Since it was engineered, the meaning of the Second Amendment has brought a lot of controversies. Subsequently, commentators and courts have interpreted it based on two benchmarks. The first, individual rights paradigm protects an individual’s right to keep and to bear arms regardless of them being part of any militia and military service or training. This view is informed by the second clause of the Amendment, “the right of people to keep and bear Arms”. Collective state right, another paradigm of the Amendment, allows the federal government to give a prerogative to the states to put in place and maintain organized and armed militia units; the prerogative of which can only be asserted by the states. This paradigm is directed by the first clause of the Amendment, “a well regulated militia being, necessary the security of a free State”. The proponents of gun controls subscribe to the collective state right view.
The Supreme Court is still spoilt for choice among the two views while the Executive Branch has explored the different options hitherto. However, according to a memorandum opinion for the attorney general (2004), the “individual rights” perspective should be the proper understanding of the Second Amendment since the spirit in which the other rights and freedoms as are in the other amendments of the Bill, was to protect individuals as opposed to governments. In addition, the provisions do not secure the individuals only when they are performing service in connection with the government. Another argument in support for the Amendment is the disdain with which the Framers of the U.S. Constitution had for a standing army. They instead preferred a citizen army since they feared that a standing army was most likely to be misused by a tyrannical government.
In one landmark case in the District of Columbia, D.C. vs. Heller, 554 U.S. 570, the Supreme Court made a 5 - 4 ruling that dismissed the restrictive gun control laws of Washington, D.C. on 26th June, 2008. The reason was that the District of Columbia State infringed against the right of individuals to keep and bear arms in their homes for self defense which was a traditionally lawful purpose in federal enclaves as envisaged by the Second Amendment. This ruling looked at the Amendment from the perspective of the individual rights which is informed by the description in the second clause of the Amendment which states that “the right of the people to keep and bear Arms shall not be infringed” (U.S. Supreme Court, 2007)
Another ruling in favor of the Amendment’s second clause allowing an individual to possess arms is the McDonald vs. Chicago, 561 U.S. 3025,130 S.Ct. 3020 decision. The Supreme Court on 28th June, 2010, reversed the decision of the Court of Appeal for the Seventh circuit concerning the McDonald vs. Chicago. It then remanded the case back to the Seventh circuit to reconcile any differences between some gun restriction in Chicago and the Second Amendment. The Chicago court of Appeals favored a Chicago ordinance that banned individuals from owning handguns together with other regulations that affected shotguns and rifles. In the said case, a 5 - 4 decision by the high court proposed that the Second Amendment was entrenched in the Fourteenth Amendment and thus shielding the local government from those rights (Mears, 2009).
In as much as the gainsayers of the individual right view have pushed for its applicability in understanding the Second Amendment, it has been met with equal and probably more counter arguments by the naysayers. The naysayers’ comprehension of the Amendment is in the spirit of the collective state rights view in which individuals are allowed to keep and bear arms for the purposes of self defense. One of the arguments of the naysayers is that gun controls would reduce the mortality rates due to violent crimes, homicides and even suicide. Therefore, giving the federal government in collaboration with the states the control of guns in tandem with the first clause of the Second Amendment is in the best interests of the population at large. Moreover, amateur militias in the U.S. are considered to be more dangerous than any foreign enemy since they know the country like the back f their hands.
In many of the cases it has presided over, the Supreme Court has been sidelining itself as far as gun control is concerned. The argument of the Court being that the power of the Second Amendment limited the federal government and not the states since the framers of the Bill of Rights aimed to gag the federal government. A case in point is the U.S. vs. Cruikshank 92 U.S. 542 case, which was decided on 27th March, 1876. It was of the opinion that the federal government had no power to shield persons from private infringement of their right to possess arms (Kaminer, 1996)
As long as the understanding of the Second Amendment is not absolute, controversies will remain in decisions of various court cases. In my own opinion, the framers of the Bills of rights advocated for the individuals’ rights to possess arms as long as they did so legally under the control of both the federal and the state machinery. Thus, I support the first clause of the Amendment which holds that “[a] well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state”.