The History of the Second Amendment

Scartelli Olszewski P.C.

The current epidemic of gun violence in America has brought with it new and fervent debates regarding gun control. Is the policy too strong, or too weak? Are we simply witnessing an overall increase in statistical trends when it comes to gun violence? How does the United States compare with other countries that have extremely strict gun control laws? Debates about gun violence bring to the forefront of discussion the Second Amendment of the United States Constitution. How much influence should the Amendment have over gun control policy? Understanding the history of the Second Amendment is essential to grasping what the framers of the Constitution meant when they drafted it, and how it relates to our country today.This Amendment can be found in the Bill of Rights, the first ten Amendments to the Constitution, which were crafted in order to create specific restrictions on governmental power. The Second Amendment came out of a period of extreme turmoil for the newly founded United States. The Revolutionary War had ended only eight years before, and the American people were terrified of a tyrannical government controlling them once more. The debate regarding the Second Amendment stems from its vague wording, “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 question is whether or not this Amendment protects the rights of individual citizens with regards to gun ownership, or is the right only in the hands of the institutions that possess the capability to maintain a militia. The interpretation of this text falls into both camps. Some believe it was meant to protect the rights of citizens, so that they might not fall under the yoke of another oppressor. Others view it in historical context. Most citizens would not have possessed guns as they were extremely expensive to purchase and maintain. Those that owned arms would have most likely been members of an already established militia in their state; the Amendment would therefore prevent disarmament from occurring. Since there are little surviving manifestos of the framers, and what remains is often contradictory, it is hard to develop a clear cut answer regarding the Second Amendment.People have begun looking to the legal system to find an answer to this issue. However, the courts have been just as divided. In 2008 the Supreme Court ruled on the Second Amendment for the first time in over 70 years. In the case District of Columbia v. Heller the court decided that the Amendment “guarantees an individual the right to possess a firearm in the home for self-defense” lifting the previous ban on handguns in Washington D.C. This decision altered the way citizens thought of gun laws and how they pertained to individuals. Some called for more leeway towards gun ownership, while others demanded stricter firearm laws. No matter what view one holds on the Second Amendment, whether it protects the rights of citizens or governments, it must be acknowledged that there is a crisis happening all across America. The crisis involves bad people using guns to kill innocent people. In 2015 alone there have been 47,771 reported incidents dealing with guns; of these incidents, 12,587 were deaths. The increased rate of death and injury caused by a firearm, whether it was accidental or not, has led to a rise in lawsuits that pertain to gun violence and firearm control. Pennsylvania is not exempt from this crisis. In 2013, Pennsylvania had the “twenty-seventh highest gun rate among the states, with 1,451 gun deaths that year alone. Pennsylvania is not the worst when it comes to gun control laws in the United States; however it is also not the best. Pennsylvania does not require a background check when an unlicensed person sells a rifle or shotgun, or reports if an individual’s guns are lost or stolen. The state also does not regulate or require the registration of firearms. While Pennsylvania does have a set age requirement for firearm possession, there are exemptions. “The minor is under the supervision of a parent, grandparent, legal guardian, or an adult acting with the express consent of the minor’s parents or legal guardian and involved in lawful activity.” Or, “the minor is lawfully involved in hunting or trapping activities.”As the discussion of firearm deaths and gun control gains momentum with the 2016 presidential campaign, citizens are urged to gather information as it pertains to this issue. Learn about gun laws in your state and how they pertain to your life. What protections legally do you have with regards to firearms? Is compensation available if you or someone you know is injured or killed in a gun-related incident? If you want to pursue legal action, do you have the best lawyers on your side? In Scranton and the surrounding area, those lawyers are on the legal team at Scartelli Olszewski, P.C. Use the resources available to learn about gun violence and control, not only how it relates to the Second Amendment, but how it influences your everyday life legally and politically.