What did the founding forefathers mean when they wrote: "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"? Does the 2nd Amendment refer to the right of the state to convene an armed militia to protect against federal tyranny? Or is it the individual person's right to bear arms to protect themselves from corrupt local officials and police forces?
The answers aren't so clearly spelled out, but it's clear that founding forefathers like Thomas Jefferson, Patrick Henry, Samuel Adams, James Monroe and Benjamin Franklin were vocal advocates of owning arms. In a landmark 2008 case (D.C. vs. Heller), the Supreme Court defined "the right to bear arms" as an individual's right and included handguns in the definition of "arms," which leaves many people wondering if this has forever set a precedent on the question of gun control.
In the initial 1939 Gun Control Act, the Supreme Court declared, "We cannot say that the Second Amendment guarantees the right to keep and bear arms." In public opinion polls, 39% of Americans favor stricter laws of gun control, which is down from 50% in 2007. Additionally, only about 1% of Americans in the last election indicated that the gun control debate was "of great importance" to them.
Perhaps this latest ruling will quiet the debate once and for all, now that Supreme Court justices have directly interpreted the meaning of the Constitution to provide an individual right to bear arms, handguns included.
"Whenever they can, wherever they can, the Democrats want to take away the rights of law abiding citizens to own and purchase a gun, a right that is guaranteed under the United States Constitution," warns Republican National Convention Chairman Michael Steele. He says that the issue of gun control is far from over, given that there is a Democratic President and a largely Democratic Congress.
Mitt Romney added, "No constitutional protection is more often ignored, distorted or disdained than the individual right to keep and bear arms." The National Rifle Association says that their membership has increased by the thousands every month since Obama has been president, bringing the total number of members up to 4 million.
Yet Barack Obama's idea of gun control is not so straightforward. In 2008, Obama said he had "no intention of taking away folks' guns" and admits that we have "two conflicting traditions in this country." He explained, "I think it's important for us to recognize that we've got a tradition of handgun ownership and gun ownership generally. And a lot of law-abiding citizens use it for hunting, for sportsmanship, and for protecting their families. We also have a violence on the streets that is the result of illegal handgun usage."
Today, his stance on the gun control debate seems much more moderate. Today he is looking for a "common-sense approach" to the illegal guns that are winding up in the hands of criminals. Obama explains, "We can make certain that those who are mentally deranged are not getting a hold of handguns. We can trace guns that have been used in crimes to unscrupulous firearm dealers that may be selling to straw purchasers and dumping them on the streets."