Right to Bear Arms (Second Amendment)

gun control

gun control, government limitation of the purchase and ownership of firearms. The availability of guns is controlled by nations and localities throughout the world. In the United States the "right of the people to keep and bear arms" is guaranteed by the Constitution, but has been variously interpreted through the years. Since the late 1930s federal judicial and law enforcement officials generally held that the right exists mainly in the context of the maintenance of a state militia, but in 2002 the Justice Dept., under Attorney General John Ashcroft, indicated that it interpreted the amendment as more broadly supporting the rights of individuals to possess and bear firearms. Such an interpretation was upheld by 2008 and 2010 Supreme Court decisions that nonetheless did not challenge the government's right to place some limitations on the ownership and possession of firearms.

Some U.S. states and localities have enacted strict licensing and other control measures, and federal legislation (1968) prohibited the sale of rifles by mail. Gun control has continued to be widely debated, however, and has often been opposed, notably by the National Rifle Association (NRA). Increasing gun-related crimes together with citizen pressure propelled congressional passage (1993) of the "Brady bill" (named for James Brady, the press secretary seriously wounded in the 1981 assassination attempt on President Ronald Reagan) after years of controversy. It required a minimum of a five-day waiting period and background check before a handgun purchase. Parts of the bill were challenged in court, and in 1997 the Supreme Court invalidated its background-check provision. The 1994 Crime Bill outlawed the manufacture, sale, and possession of military-style assault weapons, but it expired in 2004. In 1999, following a rash of shootings at U.S. schools, further gun-control legislation was passed by the Senate but was voted down by the House of Representatives. Attempts by some localities (through legislation) and individuals (through lawsuits) to pursue gun control through the courts by permitting or bringing negligence suits against a gun manufacturer or dealer when a weapon it made or sold was used in a crime led many states and, in 2005, Congress to pass laws limiting such suits. In 2013, however, the Dec., 2012, killing of 26 teachers and first graders at a Newtown, Conn., school led President Obama to propose a new assault weapons ban and other gun-control measures. That legislation died in Congress, but a few states enacted stricter laws.

See study by A. Winkler (2011).

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright© 2014, The Columbia University Press.

Selected full-text books and articles on this topic

Gun Control on Trial: Inside the Supreme Court Battle over the Second Amendment
Brian Doherty.
Cato Institute, 2008
For the Defense of Themselves and the State: The Original Intent and Judicial Interpretation of the Right to Keep and Bear Arms
Clayton E. Cramer.
Praeger, 1994
A Right to Bear Arms: State and Federal Bills of Rights and Constitutional Guarantees
Stephen P. Halbrook.
Greenwood Press, 1989
Showdown in the Show-Me State: The Fight over Conceal-And-Carry Gun Laws in Missouri
William T. Horner.
University of Missouri Press, 2005
What Does the Second Amendment Restrict? A Collective Rights Analysis
Bogus, Carl T.
Constitutional Commentary, Vol. 18, No. 3, Winter 2001
The Second Amendment in Historical Context
Higginbotham, Don.
Constitutional Commentary, Vol. 16, No. 2, Summer 1999
International Law and the United States Constitution in Conflict: A Case Study on the Second Amendment
Alonso, Joseph Bruce.
Houston Journal of International Law, Vol. 26, No. 1, Fall 2003
Cato Handbook for Congress: Policy Recommendations for the 108th Congress
Edward H. Crane; David Boaz.
Cato Institute, 2003
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 18 "Restoring the Right to Bear Arms"
Shakedown: How Corporations, Government, and Trial Lawyers Abuse the Judicial Process
Robert A. Levy.
Cato Institute, 2004
Librarian’s tip: "To Keep and Bear Arms" begins on p. 59
The Paradox of Auxiliary Rights: The Privilege against Self-Incriminition and the Right to Keep and Bear Arms
Green, Michael Steven.
Duke Law Journal, Vol. 52, No. 1, October 2002
To Keep and Bear Arms in the Early Republic
Shalhope, Robert E.
Constitutional Commentary, Vol. 16, No. 2, Summer 1999
Guns, Words, and Constitutional Interpretation
Powe, L. A., Jr.
William and Mary Law Review, Vol. 38, No. 4, May 1997
Suicide Pact: New Readings of the Second Amendment
Bellesiles, Michael A.
Constitutional Commentary, Vol. 16, No. 2, Summer 1999
The Cruikshank Redemption: The Enduring Rationale for Excluding the Second Amendment from the Courts's Modern Incorporation Doctrine
Lieber, David A.
Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology, Vol. 95, No. 3, Spring 2005
Fundamental Rights and the Right to Bear Arms
Stark, Cynthia A.
Criminal Justice Ethics, Vol. 20, No. 1, Spring 2001
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