The Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution originated in 1791, with the Bill of Rights.
The 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."
Both gun cases required the justices to decide if the amendment protects the rights of individuals to own guns, or if that right is only for those involved in a state militia. The court determined the amendment does apply to individuals.
The amendment’s contextual phrase, “to keep and bear arms,” dates back to the 1300s. And the Oxford English Dictionary defines it as: to serve as a soldier, do military service, fight.
“I think it’s a landmark decision,” said Wayne LaPierre, executive vice president of the National Rifle Association, an organization that is a strong proponent of gun rights. “The question before the court was, ‘do law-abiding citizens have the right to go out and buy and own a gun for self-protection or any lawful purpose?’ And the court today said, yes, anywhere they live.”
Objections to the landmark decision
|For the second time in two years the Supreme Court has ruled on a case that involves an individuals Second Amendment rights.|
Of the nine Supreme Court justices, four voted against the argument that it is unconstitutional for state and local governments to ban guns. Justices John Paul Stevens, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Steven Breyer and Sonia Sotomayor offered the dissenting opinion in the case.
“Although the court’s decision in this case might be seen as a mere adjunct to Heller [District of Columbia v. Heller],” wrote Justice Stevens in one of his final opinions for the Supreme Court (He retired from the bench on Monday). “The consequences could prove far more destructive -- quite literally -- to our nation’s communities and to our constitutional structure.”
Though the ruling does not override gun laws in other cities across the country, it will make it much tougher for cities to enforce such laws. Until the recent rulings, Chicago and Washington had the toughest gun control laws in the United States.
Justice Breyer, who read his dissent out loud to the court, noted that firearms "cause well over 60,000 deaths and injuries in the United States each year. Gun regulation may save lives. Some experts have calculated, for example, that Chicago's hand-gun ban has saved several hundred lives, perhaps close to 1,000, since it was enacted in 1983."
As a result of Monday’s ruling, cities such as New York, Philadelphia, San Francisco and Detroit are scrambling to figure out what the decision means for their own gun bans.