Constitution Daily

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Second Amendment: The Right To Bear Arms

February 2, 2014 by NCC Staff


As part of the National Constitution Center's 27 Amendments (In 27 Days) project, each day we will look at a constitutional amendment. Through partnerships with leading scholars and universities, government agencies, media outlets, and more, the National Constitution Center will profile one amendment each day throughout the month of February.

gunswideToday, we look at the Second Amendment, which protects individuals’ rights to possess firearms unconnected to any service in a militia.

Full Text of the Second Amendment

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.


Whether this provision protects the individual’s right to own firearms or deals only with the collective right of the people to arm and maintain a militia was long debated until the Supreme Court ruled in 2008 that the amendment protected individuals’ right to possess firearms unconnected to any service in a militia. Source:  U.S. Senate


Right to Bear Arms: The principal debate surrounding the Second Amendment concerns whether the right to use and buy guns belongs to individuals or only to a militia. Although the courts generally have held that the right applies to individuals, they have permitted the government to limit some rights of gun manufacturers, owners and sellers. Today, questions about the Second Amendment center on bans on assault weapons, mandatory background checks, waiting periods, and other restrictions on gun sales or use.

With the passage of the Fourteenth Amendment and subsequent Supreme Court rulings, states were prohibited from making or enforcing laws that infringe on most of the rights set out in the Bill of Rights.

Two subsequent Supreme Court decisions clarified the Second Amendment as it relates to states and the federal district. As a result, gun control legislation varies widely among the 50 states. Source: Annenberg Classroom

Editor’s Note: The official Annenberg Classroom explanation,which we first published, doesn’t fully explain the effect of the Heller and McDonald Supreme Court cases, which in general protected the individual right to possess firearms unconnected to any service in a militia, in the federal distinct and at a state level. We have edited the Annenberg definition to put these decisions in context. Click here more on the Heller and McDonald cases.

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