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 abridged.
The Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which was adopted as part of the Bill of Rights in 1791, guarantees the fundamental right “to keep and bear Arms.” Plainly, the amendment protects the ownership and use of weapons, including firearms. But like many constitutional provisions, the amendment is written at a high level of generality and the specific parameters of the right are undefined. So what does it mean? What kinds of weapons and firearms does it allow Americans to own and use? What kinds of regulations does it allow the government to impose on the ownership and use of weapons and firearms? What is the meaning of the reference to “a well regulated Militia”? These are difficult questions, which are heatedly debated by advocates and opponents of “gun control.” In two recent landmark decisions, the U.S. Supreme Court has examined and explained the Second Amendment. In District of Columbia v. Heller (2008) the Court held that the Second Amendment guarantees “the individual right to possess and carry weapons in case of confrontation.” In McDonald v. City of Chicago (2010), the Court held that the Second Amendment was “incorporated” into the rights and liberties protected by the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment and therefore applies to the states.