To start our journey we should take a quick look at the Second Amendment of the Constitution of the United States of America.
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.
Short, simple, and direct. If we think back to when the founding fathers were writing the Constitution and Bill of Rights we need to keep in mind that they had just finished fighting a war against the government they felt no longer represented their best interests. Due to this they wanted to ensure that future generations would have the proper tools to defend themselves should the need arise.
This was influenced by the existing laws in England, The English bill of rights of 1689. Sir William Blackstone described this right as
an auxiliary right, supporting the natural rights of self-defense and resistance to oppression, and the civic duty to act in concert in defense of the state.
There have been a few Supreme Court rulings on the Second Amendment, most notable are
- The right belongs to individuals
- The right is not unlimited and does not prohibit all regulation of either firearms or similar devices
- State and local governments are limited to the same extent as the federal government from infringing this right
- “The right to bear arms is not granted by the Constitution; neither is it in any manner dependent upon that instrument for its existence” and limited the scope of the Second Amendment’s protections to the federal government
- The Second Amendment did not protect weapon types not having a “reasonable relationship to the preservation or efficiency of a well regulated militia”
- The amendment protects an individual right to possess and carry firearms
- The amendment’s impact to a restriction on the federal government, expressly holding that the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment incorporates the Second Amendment against state and local governments
- The Second Amendment extends, prima facie, to all instruments that constitute bearable arms, even those that were not in existence at the time of the founding and that its protection is not limited to “only those weapons useful in warfare”
Some exceptions to note, Convicted felons, persons adjudicated as mentally ill.