View Full Version : Bearing Arms: A Right ... and a Duty?

03-22-2010, 01:11 AM
The Massachusetts Judicial Council ruled on March 10 that the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution does not apply to state governments and, consequently, the State of Massachusetts can regulate firearms in that state. The language of the Second Amendment states: "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 is part of the Bill of Rights, which was added to the Constitution to guarantee that the federal government would not infringe upon basic rights and that those powers of government not specifically delegated to the federal government by the Constitution would be reserved to the states and the people. At the time (and up to the present day), each state had its own state constitution that defined and limited the powers of government.

For instance, Article XVII of the Massachusetts state Constitution guarantees: "The people have the right to keep and bear arms for the common defence." This provision means, of course, that Massachusetts is violating its own state constitution by enacting restrictive gun laws infringing on the right to keep and bear arms, even if the Second Amendment, as the Massachusetts Judicial Council ruled, does not apply to the states.

Altogether, 44 states have state constitutional provisions guaranteeing the right to bear arms. In many instances, these state constitutional provisions are more potent than the language in the federal constitution. Many state constitutions, for example, provide explicitly that the right to bear arms for purposes of self-defense should not be infringed.

Other rights such as freedom of press and of speech are also protected by state constitutions.