Gun-rights advocates inaccurately insist that throughout American history the Constitution guaranteed an individual’s right to bear arms. Only in the last decade, however, has the Supreme Court adopted that interpretation.
The Second Amendment states: “A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.” Early SCOTUS decisions understood that to mean that while some individuals could own and carry certain guns under certain circumstances, only a “well regulated militia” – like a state’s national guard – had a constitutional right to remain armed.
In 2008’s District of Columbia v. Heller, by a 5-4 decision, the court held, in part, that the Second Amendment does not limit gun ownership to state militias, and gives individuals extensive rights to possess firearms.
Extreme Second Amendment advocates err when claiming a longstanding, absolute right for everyone – domestic abusers, the mentally ill, those on “no fly” lists – to possess all kinds of weapons (automatic rifles and armor-piercing bullets). Overturning District of Columbia v. Heller would not end gun violence, but it would foster regulated gun ownership. For over 200 years, it’s been the American way.
Arnold Anthony Schmidt, Turlock