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The Second Amendment to the United States Constitution is one of the ten amendments that form the Bill of Rights. It was adopted by the House of Representatives in 1789 and ratified by the three-fourths of the States in 1791. The amendments were introduced by James Madison when the First Congress met in 1789. They serve to protect personal freedom, rights of liberty and property. The Second Amendment protects people’s right to keep and bear arms. It states that “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”. (Bill of Rights, 2nd Amendment)

The amendment protects the right which dates back before the Magna Carta. The Protestants’ right to carry and own weapons was supported by the English Bill of Rights, however. it denied such right to Catholics. In the colonial era, there were colonies which regulated gun ownership and guns, but the Virginia Declaration of Rights supported the fact that a well-regulated militia was the natural protection of a free state. Authors of the Constitution did not like the idea of leaving the defense of America only to a full-time, professional army. (Americapedia)

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The meaning of the Second Amendment has been the subject of much debate. The essential question is whether the Second Amendment provides an individual right to own or carry arms. It is not clear from the way the amendment is written whether authors mean people in a militia or people as individuals. According to J. Fernandez (2002), “Interpretations of the Second Amendment by scholars, commentators and courts generally fall into one of two categories: individualist or collectivist”. Supporters of individual rights believe that gun ownership is a fundamental and basic right. They believe that owning a gun represents a person’s ability to defend his or her life. Individual rights’ proponents say that unarmed populations are helpless against governments who wish to take away liberties. People who believe in collective right suppose that writers of the amendment were referring to a state’s right to form militias. Militias were made of ordinary citizens from local communities. They were groups authorized by a state government to possess weapons.

Many Americans support tighter gun controls because of the high rate of crimes. They argue that the Second Amendment applies essentially to militias. Hunters and other gun enthusiasts insist on their full right to bear arms. According to their point of view, stricter penalties should be introduced to those who were caught using a gun when committing a crime. Courts have held that the right applies to individuals, but with certain restrictions.

The meaning of the amendment is still relevant nowadays. On the one hand, people should be allowed to possess arms in order to be able to protect themselves. Otherwise, they are left more vulnerable to a criminal attack. Statistics shows that citizens experience less violent crime in states where laws allow carrying concealed firearms. On the other hand, too many people in a heavily armed society become victims of gun violence. Owing to gun availability, gun violence increases. Particularly vital is the problem of gun violence at schools. The Gun-Free School Zones Act was adopted by the Congress in 1990. According to the act, it is an offence to possess a firearm at school zones. Later, justices concluded that general police power of each state’s government should be engaged in decisions about the school safety.

Public opinion favors both sides of the gun control debate. 63 percent of the public supports moderate gun control measures. Voters are evenly split on whether there should be a national ban on carrying concealed weapons.

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