Between the outrage over school shootings and the right to protect oneself, the debate over gun control has never instigated as strong emotions as it does today. At the crux of the matter lies the Second Amendment to the Constitution, which contains the ambiguous "right to bear arms" statement. Both sides of the debate are vocal, well-organized, and well-funded; the progress of their respective struggles serves as a powerful example of the strengths and weaknesses of the United States' legal system. In this article, we will present the main arguments on each side of the gun control debate. While each side's arguments can be extreme, they nonetheless show how complicated an issue it is.


In the post-revolution era, the Framers of the Constitution faced the daunting task of constructing an entire legal system. The Framers, many of whom were driven to revolution by the unwanted presence of British soldiers, envisioned a United States without a standing army, but rather one that depended upon local militias to ensure its sovereignty. In front of this backdrop, James Madison authored the now Second Amendment to the Constitution that stated:

"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 contains several ambiguous elements, including the notions of a "militia" and a "free state." In the 21st century, is there a threat to the US being a free state because its general citizenry does not have guns? And what are the limits to this "right"?

Throughout our nation's history, cases questioning the interpretation of the Second Amendment clause have been brought before courts. In adjudicating these cases, the court faced a difficult decision: should the intent of the framers be the sole criterion on which the Second Amendment is judged or, should the scope of the Amendment be adapted to fit contemporary times? Indeed, this struggle proved to be symbolic of the quandary the court faced in having to apply a static legal basis to a constantly evolving nation.

The most recent controversial legal ruling was the Brady Bill, enacted in the early 1990s. The Brady Bill mandated that anyone buying certain types of guns be forced to undergo a background check and a waiting period of 7 days. The waiting period was designed to allow buyers that bought the gun in "a state of passion" to cool off before getting their hands on the gun. However, in its ruling during the summer of 1998, the Supreme Court found that the portion of the federal Brady Bill mandating the background checks be conducted by State law enforcement is unconstitutional because the federal government lacks the authority to compel this type of State action. That being said, states could continue to conduct background checks, they simply were no longer obligated to do so.