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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The Second Amendment of the United States guarantees the right to bear arms for certain reasons.  One of these reasons was stated by Thomas Jefferson: He contended that if the government were to become oppressive, the people would be able to overthrow it if they had this right to bear arms.  For this reason, many feel that gun control presents a potential threat to American freedom.

Since the Second Amendment to the Constitution was written, there have been three significant pieces of legislation enacted:

  1. The Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act.  This act was initiated after an attack was made on President Reagan's life and four people were shot, among them James Brady, press secretary to Reagan.  Brady nearly died after he was shot in the brain, but he is yet alive, although paralyzed on his left side.  The Brady Act calls for a background check on people who buy firearms, and it prevents the sale of a firearm to anyone who has been convicted of a felony or who fits into a number of other categories.
  2. The Violent Crime and Law Enforcement Act.  This act, enacted in 1990 banned the purchase of assault weapons, but was repealed in 1994.
  3. National Right-to-Carry Reciprocity Act of 2011  This act enables a person who has a federal permit to carry a concealed handgun in one state to be able to carry this weapon in other states "in accordance with the restrictions of that state."  No machine guns or destructive devices are permitted to cross state lines with this federal permit, however. 
pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The Second Amendment is the amendment that guarantees Americans the right to bear arms.  In its entirety, the amendment 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 amendment has been controversial in recent years as gun control is a very "hot button" issue that is wrapped up in partisan politics.  The controversy has centered on whether the right to bear arms is limited to bearing those arms in the context of a "well regulated militia."

The Supreme Court ruled on this in the 2010 case, District of Columbia v. Heller.  There, it ruled that the right to bear arms was not connected to militias and therefore people have that right unconnected to any military service.  Also in 2010, the Supreme Court incorporated the 2nd Amendment.  This means that it applies to state governments as well as to the federal government.