2nd Amendment Law
After Parkland, what is the status of 2nd Amendment Law?
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Unfortunately, our community has become part of the long list of those that have endured the tragedy of a mass school shooting. As we cope with the emotional realities of what is being called the Parkland Shooting, many are turning to the political realm to enact change. But, just what is the current status of 2nd Amendment jurisprudence in the United States?
In 2008, the Supreme Court in District of Columbia v. Heller interpreted the meaning of the 2nd Amendment more extensively and definitively than in any previous case when it struck down a Washington D.C. ban on handgun possession in the home.
Writing for the majority, Justice Scalia states that the 2nd Amendment guarantees the individual right to possess and carry weapons in case of confrontation
But What About the Militia?
The majority opinion states that the first two clauses of the 2nd Amendment are “prefatory,” meaning they announce a purpose.
- “A well regulated Militia” means all males physically capable of acting in the common defense
- “Security of a free State” means the security of the free country (not of individual states).
The opinion discusses the history of the “militia” and “State” and concludes that tyrants throughout history did not ban militias, but instead took away the people’s arms and used supportive militiamen or armies to control political opponents, which is why the 2nd Amendment protects an individual right. Thus, the prefatory clause states the purpose behind the guaranteed individual right.
Though Heller lays out an individual right to bear arms, it also says that right is not unlimited. For instance, “Arms” does not include weapons specifically designed for military use. The Court also states that longstanding prohibitions on the possession of firearms by felons and the mentally ill, along with laws forbidding firearms in sensitive places like schools are not unconstitutional.
This is the current state of 2nd Amendment law.
*This article was originally published in the February 2018 Issue of Word On The Street
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.
- 2nd Amendment
"Undoubtedly some think that the Second Amendment is outmoded in a society where our standing army is the pride of our Nation, where well-trained police forces provide personal security, and where gun violence is a serious problem. That is perhaps debatable, but what is not debatable is that it is not the role of this Court to pronounce the Second Amendment extinct."
- Justice Antonin Scalia
DC v. Heller