There's No Unlimited Right to Bear Arms

tags: Second Amendment, gun control



Joseph J. Ellis is the author of "Founding Brothers" and, most recently, "Revolutionary Summer."

There is an opinion abroad in the land that the right to bear arms is unlimited, an absolute right, like the right to vote or the right to a fair trial.

This heartfelt conviction has surfaced lately in state legislation that attempts to nullify federal gun regulations. For the nullifiers, and many others, the broadest possible right to bear arms is purportedly enshrined in the 2nd Amendment and recognized in the Supreme Court case Heller vs. District of Columbia.

And yet, no matter how prevalent or fervently held, the opinion that the Bill of Rights supports and the high court acknowledges an absolute right to gun ownership is just plain wrong.

The language of the 2nd Amendment is quite clear: "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." As the minority in the Heller decision argued, and more than a century of judicial precedent at the federal level established, the right to bear arms was not an inherent right of citizenship but rather a right that derived from service in the militia....



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