Second Amendment

September 17, 1999

It appears that the federal courts are about to answer a fundamental question about the Second Amendment that will have far reaching effects. Is there an individual right to own a gun, like the individual right to freedom of speech and religion? Or does the Second Amendment mean only that Americans can defend themselves collectively through state militias, like the modern-day National Guard?

For the first time, a federal judge has ruled that the Second Amendment guarantees an individual's right to own a gun. In the process, the judge invalidated a 1994 federal law that denies guns to anyone under a restraining order to prevent him or her from harassing a spouse.

At stake is much more than this 1994 law. At stake is the federal interpretation of the Second Amendment and perhaps even the constitutionality of gun control legislation. To say that both sides of the gun debate are taking this case seriously would be an understatement.

On the one side are proponents of the theory that the Second Amendment confers only a collective right to bear arms. They focus on the opening phrase that says, "A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State." They argue that the reference is only to arms for the militia and does not confer an individual right to arms.

On the other side are those who advocate the right of the individual to bear arms. They argue that at the time of the amendment, the militia was all able-bodied men. When they are talking about the militia, they are talking about "the people." Any other interpretation, they believe, would be shocking to the framers of the Constitution.

This case will no doubt go to the Supreme Court and hopefully settle this fundamental question about the Second Amendment.

I'm Kerby Anderson of Probe Ministries, and that's my opinion.