What Is the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution?

The Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution covers the right to bear arms. This grants the capability of gun ownership to all private citizens of the United States, though some restrictions apply, such as age, health and criminal history.

The Second Amendment is one of the most controversial amendments to the Constitution in the modern era. Though the wording implies the right of gun ownership extends to any type of firearm, those who oppose the amendment are quick to point out the differences between the modern era and the period in which the Constitution was written. As the amendment is intended to allow citizens to defend themselves, opponents claim the use of automatic weapons is not justified as a matter of self-defense, and access to such weaponry leads to more harm than good.

In recent years, the Supreme Court has been lenient with the Second Amendment. In 2008, in the case of District of Columbia v. Heller, the Supreme Court struck down a Washington D.C. handgun ban put into place in 1976. In the 2010 case of McDonald v. City of Chicago, the Court determined that Chicago's ban on handguns was unconstitutional, as it violated Second Amendment rights given to all applicable private citizens.