Stone: "Understanding the Second Amendment"

Understanding the Second Amendment
Geoffrey R. Stone
The Huffington Post
January 9, 2013

Opponents of laws regulating the sale, manufacture and use of guns fervently invoke the Second Amendment. In their view, the Second Amendment ("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") forbids the government to regulate guns. Period. End of discussion.

But it is more complicated than that. At the outset, let's put aside the argument that the "well-regulated militia" clause signficantly narrows the scope of the Second Amendment. Although most judges and lawyers endorse that interpretation, the Supreme Court, in its controversial five-to-four decision in District of Columbia v. Heller, rejected that understanding of the text.

So, let's consider that matter "settled." Let's assume, then, that the Second Amendment reads: "The right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed." Now, that sure sounds absolute. But it's not that simple.