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Animation: What exactly does the Second Amendment guarantee?

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Posted at 2:31 PM, Apr 30, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-30 14:31:48-04

Imagine – it’s the middle of the night, everyone’s asleep, but the sounds of an intruder break the silence and jolts everyone awake. As one person approaches the commotion, handgun in hand, the culprit comes into focus: it’s a raccoon, thumping against the house as it rifles through trash.

While this scenario didn’t end up being dangerous, the person who sensed a threat grabbed their handgun for self-defense as a just-in-case.

It’s a familiar scene in the U.S. About 67% of gun owners bought their gun for protection, according to Pew Research. It’s a right widely seen as being guaranteed under the Second Amendment.

The framers wrote, “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.”

Historians say their intent has been up for debate since the ink dried in 1791.

With the Revolutionary War still fresh, the founders wrote the Second Amendment to make sure states could maintain militias that could fight off any invasion by a tyrannical government.

Fast forward to today, many gun advocates argue that the Second Amendment gives individuals a blanket constitutional right to own firearms that trumps all laws.

But the Supreme Court hasn’t interpreted it that way, at least not yet.

In 2008, the court ruled the amendment applies to individuals rather that state militias in 2008. In that case, the court rules the Second Amendment gives most individuals the right to have a reasonable gun at home for self-defense.

But the justices emphasized that Second Amendment rights are not unlimited.

Looking ahead, the legal interpretation of the second amendment could expand again soon. The court is set to take a case that asks whether people have a right to carry a gun in public.