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The Intended Scope of the Second Amendment of the Bill of Rights

Bjartell, Louise LU (2013) LAGF03 20131
Department of Law
Abstract
This paper addresses the much debated Second Amendment to the US Constitution. The Second 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”. With a combination of a originalist approach a textualist approach, this work aims at answering what was the intended scope of the Second Amendment. Was it meant to protect the right of citzens to have arms for the collective purpose of serving the militia, or was it also intended to protect the individual right to own arms for self-defense?

In the late 1780s, a debate over the ratification of the new Constitution took place. One of the discussed issues was allocation of military... (More)
This paper addresses the much debated Second Amendment to the US Constitution. The Second 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”. With a combination of a originalist approach a textualist approach, this work aims at answering what was the intended scope of the Second Amendment. Was it meant to protect the right of citzens to have arms for the collective purpose of serving the militia, or was it also intended to protect the individual right to own arms for self-defense?

In the late 1780s, a debate over the ratification of the new Constitution took place. One of the discussed issues was allocation of military powers. With the new Constitution, the federal government would be given power to call forth militias, to organize, arm, and disciplin them. This created a fear among the people of the United States that the state militias might be ordered disarmed. As the state militias served as a security against standing armies and tyranny, they were considered necessary to the security of a free state. Antifederalists, opponents of the Constitution, demanded a Bill of Rights be added to the Constitutions which would include a security against disarmament.

The Second Amendment has rarely been considered by the Supreme Court and only two cases exists in which the Court has directly questioned the scope of the Amendment. In United States v. Miller (1939), the Court found that the obvious purpose of the Second Amendment was to assure the continuation and effectiveness of the militia and that the Amendment must be applied with this in mind. Though the case has been used to support different views of the scope of the Amendment, the Court dismissed the defendants’ claim that the law at issue was unconstitutional because there was no connection to militia service. Though the precedential value of Miller is debatable, I believe the opinion of the Court was that there must be a militia connection for a person to invoke their right to arms. However, this is not what the Court found in District of Columbia v. Heller (2008). The Court in Heller found that the Second Amendment protects an individual right to keep handguns for the purpose of self-defense.

A wide range of people has engaged in the debate over the Second Amendment and in this paper, interpretations by 3 important scholars of the 19th century are presented. The two most prominent interpretative theories which have emerged in the 20th century are also discussed - The Individual Right Theory and the Collective Right Theory. According to the Collective Rights Theory, the significance of the prefatory clause is to announce the only purpose of the Second Amendment. This purpose was to ensure that state militias would remain and that the people were granted the right to keep and bear arms to participate in a well regulated militia and, thus, the Second Amendment only protects this collective right. Those in support of the Individual Right Theory, however, interpret the Second Amendment as a codification of the pre-existing right to arms for self-defense and that the scope of the Amendment is not limited by the prefatory clause.

I find that the Second Amendment was adopted only to secure that the federal government would not encroach on the people’s right to keep and bear arms for serving the militia. The Amendment must be read with its two phrases as a whole, and the fact that this was the only purpose stated in the prefatory clause must be considered. Had the framers intended to constitutionally protect the right to arms for self-defense, they could have included it in the Amendment’s preamble together the militia purpose. (Less)
Abstract (Swedish)
Denna uppsats behandlar det omtvistade andra tillägget i den amerikanska konstitutionens rättighetsstadga. Det andra tillägget lyder: ”En väl reglerad milis, nödvändig för en fri stats säkerhet, folkets rätt att ha och bära vapen, skall inte kränkas” (egen översättning). Med hjälp av ursprungstolkning och texttolkning, är syftet med denna uppsats att besvara vad som var det andra tilläggets avsedda omfattning. Var det menat att skydda folkets rätt att ha vapen för det gemensamma syftet att delta i milisen, eller var det också avsett att skydda varje medborgares rätt till vapen för självförsvar?

Genom den nya konstitutionen skulle den nybildade federala regeringen få makt att kalla in miliser, att organisera, beväpna och träna dem. Detta... (More)
Denna uppsats behandlar det omtvistade andra tillägget i den amerikanska konstitutionens rättighetsstadga. Det andra tillägget lyder: ”En väl reglerad milis, nödvändig för en fri stats säkerhet, folkets rätt att ha och bära vapen, skall inte kränkas” (egen översättning). Med hjälp av ursprungstolkning och texttolkning, är syftet med denna uppsats att besvara vad som var det andra tilläggets avsedda omfattning. Var det menat att skydda folkets rätt att ha vapen för det gemensamma syftet att delta i milisen, eller var det också avsett att skydda varje medborgares rätt till vapen för självförsvar?

Genom den nya konstitutionen skulle den nybildade federala regeringen få makt att kalla in miliser, att organisera, beväpna och träna dem. Detta skapade en rädsla hos det amerikanska folket, som oroade sig att staternas miliser skulle kunna bli avväpnade. Eftersom staternas miliser fungerade som en säkerhet mot permanenta arméer och tyranni ansågs de nödvändiga för en fri stats säkerhet. För att anta rättighetsstadgan krävde därför Antifederalister, konstitutionens motståndare, att en rättighetsstadga lades till och att det i den fanns en säkerhet mot bland annat avväpning.

Det andra tillägget har berörts av Högsta Domstolen väldigt sällan och det finns bara två rättsfall i vilka domstolen direkt har tolkat omfattningen av tillägget. I United States v. Miller (1939) ansåg domstolen att det uppenbara syftet med det andra tillägget var att säkerställa fortlevnaden och effektiviteten av milisen, samt att det andra tillägget måste tolkas i ljuset av detta. Även om fallet har använts både som argument för att tillägget är en individuell rättighet och att det är en gemensam rättighet, avvisade domstolen de anklagades påstående att lagen i fråga var oförenlig med konstitutionen eftersom det saknades militär koppling. Även om prejudikatvärdet av Miller är omdebatterat, tror jag att domstolen ansåg att det måste finnas en koppling till militärt syfte för att någon ska kunna åberopa rättigheten i andra tillägget. Detta var dock inte var domstolen kom fram till i District of Columbia v. Heller (2008). I Heller ansåg domstolen att det andra tillägget skyddar en individuell rätt att ha vapen i syfte att användas i självförsvar.

Denna uppsats behandlar hur tre viktiga forskare under 18-talet, tolkade tillägget. De två teorier om hur det andra tillägget ska tolkas som har vuxit fram under 1900-talet diskuteras också. Enligt den gemensamma rättighetsteorin ska den inledande meningen i tillägget förstås som att den klargör det enda syftet med tillägget. Detta syfte var att säkerställa att statliga milisen skulle kvarstå och att folket skulle vara garanterade en rätt att ha vapen för att kunna delta i milisen. Därmed förespråkar anhängare av denna teori att den andra tillägget enbart syftade att skydda en gemensam rättighet. Å andra sidan menar de som förespråkar den individuella rättigshetsteorin att det andra tillägget kodifierade en redan existerande rättighet att ha vapen för självförsvar och att omfattningen av tillägget inte begränsas av den inledande meningen.

Jag drar slutsatsen att det andra tillägget antogs enbart för att säkerställa att den federala regeringen inte skulle kränka folkets rätt att ha vapen för att kunna delta i milisstyrkorna. Tillägget måste läsas med dess två meningar som en helhet och det faktum att den inledande meningen enbart nämner ett syfte måste beaktas. Om skaparna av rättighetsstadgan hade avsett att skapa ett konstitutionellt skydd till rätten att ha vapen för självförsvar hade de kunnat inkludera detta syfte i tilläggets inledning, tillsammans med syftet att ha en välreglerad milis. (Less)
Please use this url to cite or link to this publication:
author
Bjartell, Louise LU
supervisor
organization
course
LAGF03 20131
year
type
M2 - Bachelor Degree
subject
keywords
Legal history
language
English
id
3800594
date added to LUP
2013-09-11 13:41:34
date last changed
2013-09-11 13:41:34
@misc{3800594,
  abstract     = {This paper addresses the much debated Second Amendment to the US Constitution. The Second 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”. With a combination of a originalist approach a textualist approach, this work aims at answering what was the intended scope of the Second Amendment. Was it meant to protect the right of citzens to have arms for the collective purpose of serving the militia, or was it also intended to protect the individual right to own arms for self-defense? 

In the late 1780s, a debate over the ratification of the new Constitution took place. One of the discussed issues was allocation of military powers. With the new Constitution, the federal government would be given power to call forth militias, to organize, arm, and disciplin them. This created a fear among the people of the United States that the state militias might be ordered disarmed. As the state militias served as a security against standing armies and tyranny, they were considered necessary to the security of a free state. Antifederalists, opponents of the Constitution, demanded a Bill of Rights be added to the Constitutions which would include a security against disarmament. 

The Second Amendment has rarely been considered by the Supreme Court and only two cases exists in which the Court has directly questioned the scope of the Amendment. In United States v. Miller (1939), the Court found that the obvious purpose of the Second Amendment was to assure the continuation and effectiveness of the militia and that the Amendment must be applied with this in mind. Though the case has been used to support different views of the scope of the Amendment, the Court dismissed the defendants’ claim that the law at issue was unconstitutional because there was no connection to militia service. Though the precedential value of Miller is debatable, I believe the opinion of the Court was that there must be a militia connection for a person to invoke their right to arms. However, this is not what the Court found in District of Columbia v. Heller (2008). The Court in Heller found that the Second Amendment protects an individual right to keep handguns for the purpose of self-defense.

A wide range of people has engaged in the debate over the Second Amendment and in this paper, interpretations by 3 important scholars of the 19th century are presented. The two most prominent interpretative theories which have emerged in the 20th century are also discussed - The Individual Right Theory and the Collective Right Theory. According to the Collective Rights Theory, the significance of the prefatory clause is to announce the only purpose of the Second Amendment. This purpose was to ensure that state militias would remain and that the people were granted the right to keep and bear arms to participate in a well regulated militia and, thus, the Second Amendment only protects this collective right. Those in support of the Individual Right Theory, however, interpret the Second Amendment as a codification of the pre-existing right to arms for self-defense and that the scope of the Amendment is not limited by the prefatory clause. 

I find that the Second Amendment was adopted only to secure that the federal government would not encroach on the people’s right to keep and bear arms for serving the militia. The Amendment must be read with its two phrases as a whole, and the fact that this was the only purpose stated in the prefatory clause must be considered. Had the framers intended to constitutionally protect the right to arms for self-defense, they could have included it in the Amendment’s preamble together the militia purpose.},
  author       = {Bjartell, Louise},
  keyword      = {Legal history},
  language     = {eng},
  note         = {Student Paper},
  title        = {The Intended Scope of the Second Amendment of the Bill of Rights},
  year         = {2013},
}