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.
This week I’ve been in Chicago at Poynter’s Covering Guns seminar. The seminar, airfare and hotel was totally paid for by a grant from the Robert R. McCormick Foundation, which made it possible for me and most of the other reporters here to even consider participating.
On Monday, Second Amendment scholar David B. Kopel, research director at the Independence Institute and adjunct professor of advanced constitutional law at University of Denvers Sturm College of Law, spoke to our group about what journalists should know about the Second Amendment.
Kopel told us about how the Second Amendment evolved to be viewed as an individual right to own and carry a gun rather than the right of just those in an organized militia. This happened through several U.S. Supreme Court cases, U.S. v. Miller (1939), District of Columbia v. Heller (2008) and McDonald v. Chicago (2010).
In the 1970s, Kopel said, general legal thought was that the Second Amendment wasn’t an individual right.
The court explains in the Heller decision that the first half of the amendment is a “prefatory cause” which simply states one reason why people must have the right to own and carry weapons.
Robert Levy, a chairman of the Cato Institute’s board of directors and one of the driving forces behind the Heller case, also spoke with us.
Levy explained that a combination of good timing and an agreeable court helped win the Heller case. Levy said he’s never owned a gun himself but thought the case was important to take up in order to clarify the meaning of the Second Amendment.
One topic of discussion centered around the language of the amendment.
What does “Right of the people” mean and what did it mean at the time it was written?