Wednesday, June 12, 2013

The Right to Keep and Bear Arms

“The Second Amendment [of the U.S. Constitution] states: ‘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.’  There was and remains unanimous agreement that the text of the amendment is ungrammatical.  For more than a century, there was also agreement on what the Second Amendment meant.  According to this understanding, the Second Amendment related only to the rights of citizen militias and imposed no barrier to gun control; in other words, the amendment did not give private individuals a right to bear arms.”
- Jeffrey Toobin, The Oath: the Obama White House and the Supreme Court

In The Oath, Toobin goes on to chronicle the crafting and evolution of “a new understanding of the Second Amendment that eventually commanded five votes on the Supreme Court.”  The ensuing leading case, District of Columbia et al. v. Heller (2008), held that “The Second Amendment protects an individual right to possess a firearm unconnected with service in a militia, and to use that arm for traditionally lawful purposes, such as self-defense within the home. . . The operative clause’s text and history demonstrate that it connotes an individual right to keep and bear arms.”

Part 1 Article 17 of the Massachusetts Constitution deals with the right to keep and bear arms. But as in the Federal realm, case law has long argued “provisions like article 17 were not directed to guaranteeing individual ownership or possession of weapons” (369 Mass. 886).  

The NRA-ILA Institute for Legislative Action has a synopsis of current Massachusetts gun laws. For more on “Massachusetts Law About Guns and Other Weapons” see .