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Civil Liberties in the United States

2nd Amendment and the Right to Bear Arms

Two key Supreme Court decisions, District of Columbia v. Heller and McDonald v. Chicago, made in the early 2000s upheld the right to own a gun under the 2nd Amendment and applied this right to state and local governments.

The 2nd Amendment declares, "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 right to bear arms has played a prominent part in the national debate on gun control, particularly beginning in the late 20th century. Many proponents of gun rights resist any limitations on the 2nd Amendment right to bear arms. Other people argue that this right, like the freedom of speech or assembly, can reasonably be limited in some ways. In District of Columbia v. Heller (2008), the Supreme Court found that, under the 2nd Amendment, a citizen has the right to own a firearm for traditionally lawful purposes such as self-defense. This was the first time that the court affirmed the right to own a firearm. However, the court also affirmed that guns and gun ownership could be regulated.

The Heller ruling applied to the federal government since it was related to a gun ban in the District of Columbia, a creation of the federal government. Two years later, the court applied the 2nd Amendment to the states. The cities of Chicago and Oak Park, Illinois, had laws banning guns. In McDonald v. Chicago (2010), the court overturned those laws, saying that they violated the 2nd Amendment right to bear arms.