The Second Amendment of the United States Constitution:
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. OK, what does this mean? Does it mean that all people should have the ability to possess whatever arms they wish? Pro-gunners disagree on the limits of this bill: some people believe it should be absolute, and any and all arms should be legal. Some pro-gunners draw what seems to be obvious limitations, for instance, the owning of a nuclear weapon or other weapon of mass destruction should be illegal. Some go even further, and declare that such heavy military equipment such as tanks, bazookas, etc., should be illegal, and then some believe that reasonable controls on items such as automatic machine guns are all right. So, there is obviously much disagreement already about the limitations of the 2nd. One thing is clear, though, and that is it can be limited to a certain extent, morally and legally. First, lets look at the moral arguments: The moral arguments why the 2nd is not absolute
First, it important to note that no right is absolute, even those supposedly granted by God and guaranteed in the Bill of Rights. For example, even though the 1st Amendment guarantees me the right to free speech, the right is limited. I cannot publish a newspaper in which I claim that a certain public figure, for example the president of a major company, is a cocaine user, if that fact is known to me to be completely untrue. It would be called libel, and it is a valid abridgment of my rights. The classic example of an abridgment of freedom of speech is the imminent danger rule: I cannot stand up in a crowded theatre and scream that there is a fire (if there is not), because the ensuing panic may cause injury. The reason abridgment of rights is sometimes valid is that rights can very easily clash. In the example above, my right to free speech clashes with the people in theatre's rights to not be trampled. The same analysis can be applied to the 2nd Amendment. If the right to own a gun interferes with public safety, that right can morally be abridged, in order to protect public safety. And the courts have agreed with this position, as follows. The legal arguments why the 2nd is not absolute
Throughout the history of the USA, many Court decisions have limited the right to keep and bear arms. The Miller case in the early 20th century limited the right to own certain classes of weapons. More recently, we have the following from the United States Court of Appeals, Sixth Circuit, which indicates that the clause about "a well regulated militia" does not mean that the average citizen is part of that militia: "Since the Second Amendment right 'to keep and bear arms' applies only to the right of the state to maintain a militia, and not to the individual's right to bear arms, there can be no serious claim to any express constitutional right of an individual to possess a firearm." (Stevens v. U.S., United States Court of Appeals, Sixth Circuit, 1971). A similar ruling from the Seventh Circuit held that "Construing [the language of the Second Amendment] according to its plain meaning, it seems clear that the right to bear arms is inextricably connected to the preservation of a militia . . . We conclude that the right to keep and bear handguns is not guaranteed by the Second Amendment." (Quilici v. Village of Morton Grove, U.S. Court of Appeals, Seventh Circuit, 1982). Recently, although the Supreme Court has not issued a clear cut ruling on 2nd Amendment rights, a 1992 decision by the conservative majority stated that "Making a firearm without approval may be subject to criminal sanction, as is possession of an unregistered firearm and failure to pay the tax on one, 26 U.S.C. 5861, 5871." (UNITED STATES, PETITIONER v. THOMPSON/CENTER ARMS COMPANY, on writ of certiorari to the United States Court of Appeals for the federal circuit, June 8, 1992). This...
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