Legal Edge: Understanding the Second Amendment

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LANSING, Mich. (WLNS) – After a flurry of mass shootings and gun violence in the United States this year, President Joe Biden has announced “executive action” would be taken to curb gun violence.

Both supporters of the Second Amendment and its critics have strong and loud opinions, and the debate doesn’t seem to be ending any time soon.

In case you’re still a little lost on the gun debate, or are just looking for more info, WLNS is here for you with local attorney Bryan Waldman to explain the laws surrounding the second amendment.

The Second Amendment is “confusing,” said Waldman. “So let’s start by looking at the language of the Second Amendment.”

“It says ‘a well-regulated militia, being necessary for the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.”

It’s clear that someone has the right to bear arms, but the debate among legal scholars has been “who has that right?” said Waldman.

“Is it only people who are affiliated with a militia? Or is it the individuals who have the right?”

The general consensus among legal scholars and the courts has been that only individuals associated with a militia have the right to bear arms.

That changed in 2008.

In 2008, the Supreme Court issued a historic opinion in a case known as District of Columbia v Heller, known as the Heller opinion.

The Heller opinion stated that individuals do in fact have the right to carry weapons and firearms if they are using them for traditional and lawful purposes such as self defense.

Seems pretty simple, right?

Not so much.

Proponents of firearm ownership often point to the Heller opinion as legal evidence against gun control, but the Heller opinion includes language that supports the regulation of firearms.

The language allows governmental entities to enact firearms regulations, such as banning concealed firearms, regulating the types of firearms that can be sold, regulating conditions for the sale of firearms and regulating who is allowed to own firearms.

Because the Heller opinion came out D.C. it means that the federal government has the right to enact restrictions, but it doesn’t necessarily apply to state regulations.

“Another case, McDonald v Chicago, challenged a Chicago handgun ban. The Supreme Court said that the Fourteenth Amendment incorporates the Second Amendment, meaning that the Second Amendment applies to laws and regulations set by the states, not just the federal government,” said Waldman.

There are no limitations for private businesses, so they can decide to ban guns in their stores if they want.

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