Right to bear arms in the US: Does bear arms have an individual (yes) or a collective militia (no) meaning?

  • The Courts have spoken: you have a right to a gun

    The debate on whether the Second Amendment allows for individuals to have guns or just militas is mute, as the Supreme Court has ruled that it confers onto individuals certain rights in regards to firearms. Also, many state constitutions, a few predating the US constitution, also confer this right. So it is indeed mute.

  • "Right to bear arms" has a collective meaning.

    People who support unfettered gun ownership often claim that the individual right to bear arms is enshrined in the Second Amendment. However, the line itself reads, "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." This line includes reference to a militia; at the time of its writing, the United States did not have a standing army, so militias were necessary for defense. The line also speaks of "people" - a plural. The Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments, which also deal with particular rights, make plain that those rights apply to a "person." This suggests that these amendments had the rights of the individual in mind, while the Second Amendment speaks collectively. Because of the reference to the militia and because it speaks collectively, the Second Amendment seems to point to collective rather than individual gun rights.

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