The Second Amendment to the US Constitution states that the people’s right to possess and use firearms should not be infringed because the security of a Free State was dependent on the existence of a militia that was well organized. A number of legal scholars have opined that the Second Amendment ratifies wide ranging individual rights to own guns, whereas other scholars subscribe to the view that it merely permits the possession of firearms as members of a militia. Despite being placed before the US Supreme Court, no resolution about this variance in interpretation has been forthcoming and the only clarification from the Judiciary has been to the effect that the Second Amendment permits the government to restrict the ownership of guns. An instance of this is the existence of laws that preclude felons from possessing firearms (Lieberman, 2006).
It has been observed by several legal luminaries that the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution does not provide clarification regarding the intention of those who had formulated it. The confusion arises in respect of whether firearms were to be regulated in the context of government militias. Despite the best efforts of the Judiciary to untangle these knotty problems, the controversy as to whether this amendment curtails the regulation of firearms by the government persists. The first clause of the amendment concentrates on the Militia aspect; whereas the second clause taken in isolation states that every individual has the right to bear firearms. If only the second is given prominence, then the government is precluded from exercising any form of gun control (Second Amendment , 2002).
The fact remains that this interpretation has been gainsaid by the courts, which have given greater prominence to the clause that deals with the Militia aspect of this amendment. The theory supported by the Judiciary is that of the collective rights, which states that possession and use of arms is a collective and not an individual right that has as its objective the protection of the community during emergencies. Since, such militias are perforce subject to the government’s control, this theory serves to support regulation of firearms by the government (Second Amendment , 2002).
Accordingly, in United States v. Cruikshank, the Supreme Court interpreted the Second Amendment to connote that the states were empowered to establish and maintain militias (United States v. Cruikshank, 1875). Similarly, in United States v. Miller the US Supreme Court upheld the federal government’s requirement that persons who possessed certain types of weapons had to register the same with it. In this case the Court held that in the absence of a requirement for maintaining a well regulated militia, the Second Constitutional Amendment did not assure people the right to bear firearms (United States v. Miller , 1939).
Article I, section 22 of the Illinois Constitution permitted its citizens to possess and bear firearms, while at the same time this right was subject to scrutiny and control by the police authorities. The authorities of the Morton Grove village had made it illegal for any person to bear firearms. These authorities contended that the passage of such an ordinance was permissible under its police powers. The unresolved question was whether the ordinance could be construed to be a reasonable means of ensuring the security and health of the public and the general opinion was that though the ordinance seemed to be a bit drastic in its import, it was nevertheless not arbitrary (Quilici v. Village of Morton Grove and the Second Amendment).
The above case law indicates that citizens through their representatives can impose limits on the rights of individuals in respect of bearing firearms.
Lieberman, J. K. (2006). Bill of Rights. Microsoft Encarta 2006 [DVD] . Microsoft Corporation. Redmond, WA: Microsoft Corporation.
Quilici v. Village of Morton Grove and the Second Amendment. (n.d.). Retrieved June 26, 2007, from http://www.saf.org/LawReviews/Quilici.htm
Second Amendment . (2002). Retrieved June 26, 2007, from World of Criminal Justice, Gale: http://www.credoreference.com/entry/4828189Second Amendment.
United States v. Cruikshank, 92 US 542, 23 L.Ed, 588 (US Supreme Court 1875).
United States v. Miller , 307 U.S. 174, 59 S.Ct. 816, 83 L.Ed. 1206 (US Supreme Court 1939).