms shall not be infringed.” Under this reading, the first part of the sentence is the rationale for the absolute, personal right of the people to own firearms. Indeed, the historical backdrophighlighted by a general disdain for professional armieswould seem to support this theory.

Some observers argue further that the Second Amendment grants the right of insurrection. According to these theorists, the Second Amendment was designed to allow citizens to rebel against the government. Thomas Jefferson is quoted as saying that “a little rebellion every now and then is a good thing.”

The Supreme Court makes the ultimate determination of the Constitution’s meaning, and it has defined the amendment as simply granting to the states the right to maintain a militia separate from federally controlled militias. This interpretation first came in United States v. Cruikshank, 92 U.S. 542, 23 L. Ed. 588 (1875). In Cruikshank, approximately one hundred persons were tried jointly in a Louisiana federal court with felonies in connection with an April 13, 1873, assault on two AfricanAmerican men. One of the criminal counts charged that the mob intended to hinder the right of the two men to bear arms. The defendants were convicted by a jury, but the circuit court arrested the judgment, effectively overturning the verdict. In affirming that decision, the Supreme Court declared that “the second amendment means no more than that [the right to bear arms] shall not be infringed by Congress, and has no other effect than to restrict the powers of the national government.”

In Presser v. Illinois, 116 U.S. 252, 6 S. Ct. 580, 29 L. Ed. 615 (1886), Herman Presser was charged in Illinois state court with parading and drilling an unauthorized militia in the streets of Chicago in December 1879, in violation of certain sections of the Illinois Military Code. One of the sections in question prohibited the organization, drilling, operation, and parading of militias other than U.S. troops or the regular organized volunteer militia of the state. Presser was tried by the judge, convicted, and ordered to pay a fine of $10. On appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, Presser argued, in part, that the charges violated his Second Amendment right to bear arms. The Court disagreed and upheld Presser’s conviction. The Court cited Cruikshank for the proposition that the Second Amendment means only that the federal government may not infringe on the right of states to form their own militias. This meant that the Illinois state law forbidding citizen militias was not unconstitutional. However, in its opinion, the Court in Presser delivered a reading of the Second Amendment that seemed to suggest an absolute right of persons to bear arms: “It is undoubtedly true that all citizens capable of bearing arms constitute the reserved military force or reserve militia of the United States,” and “states cannot prohibit the people from keeping and bearing arms.”

Despite this generous language, the Court refused to incorporate the Second Amendment into the Fourteenth Amendment. Under the first section of the Fourteenth Amendment, passed in 1868, states may not abridge the Privileges and Immunities of citizens of the United States. The privileges and immunities of citizens are listed in the Bill of Rights, of which the Second Amendment is part. Presser had argued that states may not, by virtue of the Fourteenth Amendment, abridge the right to bear arms. The Court refused to accept the argument that the right to bear arms is a personal right of the people. According to the Court, “The right to drill or parade with arms, without, and independent of, an act of congress or law of the state authorizing the same, is not an attribute of national citizenship.”

The Presser opinion is best understood in its historical context. The Northern states and the federal government had just fought the Civil War against Southern militias unauthorized by the federal government. After this ordeal, the Supreme Court was in no mood to accept an expansive right to bear arms. At the same time, the Court was sensitive to the subject of federal encroachment on States’ Rights.

Private militias are armed military groups that are composed of private citizens and not recognized by federal or state governments. Private militias have been formed by individuals in America since the colonial period. In fact, the Revolutionary War against England was fought in part by armies comprising not professional soldiers but ordinary male citizens.

Approximately half the states maintain laws regulating private militias. Generally, these laws prohibit the parading and exercising of armed private militias in public, but do not forbid the formation of private militias. In Wyoming, however, state law forbids the very formation of private militias. Under section 19-1-106 of the Wyoming Statutes, “No body of men other than the regularly organized national guard or the troops of the United States shall associate themselves together as a military company or organization, or parade in public with arms without license of the governor.” The Wyoming law also prohibits the public funding of private militias. Anyone convicted of violating the provisions of the law is subject to a fine of not more than $1,000, imprisonment of six months, or both, for each offense.

In states that do not outlaw them, private militias are limited only by the criminal laws applicable to all of society. Thus, if an armed private militia seeks to parade and exercise in a public area, its members will be subject to arrest on a variety of laws, including disturbing-the-peace, firearms, or even riot statutes.

Many private militias are driven by the insurrection theory of the Second Amendment. Under this view, the Second Amendment grants an unconditional right to bear arms for Self-Defense and for rebellion against a tyrannical governmentwhen a government turns oppressive, private citizens have a duty to “insurrect,” or take up arms against it.

The U.S. Supreme Court has issued a qualified rejection of the insurrection theory. According to the Court in Dennis v. United States, 341 U.S. 494, 71 S. Ct. 857, 95 L. Ed. 1137 (1951), “[W]hatever theoretical merit there may be to the argument that there is a ‘right’ to rebellion against dictatorial governments is without force where the existing structure of the government provides for peaceful and orderly change.” Scholars have interpreted this to mean that as long as the government provides for free elections and trials by jury, private citizens have no right to take up arms against the government.

Some people have disagreed with the Supreme Court’s definition of tyranny. Many of these people label the state and federal governments as tyrannical based on issues such as taxes and government regulations. Others cite governments ponsored racial and ethnic Integration as driving forces in their campaign against the federal and state governments. Many of these critics have formed private militias designed to resist perceived government oppression.

Some private militias have formed their own government. The legal problems of these private militias are generally unrelated to military activities. Instead, any criminal charges usually arise from activities associated with their political beliefs. The Freemen of Montana is one such militia. This group denied the legitimacy of the federal government and created its own township called Justus. The Freemen established its own court system, posted bounties for the arrest of police officers and judges, and held seminars on how to challenge laws its members viewed as beyond the scope of the Constitution. According to neighbors, the group also established its own common-law court system and built its own jail for the imprisonment of trespassers and government workers, or “public hirelings.”

In the 1990s, the Freemen came to the attention of federal prosecutors after members of the group allegedly wrote worthless checks and money orders to pay taxes and to defraud banks and credit card companies. One Freeman had also allegedly threatened a federal judge, and some had allegedly refused to pay taxes for at least a decade.

In March 1996, law enforcement officials obtained warrants for the arrest of many of the Freemen. However, remembering the violence that occurred when officials attempted to serve arrest warrants on another armed group in Waco, Texas, in 1993, law enforcement authorities did not invade the Freemen’s 960-acre ranch in Jordan, Montana. Although the Freemen constituted an armed challenge to all government authority, its beliefs and its military activities were not illegal, and most of its members were charged with nonviolent crimes, such as Fraud and related conspiracy. Two men were also charged with threatening public officials. In addition, several Freemen faced charges of criminal syndicalism, which is the advocacy of violence for political goals.

Amar, Akhil Reed. 2002. “Second Thoughts.” Law and Contemporary Problems 65 (spring).

Barry, Monica Sue. 1996. “Stockpiling Weapons: Can Private Militias Receive Protection under the First and Second Amendments?” Thomas Jefferson Law Review 18 (spring).

Hardaway, Robert, Elizabeth Gormley, and Bryan Taylor. 2002. “The Inconvenient Militia Clause of the Second Amendment: Why the Supreme Court Declines to Resolve the Debate over the Right to Bear Arms.” St. John’s Journal of Legal Commentary 16 (winter).

Dennis v. United States.

Several decades later, the Supreme Court ignored the contradictory language in Presser and cemented a limited reading of the Second Amendment. In United States v. Miller, 307 U.S. 174, 59 S. Ct. 816, 83 L. Ed. 1206 (1939), defendants Jack Miller and Frank Layton were charged in federal court with unlawful transportation of firearms in violation of certain sections of the National Firearms Act of June 26, 1934 (ch. 757, 48 Stat. 12361240 [26 U.S.C.A. 1132 et seq.]). Specifically, Miller and Layton had transported shotguns with barrels less than 18 inches long, without the registration required under the act.

The district court dismissed the indictment, holding that the act violated the Second Amendment. The United States appealed. The Supreme Court reversed the decision and sent the case back to the trial court. The Supreme Court stated that the Second Amendment was fashioned “to assure the continuation and render possible the effectiveness of militia forces.”

The Miller opinion confirmed the restrictive language of Presser and solidified a narrow reading of the Second Amendment. According to the Court in Miller, the Second Amendment does not guarantee the right to own a firearm unless the possession or use of the firearm has “a reasonable relationship to the preservation or efficiency of a well regulated militia.”

The legislative measures that inspire most Second Amendment discussions are Gun Control laws. Since the mid-nineteenth century, state legislatures have been passing laws that infringe a perceived right to bear arms. Congress has also asserted the power to regulate firearms. No law regulating firearms has ever been struck down by the Supreme Court as a violation of the Second Amendment.

Historically, the academic community has largely ignored the Second Amendment. However, gun control laws have turned many laypersons into scholars of the Second Amendment’s history. The arguments for a broader interpretation are many and varied. Most center on the Original Intent of the Framers. Some emphasize that the Second Amendment should be interpreted as granting an unconditional personal right to bear arms for defensive and sporting purposes. Others adhere to an insurrection theory, under which the Second Amendment not only grants the personal right to bear arms, it gives citizens the right to rebel against a government perceived as tyrannical.

In response to these arguments, supporters of the prevailing Second Amendment interpretation maintain that any right to bear arms should be secondary to concerns for public safety. They also point out that other provisions in the Constitution grant power to Congress to quell insurrections, thus contradicting the insurrection theory. Lastly, they argue that the Constitution should be interpreted in accordance with a changing society and that the destructive capability of semiautomatic and automatic firearms was not envisioned by the Framers.

In response to the last argument, critics maintain that because such firearms exist, it should be legal to use them against violent criminals who are themselves wielding such weapons.

In the 2000s, federal courts continue to revisit the scope and detail of the Second Amendment right to bear arms. In particular federal courts have recast much of the debate as one over whether the Second Amendment protects a “collective” right or an “individual” right to bear arms. If the Second Amendment protects only a collective right, then only states would have the power to bring a legal action to enforce it and only for the purpose of maintaining a “well-regulated militia.” If the Second Amendment protects only an individual right to bear arms, then only individuals could bring suit to challenge gun-control laws that curb their liberty to buy, sell, own, or possess firearms and other guns.

Not surprisingly, courts are conflicted over how to resolve this debate. In United States v. Emerson, 270 F.3d 203 (5th Cir. 2001), the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit found that the original intent of the Founding Fathers supported an individual-rights interpretation of the Second Amendment, while the Ninth Circuit came to the opposite conclusion in Nordyke v. King, 319 F.3d 1185 (9th Cir. 2003). Although no court has concluded that the original intent underlying the Second Amendment supports a claim for both an individual- and a collective rights based interpretation of the right to bear arms, the compelling historical arguments marshaled on both sides of the debate would suggest that another court faced with the same debate may reach such a conclusion.

Amar, Akhil Reed. 1992. “The Bill of Rights and the Fourteenth Amendment.” Yale Law Journal 101 (April).

Becker, Edward R. 1997. “The Second Amendment and Other Federal Constitutional Rights of the Private Militia.” Montana Law Review 58 (winter).

Bogus, Carl T., ed. 2000. The Second Amendment in Law and History: Historians and Constitutional Scholars on the Right to Bear Arms. New York: New Press.

Dolan, Edward F., and Margaret M. Scariano. 1994. Guns in the United States. New York: Watts.

Dunlap, Charles J., Jr. 1995. “Revolt of the Masses: Armed Civilians and the Insurrectionary Theory of the Second Amendment.” Tennessee Law Review 62 (spring).

Hanson, Freya Ottem. 1998. The Second Amendment: The Right to Own Guns. Springfield, N.J.: Enslow.

Hook, Donald D. 1992. Gun Control: The Continuing Debate. Washington, D.C.: Second Amendment Foundation.

Hoppin, Jason. 2003. “Ninth Circuit Upholds Controversial Ruling on Second Amendment.” Legal Intelligencer (May 8).

. 2003. “Second Amendment Fight Steals Show in Gun Ban Case: Panel Enters Fray over Individual Rights.” San Francisco Recorder (February 19).

McAffee, Thomas B. 1997. “Constitutional Limits on Regulating Private Militia Groups.” Montana Law Review 58 (winter).

Gun Control.

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Second Amendment legal definition of Second Amendment

Second Amendment legal definition of Second Amendment

The Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution reads:

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 subject matter and unusual phrasing of this amendment led to much controversy and analysis, especially in the last half of the twentieth century. Nevertheless, the meaning and scope of the amendment have long been decided by the Supreme Court.

Firearms played an important part in the colonization of America. In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, European colonists relied heavily on firearms to take land away from Native Americans and repel attacks by Native Americans and Europeans. Around the time of the Revolutionary War, male citizens were required to own firearms for fighting against the British forces. Firearms were also used in hunting.

In June 1776, one month before the signing of the Declaration of Independence, Virginia became the first colony to adopt a state constitution. In this document, the state of Virginia pronounced that “a well regulated Militia, composed of the body of the people, trained to arms, is the proper, natural, and safe defence of a free State.” After the colonies declared their independence from England, other states began to include the right to bear arms in their constitution. Pennsylvania, for example, declared that

the people have a right to bear arms for the defence of themselves and the state; and as standing armies in the time of peace are dangerous to liberty, they ought not to be kept up; And that the military should be kept under strict subordination to, and governed by, the civil power.

The wording of clauses about bearing arms in late-eighteenth-century state constitutions varied. Some states asserted that bearing arms was a “right” of the people, whereas others called it a “duty” of every able-bodied man in the defense of society.

Pennsylvania was not alone in its express discouragement of a standing (professional) army. Many of the Framers of the U.S. Constitution rejected standing armies, preferring instead the model of a citizen army, equipped with weapons and prepared for defense. According to Framers such as Elbridge Gerry of Massachusetts and George Mason of Virginia a standing army was susceptible to tyrannical use by a power-hungry government.

At the first session of Congress in March 1789, the Second Amendment was submitted as a counterweight to the federal powers of Congress and the president. According to constitutional theorists, the Framers who feared a central government extracted the amendment as a compromise from those in favor of centralized authority over the states. The Revolutionary War had, after all, been fought in large part by a citizen army against the standing armies of England.

The precise wording of the amendment was changed two times before the U.S. Senate finally cast it in its present form. As with many of the amendments, the exact wording proved critical to its interpretation.

In 1791 a majority of states ratified the Bill of Rights, which included the Second Amendment. In its final form, the amendment presented a challenge to interpreters. It was the only amendment with an opening clause that appeared to state its purpose. The amendment even had defective punctuation; the comma before shall seemed grammatically unnecessary.

Legal scholars do not agree about this comma. Some have argued that it was intentional and that it was intended to make militia the subject of the sentence. According to these theorists, the operative words of the amendment are “[a] well regulated Militia shall not be infringed.” Others have argued that the comma was a mistake, and that the operative words of the sentence are “the right of the people to bear arms shall not be infringed.” Under this reading, the first part of the sentence is the rationale for the absolute, personal right of the people to own firearms. Indeed, the historical backdrophighlighted by a general disdain for professional armieswould seem to support this theory.

Some observers argue further that the Second Amendment grants the right of insurrection. According to these theorists, the Second Amendment was designed to allow citizens to rebel against the government. Thomas Jefferson is quoted as saying that “a little rebellion every now and then is a good thing.”

The Supreme Court makes the ultimate determination of the Constitution’s meaning, and it has defined the amendment as simply granting to the states the right to maintain a militia separate from federally controlled militias. This interpretation first came in United States v. Cruikshank, 92 U.S. 542, 23 L. Ed. 588 (1875). In Cruikshank, approximately one hundred persons were tried jointly in a Louisiana federal court with felonies in connection with an April 13, 1873, assault on two AfricanAmerican men. One of the criminal counts charged that the mob intended to hinder the right of the two men to bear arms. The defendants were convicted by a jury, but the circuit court arrested the judgment, effectively overturning the verdict. In affirming that decision, the Supreme Court declared that “the second amendment means no more than that [the right to bear arms] shall not be infringed by Congress, and has no other effect than to restrict the powers of the national government.”

In Presser v. Illinois, 116 U.S. 252, 6 S. Ct. 580, 29 L. Ed. 615 (1886), Herman Presser was charged in Illinois state court with parading and drilling an unauthorized militia in the streets of Chicago in December 1879, in violation of certain sections of the Illinois Military Code. One of the sections in question prohibited the organization, drilling, operation, and parading of militias other than U.S. troops or the regular organized volunteer militia of the state. Presser was tried by the judge, convicted, and ordered to pay a fine of $10. On appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, Presser argued, in part, that the charges violated his Second Amendment right to bear arms. The Court disagreed and upheld Presser’s conviction. The Court cited Cruikshank for the proposition that the Second Amendment means only that the federal government may not infringe on the right of states to form their own militias. This meant that the Illinois state law forbidding citizen militias was not unconstitutional. However, in its opinion, the Court in Presser delivered a reading of the Second Amendment that seemed to suggest an absolute right of persons to bear arms: “It is undoubtedly true that all citizens capable of bearing arms constitute the reserved military force or reserve militia of the United States,” and “states cannot prohibit the people from keeping and bearing arms.”

Despite this generous language, the Court refused to incorporate the Second Amendment into the Fourteenth Amendment. Under the first section of the Fourteenth Amendment, passed in 1868, states may not abridge the Privileges and Immunities of citizens of the United States. The privileges and immunities of citizens are listed in the Bill of Rights, of which the Second Amendment is part. Presser had argued that states may not, by virtue of the Fourteenth Amendment, abridge the right to bear arms. The Court refused to accept the argument that the right to bear arms is a personal right of the people. According to the Court, “The right to drill or parade with arms, without, and independent of, an act of congress or law of the state authorizing the same, is not an attribute of national citizenship.”

The Presser opinion is best understood in its historical context. The Northern states and the federal government had just fought the Civil War against Southern militias unauthorized by the federal government. After this ordeal, the Supreme Court was in no mood to accept an expansive right to bear arms. At the same time, the Court was sensitive to the subject of federal encroachment on States’ Rights.

Private militias are armed military groups that are composed of private citizens and not recognized by federal or state governments. Private militias have been formed by individuals in America since the colonial period. In fact, the Revolutionary War against England was fought in part by armies comprising not professional soldiers but ordinary male citizens.

Approximately half the states maintain laws regulating private militias. Generally, these laws prohibit the parading and exercising of armed private militias in public, but do not forbid the formation of private militias. In Wyoming, however, state law forbids the very formation of private militias. Under section 19-1-106 of the Wyoming Statutes, “No body of men other than the regularly organized national guard or the troops of the United States shall associate themselves together as a military company or organization, or parade in public with arms without license of the governor.” The Wyoming law also prohibits the public funding of private militias. Anyone convicted of violating the provisions of the law is subject to a fine of not more than $1,000, imprisonment of six months, or both, for each offense.

In states that do not outlaw them, private militias are limited only by the criminal laws applicable to all of society. Thus, if an armed private militia seeks to parade and exercise in a public area, its members will be subject to arrest on a variety of laws, including disturbing-the-peace, firearms, or even riot statutes.

Many private militias are driven by the insurrection theory of the Second Amendment. Under this view, the Second Amendment grants an unconditional right to bear arms for Self-Defense and for rebellion against a tyrannical governmentwhen a government turns oppressive, private citizens have a duty to “insurrect,” or take up arms against it.

The U.S. Supreme Court has issued a qualified rejection of the insurrection theory. According to the Court in Dennis v. United States, 341 U.S. 494, 71 S. Ct. 857, 95 L. Ed. 1137 (1951), “[W]hatever theoretical merit there may be to the argument that there is a ‘right’ to rebellion against dictatorial governments is without force where the existing structure of the government provides for peaceful and orderly change.” Scholars have interpreted this to mean that as long as the government provides for free elections and trials by jury, private citizens have no right to take up arms against the government.

Some people have disagreed with the Supreme Court’s definition of tyranny. Many of these people label the state and federal governments as tyrannical based on issues such as taxes and government regulations. Others cite governments ponsored racial and ethnic Integration as driving forces in their campaign against the federal and state governments. Many of these critics have formed private militias designed to resist perceived government oppression.

Some private militias have formed their own government. The legal problems of these private militias are generally unrelated to military activities. Instead, any criminal charges usually arise from activities associated with their political beliefs. The Freemen of Montana is one such militia. This group denied the legitimacy of the federal government and created its own township called Justus. The Freemen established its own court system, posted bounties for the arrest of police officers and judges, and held seminars on how to challenge laws its members viewed as beyond the scope of the Constitution. According to neighbors, the group also established its own common-law court system and built its own jail for the imprisonment of trespassers and government workers, or “public hirelings.”

In the 1990s, the Freemen came to the attention of federal prosecutors after members of the group allegedly wrote worthless checks and money orders to pay taxes and to defraud banks and credit card companies. One Freeman had also allegedly threatened a federal judge, and some had allegedly refused to pay taxes for at least a decade.

In March 1996, law enforcement officials obtained warrants for the arrest of many of the Freemen. However, remembering the violence that occurred when officials attempted to serve arrest warrants on another armed group in Waco, Texas, in 1993, law enforcement authorities did not invade the Freemen’s 960-acre ranch in Jordan, Montana. Although the Freemen constituted an armed challenge to all government authority, its beliefs and its military activities were not illegal, and most of its members were charged with nonviolent crimes, such as Fraud and related conspiracy. Two men were also charged with threatening public officials. In addition, several Freemen faced charges of criminal syndicalism, which is the advocacy of violence for political goals.

Amar, Akhil Reed. 2002. “Second Thoughts.” Law and Contemporary Problems 65 (spring).

Barry, Monica Sue. 1996. “Stockpiling Weapons: Can Private Militias Receive Protection under the First and Second Amendments?” Thomas Jefferson Law Review 18 (spring).

Hardaway, Robert, Elizabeth Gormley, and Bryan Taylor. 2002. “The Inconvenient Militia Clause of the Second Amendment: Why the Supreme Court Declines to Resolve the Debate over the Right to Bear Arms.” St. John’s Journal of Legal Commentary 16 (winter).

Dennis v. United States.

Several decades later, the Supreme Court ignored the contradictory language in Presser and cemented a limited reading of the Second Amendment. In United States v. Miller, 307 U.S. 174, 59 S. Ct. 816, 83 L. Ed. 1206 (1939), defendants Jack Miller and Frank Layton were charged in federal court with unlawful transportation of firearms in violation of certain sections of the National Firearms Act of June 26, 1934 (ch. 757, 48 Stat. 12361240 [26 U.S.C.A. 1132 et seq.]). Specifically, Miller and Layton had transported shotguns with barrels less than 18 inches long, without the registration required under the act.

The district court dismissed the indictment, holding that the act violated the Second Amendment. The United States appealed. The Supreme Court reversed the decision and sent the case back to the trial court. The Supreme Court stated that the Second Amendment was fashioned “to assure the continuation and render possible the effectiveness of militia forces.”

The Miller opinion confirmed the restrictive language of Presser and solidified a narrow reading of the Second Amendment. According to the Court in Miller, the Second Amendment does not guarantee the right to own a firearm unless the possession or use of the firearm has “a reasonable relationship to the preservation or efficiency of a well regulated militia.”

The legislative measures that inspire most Second Amendment discussions are Gun Control laws. Since the mid-nineteenth century, state legislatures have been passing laws that infringe a perceived right to bear arms. Congress has also asserted the power to regulate firearms. No law regulating firearms has ever been struck down by the Supreme Court as a violation of the Second Amendment.

Historically, the academic community has largely ignored the Second Amendment. However, gun control laws have turned many laypersons into scholars of the Second Amendment’s history. The arguments for a broader interpretation are many and varied. Most center on the Original Intent of the Framers. Some emphasize that the Second Amendment should be interpreted as granting an unconditional personal right to bear arms for defensive and sporting purposes. Others adhere to an insurrection theory, under which the Second Amendment not only grants the personal right to bear arms, it gives citizens the right to rebel against a government perceived as tyrannical.

In response to these arguments, supporters of the prevailing Second Amendment interpretation maintain that any right to bear arms should be secondary to concerns for public safety. They also point out that other provisions in the Constitution grant power to Congress to quell insurrections, thus contradicting the insurrection theory. Lastly, they argue that the Constitution should be interpreted in accordance with a changing society and that the destructive capability of semiautomatic and automatic firearms was not envisioned by the Framers.

In response to the last argument, critics maintain that because such firearms exist, it should be legal to use them against violent criminals who are themselves wielding such weapons.

In the 2000s, federal courts continue to revisit the scope and detail of the Second Amendment right to bear arms. In particular federal courts have recast much of the debate as one over whether the Second Amendment protects a “collective” right or an “individual” right to bear arms. If the Second Amendment protects only a collective right, then only states would have the power to bring a legal action to enforce it and only for the purpose of maintaining a “well-regulated militia.” If the Second Amendment protects only an individual right to bear arms, then only individuals could bring suit to challenge gun-control laws that curb their liberty to buy, sell, own, or possess firearms and other guns.

Not surprisingly, courts are conflicted over how to resolve this debate. In United States v. Emerson, 270 F.3d 203 (5th Cir. 2001), the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit found that the original intent of the Founding Fathers supported an individual-rights interpretation of the Second Amendment, while the Ninth Circuit came to the opposite conclusion in Nordyke v. King, 319 F.3d 1185 (9th Cir. 2003). Although no court has concluded that the original intent underlying the Second Amendment supports a claim for both an individual- and a collective rights based interpretation of the right to bear arms, the compelling historical arguments marshaled on both sides of the debate would suggest that another court faced with the same debate may reach such a conclusion.

Amar, Akhil Reed. 1992. “The Bill of Rights and the Fourteenth Amendment.” Yale Law Journal 101 (April).

Becker, Edward R. 1997. “The Second Amendment and Other Federal Constitutional Rights of the Private Militia.” Montana Law Review 58 (winter).

Bogus, Carl T., ed. 2000. The Second Amendment in Law and History: Historians and Constitutional Scholars on the Right to Bear Arms. New York: New Press.

Dolan, Edward F., and Margaret M. Scariano. 1994. Guns in the United States. New York: Watts.

Dunlap, Charles J., Jr. 1995. “Revolt of the Masses: Armed Civilians and the Insurrectionary Theory of the Second Amendment.” Tennessee Law Review 62 (spring).

Hanson, Freya Ottem. 1998. The Second Amendment: The Right to Own Guns. Springfield, N.J.: Enslow.

Hook, Donald D. 1992. Gun Control: The Continuing Debate. Washington, D.C.: Second Amendment Foundation.

Hoppin, Jason. 2003. “Ninth Circuit Upholds Controversial Ruling on Second Amendment.” Legal Intelligencer (May 8).

. 2003. “Second Amendment Fight Steals Show in Gun Ban Case: Panel Enters Fray over Individual Rights.” San Francisco Recorder (February 19).

McAffee, Thomas B. 1997. “Constitutional Limits on Regulating Private Militia Groups.” Montana Law Review 58 (winter).

Gun Control.

See the article here:

Second Amendment legal definition of Second Amendment

Second Amendment legal definition of Second Amendment

The Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution reads:

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 subject matter and unusual phrasing of this amendment led to much controversy and analysis, especially in the last half of the twentieth century. Nevertheless, the meaning and scope of the amendment have long been decided by the Supreme Court.

Firearms played an important part in the colonization of America. In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, European colonists relied heavily on firearms to take land away from Native Americans and repel attacks by Native Americans and Europeans. Around the time of the Revolutionary War, male citizens were required to own firearms for fighting against the British forces. Firearms were also used in hunting.

In June 1776, one month before the signing of the Declaration of Independence, Virginia became the first colony to adopt a state constitution. In this document, the state of Virginia pronounced that “a well regulated Militia, composed of the body of the people, trained to arms, is the proper, natural, and safe defence of a free State.” After the colonies declared their independence from England, other states began to include the right to bear arms in their constitution. Pennsylvania, for example, declared that

the people have a right to bear arms for the defence of themselves and the state; and as standing armies in the time of peace are dangerous to liberty, they ought not to be kept up; And that the military should be kept under strict subordination to, and governed by, the civil power.

The wording of clauses about bearing arms in late-eighteenth-century state constitutions varied. Some states asserted that bearing arms was a “right” of the people, whereas others called it a “duty” of every able-bodied man in the defense of society.

Pennsylvania was not alone in its express discouragement of a standing (professional) army. Many of the Framers of the U.S. Constitution rejected standing armies, preferring instead the model of a citizen army, equipped with weapons and prepared for defense. According to Framers such as Elbridge Gerry of Massachusetts and George Mason of Virginia a standing army was susceptible to tyrannical use by a power-hungry government.

At the first session of Congress in March 1789, the Second Amendment was submitted as a counterweight to the federal powers of Congress and the president. According to constitutional theorists, the Framers who feared a central government extracted the amendment as a compromise from those in favor of centralized authority over the states. The Revolutionary War had, after all, been fought in large part by a citizen army against the standing armies of England.

The precise wording of the amendment was changed two times before the U.S. Senate finally cast it in its present form. As with many of the amendments, the exact wording proved critical to its interpretation.

In 1791 a majority of states ratified the Bill of Rights, which included the Second Amendment. In its final form, the amendment presented a challenge to interpreters. It was the only amendment with an opening clause that appeared to state its purpose. The amendment even had defective punctuation; the comma before shall seemed grammatically unnecessary.

Legal scholars do not agree about this comma. Some have argued that it was intentional and that it was intended to make militia the subject of the sentence. According to these theorists, the operative words of the amendment are “[a] well regulated Militia shall not be infringed.” Others have argued that the comma was a mistake, and that the operative words of the sentence are “the right of the people to bear arms shall not be infringed.” Under this reading, the first part of the sentence is the rationale for the absolute, personal right of the people to own firearms. Indeed, the historical backdrophighlighted by a general disdain for professional armieswould seem to support this theory.

Some observers argue further that the Second Amendment grants the right of insurrection. According to these theorists, the Second Amendment was designed to allow citizens to rebel against the government. Thomas Jefferson is quoted as saying that “a little rebellion every now and then is a good thing.”

The Supreme Court makes the ultimate determination of the Constitution’s meaning, and it has defined the amendment as simply granting to the states the right to maintain a militia separate from federally controlled militias. This interpretation first came in United States v. Cruikshank, 92 U.S. 542, 23 L. Ed. 588 (1875). In Cruikshank, approximately one hundred persons were tried jointly in a Louisiana federal court with felonies in connection with an April 13, 1873, assault on two AfricanAmerican men. One of the criminal counts charged that the mob intended to hinder the right of the two men to bear arms. The defendants were convicted by a jury, but the circuit court arrested the judgment, effectively overturning the verdict. In affirming that decision, the Supreme Court declared that “the second amendment means no more than that [the right to bear arms] shall not be infringed by Congress, and has no other effect than to restrict the powers of the national government.”

In Presser v. Illinois, 116 U.S. 252, 6 S. Ct. 580, 29 L. Ed. 615 (1886), Herman Presser was charged in Illinois state court with parading and drilling an unauthorized militia in the streets of Chicago in December 1879, in violation of certain sections of the Illinois Military Code. One of the sections in question prohibited the organization, drilling, operation, and parading of militias other than U.S. troops or the regular organized volunteer militia of the state. Presser was tried by the judge, convicted, and ordered to pay a fine of $10. On appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, Presser argued, in part, that the charges violated his Second Amendment right to bear arms. The Court disagreed and upheld Presser’s conviction. The Court cited Cruikshank for the proposition that the Second Amendment means only that the federal government may not infringe on the right of states to form their own militias. This meant that the Illinois state law forbidding citizen militias was not unconstitutional. However, in its opinion, the Court in Presser delivered a reading of the Second Amendment that seemed to suggest an absolute right of persons to bear arms: “It is undoubtedly true that all citizens capable of bearing arms constitute the reserved military force or reserve militia of the United States,” and “states cannot prohibit the people from keeping and bearing arms.”

Despite this generous language, the Court refused to incorporate the Second Amendment into the Fourteenth Amendment. Under the first section of the Fourteenth Amendment, passed in 1868, states may not abridge the Privileges and Immunities of citizens of the United States. The privileges and immunities of citizens are listed in the Bill of Rights, of which the Second Amendment is part. Presser had argued that states may not, by virtue of the Fourteenth Amendment, abridge the right to bear arms. The Court refused to accept the argument that the right to bear arms is a personal right of the people. According to the Court, “The right to drill or parade with arms, without, and independent of, an act of congress or law of the state authorizing the same, is not an attribute of national citizenship.”

The Presser opinion is best understood in its historical context. The Northern states and the federal government had just fought the Civil War against Southern militias unauthorized by the federal government. After this ordeal, the Supreme Court was in no mood to accept an expansive right to bear arms. At the same time, the Court was sensitive to the subject of federal encroachment on States’ Rights.

Private militias are armed military groups that are composed of private citizens and not recognized by federal or state governments. Private militias have been formed by individuals in America since the colonial period. In fact, the Revolutionary War against England was fought in part by armies comprising not professional soldiers but ordinary male citizens.

Approximately half the states maintain laws regulating private militias. Generally, these laws prohibit the parading and exercising of armed private militias in public, but do not forbid the formation of private militias. In Wyoming, however, state law forbids the very formation of private militias. Under section 19-1-106 of the Wyoming Statutes, “No body of men other than the regularly organized national guard or the troops of the United States shall associate themselves together as a military company or organization, or parade in public with arms without license of the governor.” The Wyoming law also prohibits the public funding of private militias. Anyone convicted of violating the provisions of the law is subject to a fine of not more than $1,000, imprisonment of six months, or both, for each offense.

In states that do not outlaw them, private militias are limited only by the criminal laws applicable to all of society. Thus, if an armed private militia seeks to parade and exercise in a public area, its members will be subject to arrest on a variety of laws, including disturbing-the-peace, firearms, or even riot statutes.

Many private militias are driven by the insurrection theory of the Second Amendment. Under this view, the Second Amendment grants an unconditional right to bear arms for Self-Defense and for rebellion against a tyrannical governmentwhen a government turns oppressive, private citizens have a duty to “insurrect,” or take up arms against it.

The U.S. Supreme Court has issued a qualified rejection of the insurrection theory. According to the Court in Dennis v. United States, 341 U.S. 494, 71 S. Ct. 857, 95 L. Ed. 1137 (1951), “[W]hatever theoretical merit there may be to the argument that there is a ‘right’ to rebellion against dictatorial governments is without force where the existing structure of the government provides for peaceful and orderly change.” Scholars have interpreted this to mean that as long as the government provides for free elections and trials by jury, private citizens have no right to take up arms against the government.

Some people have disagreed with the Supreme Court’s definition of tyranny. Many of these people label the state and federal governments as tyrannical based on issues such as taxes and government regulations. Others cite governments ponsored racial and ethnic Integration as driving forces in their campaign against the federal and state governments. Many of these critics have formed private militias designed to resist perceived government oppression.

Some private militias have formed their own government. The legal problems of these private militias are generally unrelated to military activities. Instead, any criminal charges usually arise from activities associated with their political beliefs. The Freemen of Montana is one such militia. This group denied the legitimacy of the federal government and created its own township called Justus. The Freemen established its own court system, posted bounties for the arrest of police officers and judges, and held seminars on how to challenge laws its members viewed as beyond the scope of the Constitution. According to neighbors, the group also established its own common-law court system and built its own jail for the imprisonment of trespassers and government workers, or “public hirelings.”

In the 1990s, the Freemen came to the attention of federal prosecutors after members of the group allegedly wrote worthless checks and money orders to pay taxes and to defraud banks and credit card companies. One Freeman had also allegedly threatened a federal judge, and some had allegedly refused to pay taxes for at least a decade.

In March 1996, law enforcement officials obtained warrants for the arrest of many of the Freemen. However, remembering the violence that occurred when officials attempted to serve arrest warrants on another armed group in Waco, Texas, in 1993, law enforcement authorities did not invade the Freemen’s 960-acre ranch in Jordan, Montana. Although the Freemen constituted an armed challenge to all government authority, its beliefs and its military activities were not illegal, and most of its members were charged with nonviolent crimes, such as Fraud and related conspiracy. Two men were also charged with threatening public officials. In addition, several Freemen faced charges of criminal syndicalism, which is the advocacy of violence for political goals.

Amar, Akhil Reed. 2002. “Second Thoughts.” Law and Contemporary Problems 65 (spring).

Barry, Monica Sue. 1996. “Stockpiling Weapons: Can Private Militias Receive Protection under the First and Second Amendments?” Thomas Jefferson Law Review 18 (spring).

Hardaway, Robert, Elizabeth Gormley, and Bryan Taylor. 2002. “The Inconvenient Militia Clause of the Second Amendment: Why the Supreme Court Declines to Resolve the Debate over the Right to Bear Arms.” St. John’s Journal of Legal Commentary 16 (winter).

Dennis v. United States.

Several decades later, the Supreme Court ignored the contradictory language in Presser and cemented a limited reading of the Second Amendment. In United States v. Miller, 307 U.S. 174, 59 S. Ct. 816, 83 L. Ed. 1206 (1939), defendants Jack Miller and Frank Layton were charged in federal court with unlawful transportation of firearms in violation of certain sections of the National Firearms Act of June 26, 1934 (ch. 757, 48 Stat. 12361240 [26 U.S.C.A. 1132 et seq.]). Specifically, Miller and Layton had transported shotguns with barrels less than 18 inches long, without the registration required under the act.

The district court dismissed the indictment, holding that the act violated the Second Amendment. The United States appealed. The Supreme Court reversed the decision and sent the case back to the trial court. The Supreme Court stated that the Second Amendment was fashioned “to assure the continuation and render possible the effectiveness of militia forces.”

The Miller opinion confirmed the restrictive language of Presser and solidified a narrow reading of the Second Amendment. According to the Court in Miller, the Second Amendment does not guarantee the right to own a firearm unless the possession or use of the firearm has “a reasonable relationship to the preservation or efficiency of a well regulated militia.”

The legislative measures that inspire most Second Amendment discussions are Gun Control laws. Since the mid-nineteenth century, state legislatures have been passing laws that infringe a perceived right to bear arms. Congress has also asserted the power to regulate firearms. No law regulating firearms has ever been struck down by the Supreme Court as a violation of the Second Amendment.

Historically, the academic community has largely ignored the Second Amendment. However, gun control laws have turned many laypersons into scholars of the Second Amendment’s history. The arguments for a broader interpretation are many and varied. Most center on the Original Intent of the Framers. Some emphasize that the Second Amendment should be interpreted as granting an unconditional personal right to bear arms for defensive and sporting purposes. Others adhere to an insurrection theory, under which the Second Amendment not only grants the personal right to bear arms, it gives citizens the right to rebel against a government perceived as tyrannical.

In response to these arguments, supporters of the prevailing Second Amendment interpretation maintain that any right to bear arms should be secondary to concerns for public safety. They also point out that other provisions in the Constitution grant power to Congress to quell insurrections, thus contradicting the insurrection theory. Lastly, they argue that the Constitution should be interpreted in accordance with a changing society and that the destructive capability of semiautomatic and automatic firearms was not envisioned by the Framers.

In response to the last argument, critics maintain that because such firearms exist, it should be legal to use them against violent criminals who are themselves wielding such weapons.

In the 2000s, federal courts continue to revisit the scope and detail of the Second Amendment right to bear arms. In particular federal courts have recast much of the debate as one over whether the Second Amendment protects a “collective” right or an “individual” right to bear arms. If the Second Amendment protects only a collective right, then only states would have the power to bring a legal action to enforce it and only for the purpose of maintaining a “well-regulated militia.” If the Second Amendment protects only an individual right to bear arms, then only individuals could bring suit to challenge gun-control laws that curb their liberty to buy, sell, own, or possess firearms and other guns.

Not surprisingly, courts are conflicted over how to resolve this debate. In United States v. Emerson, 270 F.3d 203 (5th Cir. 2001), the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit found that the original intent of the Founding Fathers supported an individual-rights interpretation of the Second Amendment, while the Ninth Circuit came to the opposite conclusion in Nordyke v. King, 319 F.3d 1185 (9th Cir. 2003). Although no court has concluded that the original intent underlying the Second Amendment supports a claim for both an individual- and a collective rights based interpretation of the right to bear arms, the compelling historical arguments marshaled on both sides of the debate would suggest that another court faced with the same debate may reach such a conclusion.

Amar, Akhil Reed. 1992. “The Bill of Rights and the Fourteenth Amendment.” Yale Law Journal 101 (April).

Becker, Edward R. 1997. “The Second Amendment and Other Federal Constitutional Rights of the Private Militia.” Montana Law Review 58 (winter).

Bogus, Carl T., ed. 2000. The Second Amendment in Law and History: Historians and Constitutional Scholars on the Right to Bear Arms. New York: New Press.

Dolan, Edward F., and Margaret M. Scariano. 1994. Guns in the United States. New York: Watts.

Dunlap, Charles J., Jr. 1995. “Revolt of the Masses: Armed Civilians and the Insurrectionary Theory of the Second Amendment.” Tennessee Law Review 62 (spring).

Hanson, Freya Ottem. 1998. The Second Amendment: The Right to Own Guns. Springfield, N.J.: Enslow.

Hook, Donald D. 1992. Gun Control: The Continuing Debate. Washington, D.C.: Second Amendment Foundation.

Hoppin, Jason. 2003. “Ninth Circuit Upholds Controversial Ruling on Second Amendment.” Legal Intelligencer (May 8).

. 2003. “Second Amendment Fight Steals Show in Gun Ban Case: Panel Enters Fray over Individual Rights.” San Francisco Recorder (February 19).

McAffee, Thomas B. 1997. “Constitutional Limits on Regulating Private Militia Groups.” Montana Law Review 58 (winter).

Gun Control.

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Second Amendment legal definition of Second Amendment

Amendment II – The United States Constitution

The right to keep and bear arms is a lot like the right to freedom of speech. In each case, the Constitution expressly protects a liberty that needs to be insulated from the ordinary political process. Neither right, however, is absolute. The First Amendment, for example, has never protected perjury, fraud, or countless other crimes that are committed through the use of speech. Similarly, no reasonable person could believe that violent criminals should have unrestricted access to guns, or that any individual should possess a nuclear weapon.

Inevitably, courts must draw lines, allowing government to carry out its duty to preserve an orderly society, without unduly infringing the legitimate interests of individuals in expressing their thoughts and protecting themselves from criminal violence. This is not a precise science or one that will ever be free from controversy.

One judicial approach, however, should be unequivocally rejected. During the nineteenth century, courts routinely refused to invalidate restrictions on free speech that struck the judges as reasonable. This meant that speech got virtually no judicial protection. Government suppression of speech can usually be thought to serve some reasonable purpose, such as reducing social discord or promoting healthy morals. Similarly, most gun control laws can be viewed as efforts to save lives and prevent crime, which are perfectly reasonable goals. If thats enough to justify infringements on individual liberty, neither constitutional guarantee means much of anything.

During the twentieth century, the Supreme Court finally started taking the First Amendment seriously. Today, individual freedom is generally protected unless the government can make a strong case that it has a real need to suppress speech or expressive conduct, and that its regulations are tailored to that need. The legal doctrines have become quite complex, and there is room for disagreement about many of the Courts specific decisions. Taken as a whole, however, this body of case law shows what the Court can do when it appreciates the value of an individual right enshrined in the Constitution.

The Second Amendment also raises issues about which reasonable people can disagree. But if the Supreme Court takes this provision of the Constitution as seriously as it now takes the First Amendment, which it should do, there will be some easy issues as well.

District of Columbia v. Heller (2008) is one example. The right of the people protected by the Second Amendment is an individual right, just like the right[s] of the people protected by the First and Fourth Amendments. The Constitution does not say that the Second Amendment protects a right of the states or a right of the militia, and nobody offered such an interpretation during the Founding era. Abundant historical evidence indicates that the Second Amendment was meant to leave citizens with the ability to defend themselves against unlawful violence. Such threats might come from usurpers of governmental power, but they might also come from criminals whom the government is unwilling or unable to control.

McDonald v. City of Chicago (2010) was also an easy case under the Courts precedents. Most other provisions of the Bill of Rights had already been applied to the states because they are deeply rooted in this Nations history and tradition. The right to keep and bear arms clearly meets this test.

The text of the Constitution expressly guarantees the right to bear arms, not just the right to keep them. The courts should invalidate regulations that prevent law-abiding citizens from carrying weapons in public, where the vast majority of violent crimes occur. First Amendment rights are not confined to the home, and neither are those protected by the Second Amendment.

Nor should the government be allowed to create burdensome bureaucratic obstacles designed to frustrate the exercise of Second Amendment rights. The courts are vigilant in preventing government from evading the First Amendment through regulations that indirectly abridge free speech rights by making them difficult to exercise. Courts should exercise the same vigilance in protecting Second Amendment rights.

Some other regulations that may appear innocuous should be struck down because they are little more than political stunts. Popular bans on so-called assault rifles, for example, define this class of guns in terms of cosmetic features, leaving functionally identical semi-automatic rifles to circulate freely. This is unconstitutional for the same reason that it would violate the First Amendment to ban words that have a French etymology, or to require that French fries be called freedom fries.

In most American states, including many with large urban population centers, responsible adults have easy access to ordinary firearms, and they are permitted to carry them in public. Experience has shown that these policies do not lead to increased levels of violence. Criminals pay no more attention to gun control regulations than they do to laws against murder, rape, and robbery. Armed citizens, however, prevent countless crimes and have saved many lives. Whats more, the most vulnerable peopleincluding women, the elderly, and those who live in high crime neighborhoodsare among the greatest beneficiaries of the Second Amendment. If the courts require the remaining jurisdictions to stop infringing on the constitutional right to keep and bear arms, their citizens will be more free and probably safer as well.

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Amendment II – The United States Constitution


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