The Second Amendment in the 21st Century


"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"


There are few issues today that incite Americans more than the interpretation of the Second Amendment. However, what does the Second Amendment really mean? In order to obtain a better understanding of the amendment one must, one must interpret the actual text of the clause, the historical reason for its creation, and its relevance today. From the examination of these three subtopics, it is clear that the Second Amendment should be interpreted in a strict-constructionist view (consistent with that of the Brady Campaign) and aim to control guns in America.

The wording and message of the Second Amendment has increasingly come under much scrutiny. In their fight against gun control, the NRA (National Rifle Association) is inclined to focus solely on the second half of the amendment: “… The right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed”. They deliberately omit the words “A well-regulated Militia”, rendering a skewed and biased view of the Second Amendment.
In attempts of affirming this warped view, the NRA argues on the correct definition of many of the words in the amendment, including well-regulated, Militia, Free State and people. The definition of a militia clearly states that this organization is a body of ordinary citizens enrolled for military service, to be available only when needed. However, in the eighteenth century, there were restrictions on those could serve in the militia, including gender, age, health, and race. Contradictory to what the NRA argues, the word militia does not refer to the entire population, and does not guarantee every American citizen the right to own a gun. When looking at the word “militia” one must also note that our founding fathers have included the adjective “well-regulated”. These words imply that the militia of the time was to have some type of structure or administrator. Such a requirement that the NRA does not suggest for people who own guns. Rather, they are opposed to any regulations whatsoever, claiming that any sort of gun control measures may infringe upon an individual’s Second Amendment rights. Also, the intended meaning of the term the people has caused much controversy. According to the NRA “the people” refers to every citizen. However, in this context, the people only have the right to bear arms to assure the security of a free state; therefore giving the right to bear arms to the state government not to individual citizens.
The history and original intent for the adoption of the Second Amendment further illustrates that its meaning is not to guarantee every citizen the right to bear arms. The purpose of the amendment in the 18th century was simply to balance the power of the federal government and the states. Americans of the time had an all too familiar picture of King George III in their mind. They worried that one tyrant was being replaced by another, and therefore feared having an army of trained soldiers run by the federal government. Consequently, the Second Amendment was established to make sure the federal government army could not overthrow the states. This does not concur with the NRA’s argument that every individual should have the right to bear arms.
In the 21st century the Second Amendment has become outdated and therefore incoherent. The initial reasons for the construction of the amendment have no relevance today. Simply, much has changed considerably between the 18th century and the 21st. In those days, rather than a standing armies were non existent. We no longer live in a society where it is necessary for ordinary citizens to carry around the latest military hardware.

As time goes on, the controversy of the Second Amendment increases. The basis of the NRA thesis is a distortion of the text and a misinterpretation of information. They thereby assert a broad-constructionist view of the Second Amendment, restricting any gun control regulations. It is evident that when the wording, historical background and how it applies today are taken into consideration, the Second Amendment has very little relevance in modern society. Therefore, the constitution in no way allows for