A Handy Guide To Your 2nd Amendment Rights by TargetSportsUSA.com

A Handy Guide To Your 2nd Amendment Rights by TargetSportsUSA.com


When the founding fathers of the United States of America ratified the Constitution on September 17, 1787, it was agreed upon that ten amendments would be passed. These amendments are known as the Bill of Rights, and among them, the Second Amendment guarantees the right of citizens to keep and bear arms. The exact text of 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." The Second Amendment and the right to bear arms has, however, been the subject of great and enduring controversy. This is because not everyone agrees on the actual original intent of the Second Amendment, and as a result, laws regulating guns vary from state to state. The confusion over the Second Amendment has ultimately resulted in a number of Supreme Court decisions over the course of the nation's history regarding the rights of gun owners and the rights of the government to regulate gun ownership.

Carry and Concealment Laws

When buying a gun, consumers are put through the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, or NICS, to check them for a criminal record. If they plan to carry a concealed weapon, they must know what the laws are. There are both federal and state laws pertaining to concealment and carrying. Federal law covers the carrying of concealed firearms by law enforcement officers, both current and retired. The current or former officer must be considered qualified in order to carry a concealed weapon. Qualifications vary in some ways, but the carriers must be drug- and alcohol-free and not prohibited in any way to receive a weapon per any federal law. Before retirement or after, the officers must be authorized to participate in law enforcement activities involving people violating the law. These activities include the preventing, investigating, prosecuting, and incarcerating of criminals.

Right to carry laws regarding the carrying and concealment of firearms can be found in every state in the country. The issuance of permits to do so varies according to the state in which a person lives. The state rules break down into "may issue," "shall issue," and states where permits are not necessary or concealed-carry permits are not issued. In a may-issue or restricted state, officials may deny issuing a permit to any individual who they feel is unfit or does not have a need to carry, even if the individual meets all other criteria, such as not having a felony conviction, for example. Shall-issue states are states that must issue a permit to people who meet the standard requirements. In some shall-issue states, officials have a limited right to deny a person a license to carry a concealed weapon. The criteria for denying a permit are more limited than in may-issue states, however. States also include some limits on where a concealed weapon may or may not be carried. In general, most states prohibit people from carrying concealed weapons in any government building or school.

What Constitutes Self-Defense?

When it comes to one's right to bear arms, it is important to understand what constitutes self-defense. In general, self-defense is defined as the use of reasonable force against an aggressor to protect oneself from injury, severe harm, or even death. A person must believe that the use of that force is required to protect themselves against a threat that is imminent. The force must also be appropriate for the level of threat. Self-defense may also be used to protect members of one's family.

Gun Rights on Personal Property

In 2008, the Supreme Court made a decision in the District of Columbia v. Heller case that interpreted the Second Amendment. This interpretation stated that people had a right to possess firearms for self-defense and other lawful purposes. This law meant that laws in District Columbia that prohibited guns in the home were unlawful. In the case of McDonald v. Chicago in 2010, the Supreme Court ruled that the right to bear arms is protected by the Fourteenth Amendment and its Due Process Clause. As a result, it also applied to the states, which had not been clarified two years before in District of Columbia v. Heller.

How State Laws Differ

Not all states share the same view when it comes to when and where a person may defend themselves. In some states, people have a "duty to retreat" when faced with a violent situation or encounter. This duty to retreat only applies when outside of one's personal residence and requires a person to attempt to leave whenever possible as opposed to reacting with force. In a majority of states, people may defend themselves using whatever means necessary, even deadly force, while within their homes, according to the Castle Doctrine. The Castle Doctrine contends that a person's home is their castle and one may defend it or themselves while within its walls. In some states, it also applies to one's car or even one's place of employment.

A growing number of states are expanding their laws on self-defense outside of the home. This includes the "stand your ground" laws in states such as Florida and Texas. These laws are an extension of the Castle Doctrine in that they allow people to use any force necessary not only within their homes but in any location where they have a lawful right to be. This is also contingent on the individual not participating in any activity that is illegal in nature. With stand your ground laws, there is no duty to retreat, only a requirement that you believe that someone is attempting to cause great harm or commit a violent felony.

There are also laws regarding the possession and sale of ammunition at the state and federal level. For instance, federal law forbids people with mental illnesses and people who have a restraining order against them from possessing firearms or ammunition. Ammunition also may not be possessed by anyone under the age of 18, and armor-piercing bullets are illegal by federal law. Several states also redundantly ban armor-piercing bullets, such as Connecticut, and some other states restrict the use of large-capacity ammunition clips or magazines to ten bullets or less. California is one of several states that prohibit "straw purchases," or the transfer of firearms to people who are barred from possessing ammunition or firearms or to people who are trying to possess them anonymously. Straw purchases are also prohibited by federal law, and this law has been upheld by the Supreme Court in the Abramski v. United States decision.