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  • Denis Pepin

The Second Amendment: Then and Now

Updated: Mar 31

The image is a representation of the Second Amendment of the United States Constitution, which grants the right of the people to keep and bear arms. The image shows a rifle and a document with the words “Second Amendment” written on it. The rifle is a type of firearm that was commonly used in the late 18th century, when the amendment was ratified. The document is a piece of parchment paper that resembles the original Constitution, which was written on four sheets of parchment. The image also includes a quill pen, an inkwell, and a candle, which are items that were used for writing and lighting in that era. The image suggests a contrast between the old and the new, as the rifle and the document are very different from the modern firearms and the digital copies of the Constitution that exist today. The image also implies a connection between the history and the present, as the Second Amendment is still relevant and controversial in today’s society. The Second Amendment: A relic of the past or a right of the present?
The Second Amendment: A relic of the past or a right of the present?

The Second Amendment of the United States Constitution states: “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 amendment has been the subject of intense debate and controversy for decades, especially in the context of the modern firearms that are vastly different from the ones that existed in the late 18th century. In this essay, I will argue that the Second Amendment was never meant for the much more powerful firearms of today, and that its original purpose and meaning have been distorted and misinterpreted by some groups and individuals who claim an absolute and unlimited right to own and use any kind of weapon.

The first thing to consider is the historical context and background of the Second Amendment. The amendment was ratified in 1791, as part of the Bill of Rights, which were the first ten amendments to the Constitution that aimed to protect the rights and liberties of the people from the potential tyranny of the federal government. The Second Amendment was influenced by the English Bill of Rights of 1689, which granted Protestants the right to have arms for their defense, as well as by the experience of the American Revolution, which was fought by citizen militias against the British army. The framers of the Constitution were concerned about preserving the sovereignty and independence of the states, and the ability of the people to resist oppression and tyranny. Therefore, they wanted to ensure that the federal government would not disarm or interfere with the state militias, which were composed of ordinary citizens who provided their own arms. The arms that were available at that time were mostly muskets, rifles, pistols, and swords, which were slow to load, inaccurate, and had a limited range and power. These weapons were suitable for hunting, self-defense, and militia service, but they were not comparable to the modern firearms that can fire multiple rounds in rapid succession, with high accuracy and lethality.

The second thing to consider is the legal interpretation and application of the Second Amendment over time. For most of US history, the Second Amendment was understood as a collective right that applied only to the state militias, not to individual citizens. The Supreme Court upheld this view in several cases, such as United States v. Miller (1939), which held that Congress could regulate firearms that had no reasonable relation to the preservation or efficiency of a well regulated militia. The Court also recognized that the right to bear arms was not absolute, and that it could be subject to reasonable restrictions and regulations for public safety and welfare. For example, in District of Columbia v. Heller (2008), which was the first case to affirm an individual right to possess a firearm for self-defense in one’s home, the Court stated that “nothing in our opinion should be taken to cast doubt on longstanding prohibitions on the possession of firearms by felons and the mentally ill, or laws forbidding the carrying of firearms in sensitive places such as schools and government buildings, or laws imposing conditions and qualifications on the commercial sale of arms”. The Court also noted that “the sorts of weapons protected were those ‘in common use at the time’”, implying that some modern firearms may not fall under this category.

The third thing to consider is the social and political implications and consequences of the Second Amendment in today’s society. The United States has one of the highest rates of gun ownership and gun violence in the world, with more than 300 million guns in circulation and more than 30,000 deaths and 70,000 injuries caused by firearms every year. Many of these deaths and injuries are preventable, as they result from accidents, suicides, domestic violence, mass shootings, or criminal activity. The availability and accessibility of modern firearms, especially assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, have enabled some individuals to commit horrific acts of violence against innocent people in schools, churches, theaters, concerts, malls, workplaces, and other public places. These weapons have no legitimate civilian purpose or use; they are designed for military combat and mass destruction. They pose a serious threat to public safety and security, as well as to human rights and dignity. They also undermine the original intent and spirit of the Second Amendment, which was to protect the people from tyranny and oppression, not to enable them to inflict it on others.

In conclusion, I have shown that the Second Amendment was never meant for the much more powerful firearms of today. The amendment was drafted in a different historical context and with a different purpose than what some groups and individuals claim today. The amendment has also been interpreted and applied differently over time by various courts and authorities. The amendment does not grant an absolute or unlimited right to own and use any kind of weapon; it is subject to reasonable limitations and regulations for public safety and welfare. The amendment should not be used as an excuse or justification for allowing or tolerating the proliferation and misuse of modern firearms that cause immense harm and suffering to the society and the people. The amendment should be respected and honored, but also understood and applied in a way that is consistent with its original meaning and intent, as well as with the current needs and challenges of the nation.


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