The growing rate of gun-related violence is increasing the pressure on US lawmakers to bring about greater regulation and stringent laws relating to gun control. However, the right to possess guns for the purpose of self-defense is regarded as a fundamental right that cannot be infringed by the state. This has led to several debates regarding the power of the state to enact gun control laws. The right to bear arms is also guaranteed by the Federal Constitution. The Constitution thus restricts the power of the Federal Government to enact gun-control laws.
The right to bear arms is often defended on the grounds that it is a necessity for self-defense. However, advocates for stringent gun control laws argue that the free circulation of arms threatens the general safety of the public. Lawmakers have struggled for a long time to strike a balance between the right to bear arms and the need to maintain public safety. This article analyzes the protection endowed by the Federal Constitution on the right of the people to bear arms and examines judicial development with respect to the scope of the right to bear arms.
Right to bear arms under the Second Amendment
The Second Amendment to the US Constitution provides citizens with the fundamental right to bear arms. The right to carry arms around is also considered a constitutional safeguard for individual liberty. The reason behind the inclusion of the Second Amendment in the Bill of Rights could be attributed to the fact that private arms played a significant role in the attainment of American independence. Thus, lawmakers might have believed that the right to bear arms is a right that was available to the people even during the colonial period, and thus, it ought to be guaranteed in the post-independence period. The Second Amendment could have been viewed as a mere reaffirmation of existing liberty.
However, it is pertinent to note here that the Second Amendment cannot be interpreted to provide the fundamental right to own arms. It only provides the right to keep and possess arms.
The Second Amendment has given rise to much debate about the constitutional validity of gun control laws. One view is that the Second Amendment guarantees the right to bear arms only for the purpose of maintaining state militias. However, some contend that the maintenance of state militias cannot be regarded as the sole reason behind the inclusion of the Second Amendment in the Bill of Rights.
Thus, the Second Amendment is not considered to have the effect of creating a new right. It merely safeguards and protects an existing right. Moreover, the Second Amendment only protects the right from infringement by Congress. The Second Amendment does not place any restriction on the power of the states to restrict the right to bear arms in the exercise of their police powers.
The Second Amendment is interpreted to be divided into two parts. The first part is the prefatory clause, which provides that a well regulated militia is necessary for the security of the free state. The second part is the operative clause, which provides that the people have the right to keep and bear arms. This implies that the prefatory clause provides the reason for the operative. However, the prefatory clause does not determine the scope of the operative clause.
Those who advocate for stringent gun control laws argue that the Second Amendment only serves to facilitate the maintenance of state-regulated militias and does not provide a blanket right for all people to bear arms.
Those who oppose gun control laws argue that the right conferred by the Second Amendment is an individual right and the militia referred to in the Amendment is a reference to the unorganized militia that existed at the time of the American Revolution. It does not refer to the state-controlled militia in modern times.
United States v. Miller (1939)
The case of United States v. Miller (1939) is a landmark judgment in which the Supreme Court directly addressed the scope and applicability of the Second Amendment. In this case, the provisions of the National Firearms Act, 1934, were challenged, which prohibited the transportation of firearms without registration or stamps, from one state to another.
The defendants challenged the relevant provisions of the said National Firearms Act on the ground that they were violative of the Second Amendment. The District Court for the Western District of Arkansas held Section 11 of the Act to be violative of the Second Amendment. Section 11 made it illegal for any person to carry, possess, or ship firearms without obtaining a registration or stamp-affixed order. Thus, the appellants preferred an appeal before the Supreme Court.
The Supreme Court pointed out that the Second Amendment guaranteed the right to bear arms for the purpose of maintaining a well-regulated militia. However, no evidence had been produced to establish that the concerning firearm, that is, a "shotgun having a barrel of less than 18 inches," was necessary for the purpose of maintaining an efficient militia. No relationship has been established between the decision to restrict people from carrying unregistered shotguns shorter than 18 inches and the efficiency of a well–regulated militia.
The original Constitution empowered Congress to call upon the militia for the purpose of implementing Union laws and suppressing instances of insurrection and invasion. The Constitution also empowered Congress to organize, arm, and discipline the militia. The Court pointed out that the obvious purpose of the Second Amendment was the continuation of the effectiveness of the militia. The Court pointed out that the Second Amendment must be interpreted in light of the object for which it was made.
The court also noted that there was no evidence to suggest that the concerned weapon was ordinary military equipment or that it contributed to the common defense.
Historical background of gun control laws in the US
The Bill of Rights was ratified in December, 1791, and with the ratification of the Bill of Rights, the Second Amendment providing the people with the right to bear arms came into force.
The National Firearms Act, 1934, aimed at restricting the civilian ownership of machine guns, shotguns, silencers, and other firearms that were largely received as weapons used by gangsters.
Thereafter, the Federal Firearms Act was enacted in 1938. Under this Act, the manufacturers and dealers were required to obtain a federal license. The federal licenses were not issued to fugitives or felons. The dealers of firearms were required to keep a record of transactions. However, one of the major drawbacks of the Act was that while the Act provided that the dealers were prohibited from selling firearms to felons and fugitives, the dealers were not legally required to positively inquire into the background of the transferee. The Act only provided that the dealers were not to transfer the weapons where they knew or had reasonable grounds to believe that the person seeking the firearms was a felon, fugitive, etc., but it was not necessary for the dealers to seek the details about the background of the transferee.
Thereafter, the Gun Control Act of 1968 was passed. The Gun Control Act was aimed at regulating the interstate transfer of firearms. It prohibited the transfer of firearms to certain classes of persons, such as minors, mentally unstable people, and persons addicted to narcotics and stimulants.
The Gun Control Act was followed by the Firearm Owners Protection Act of 1986. This Act was aimed at controlling the abuse of enforcement powers and revised many provisions of the Gun Control Act.
The Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act of 1993 required firearm dealers with federal licenses to inquire into the backgrounds of their customers.
The Protection of Lawful Commerce and Arms Act was passed in 2005. It aimed to protect the manufacturers of guns from being indicted in civil suits by the victims of gun related crimes. This Act protected manufacturers, dealers, and distributors of firearms from civil liability in cases where their products were misused by customers.
Gun Control Act of 1968
The Gun Control Act of 1968 was passed in the wake of the assassinations of Martin Luther King, Jr., and Robert F. Kennedy. The need for the Act was also felt due to the significant increase in the importing of cheap firearms into the United States.
This Act introduced a procedure of systematic scrutiny for regulating the conduct of gun dealers. One of the primary aims of the Act was to support the gun control measures taken by the various states by prohibiting the unregulated transfer of firearms from states with loose gun control laws to states with stringent gun control laws. This Act made the following activities unlawful:
- To obtain a firearm by furnishing false particulars.
- To obtain, store or dispose of a stolen firearm or ammunition while knowing or having reasonable grounds to believe that such firearm or ammunition might be stolen.
- Engaging in interstate transportation or shipping of firearms by any person who is a drug addict or convicted felon or who is a consumer of stimulants and narcotics or who has been adjudicated to be mentally unsound. Minors were also prohibited from gun ownership. The Act prohibited transfer of shotguns and rifles to persons below 18 years of age and transfer of handguns to persons below 21 years of age. Moreover, aliens who had illegally entered into the United States and were illegally staying in the country were prohibited from possessing and transporting guns. Thus, the Act prohibited certain classes of individuals from gun ownership.
In order to effectively prohibit the sale of guns to minors, the dealers were required to verify the age of the gun seekers. Moreover, the Act prohibited shipment to and from persons who were involved in the manufacturing or dealing of firearms but did not have a federal license for the same. Thus, dealers with federal licenses had a monopoly over interstate firearm commerce.
The non-licensed dealers of one state were prohibited from transferring firearms to private citizens or dealers who resided in another state. The Act further criminalized the delivery, for the purpose of interstate transportation, of a package of ammunition or a firearm to a common carrier without stating the contents of the package in writing. Moreover, if the carrier knows or has reason to believe that the package contains an illegal shipment, he is prohibited from transporting the package.
There were certain hurdles in the effective implementation of the Act. For example, the records of firearms transactions were largely decentralized, which made it difficult for the federal authorities to track interstate firearm transactions. Despite the prohibition on the sale of firearms to minors, it was possible for underage customers to acquire guns and firearms from non-registered dealers. They could also purchase guns from registered dealers by furnishing false identifiers.
United States v. Biswell (1972)
In the case of United States v. Biswell (1972), the procedure for search prescribed under the Act was challenged before the United States Court of Appeals. The Act empowered the authorities to enter, during business hours, any place of storage of firearms and search for firearms or records and documents that are required to be maintained by dealers of firearms.
Bismil, who owned a shop dealing in sporting weapons, was visited by certain police authorities who sought to search his storeroom. When Bismil asked for a warrant, he was told that the warrantless search was authorized by the provisions of the Gun Control Act. The authorities furnished a copy of the relevant section, and the respondent, after reading the copy of the section, unlocked the storeroom and permitted the authorities to conduct the search. As a result of the search, certain unlicensed firearms were discovered and seized from the dealer.
The warrantless search was challenged on the ground that it was violative of the Fourth Amendment. The Fourth Amendment provides that the people have a right to be protected against unreasonable searches and seizures. It was also contended that the unannounced inspections were a violation of the privacy of the dealer.
The Court held that the federal regulation of the interstate traffic of firearms was crucial in ensuring that the distribution of firearms took place through regular and legitimate channels. The inspection was an essential part of the regulatory scheme and warrantless inspection was a reasonable official conduct. The Court noted that if the inspections were not conducted unannounced, then they might not prove to be very effective.
With respect to the privacy of the dealer, the Court held that once the dealer enters a profession that is pervasively regulated, he has the knowledge that the firearms and requisite business records might be subjected to frequent inspections. Thus, the argument about the threat to privacy did not establish any impressive dimensions. The Court thus concluded that the warrantless search of the locker room was not a violation of the Fourth Amendment.
FIREARM OWNERS’ PROTECTION ACT, 1986
The Firearm Owners’ Protection Act, 1986, brought about several modifications to the Gun Control Act. It permitted interstate transfer of long guns to a limited extent and limited the number of warrantless inspections that could be conducted by the authorities on a particular dealer. The Act also enhanced the penalties that could be imposed for the use of machine guns and silencers in federal offenses.
Moreover, people who had been convicted of felonies could restore their gun rights by making an application to the Treasury Secretary. It is pertinent to note that under the Gun Control Act, the dealers could be convicted and held liable even if they transferred the arms unknowingly to a prohibited person. However, the Firearms Owners Protection Act provided that the dealers could be held liable only if it is provided that they wilfully transferred the guns to the prohibited persons.
The Act also clarified that a license was not needed by those who were selling their personal collection of guns or those who engaged in occasional sales of arms. Only persons engaging in the transfer of arms for the primary purpose of profit and livelihood were to be covered by the scope of the Act.
Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act, 2005
The Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act, 2005 required the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to conduct background checks of persons who purchased arms from dealers. Under the provisions of the Act, a licensed dealer was required to request that the enforcement agencies conduct a background check on the gun applicant. If no notice of denial was received by the license holder within five days of his request, then he could transfer the firearms to the customer. However, this five-day period was later replaced by the quick and instant computer check mechanism that is in operation even today.
It is pertinent to note that the Brady Act required even state and local officials to conduct the background check on the gun applicants. In the case of Printz v. United States (1997), the Brady Act was challenged on the ground that, since it directed the state officials to implement a federal law, it violated the Tenth Amendment. The Tenth Amendment provides that such powers which are not delegated by the Constitution to the Congress and the exercise of which is not prohibited to the States, would be deemed to be reserved for the states. The Court held that while the Brady Act was valid, the provisions requiring the state and local officials to conduct a background check on gun seekers were violative of the Tenth Amendment.
Discriminatory origin of gun laws
Looking from a historical point of view, the traditional gun laws were largely discriminatory and racist in nature. In the case of Dred Scott v. Sandford (1856), the Court pointed out that traditionally, black people were denied the right to become citizens of the United States because citizenship would have provided them with the right to bear arms as guaranteed under the Second Amendment.
Racism was more prevalent in state laws as compared to federal laws. In the case of McDonald v. City of Chicago (2010), the issue before the Court was whether the Second Amendment was also applicable to the states. The Court pointed out that the individual right to bear arms was sacrosanct to the American system of justice. Moreover, the Court noted that the Second Amendment rights were incorporated by the due process clause of the Second Amendment. By virtue of the Fourteenth Amendment, the right to bear arms as provided by the Second Amendment was made fully applicable to the states.
The need for the Fourteenth Amendment was felt to safeguard the rights and freedoms guaranteed by the first eight Amendments from discriminatory state legislation. Some of the state laws of that time provided punishment such as whipping and pillory for those men of color who possessed arms without a license from an authorized judge.
It is pertinent to note that the Fourteenth Amendment was aimed at the abolition of the Black Codes. The Black Codes were discretionary state laws that prohibited people of color from carrying arms in public. Thus, the Black Codes denied the Second Amendment rights to the negroes.
By virtue of the Fourteenth Amendment, the states are prohibited from depriving any person of his or her rights based on the color, race, etc., of the person. Thus, the Fourteenth Amendment ensures that the states are not able to enact such statutes that deprive black people of their right to bear arms.
Interpretation of individual or collective right under the Second Amendment
The very first step in analyzing the scope of the right to bear arms is to determine whether the rights conferred by the Second Amendment are individual rights or collective rights of the society. Those engaged in the debate regarding the interpretation of the Second Amendment are majorly divided into two groups. The first group supports the idea that the Second Amendment confers an individual right. The second group argues that it merely confers the right on the states to maintain a militia and does not confirm any individual right whatsoever.
A third view is that the intention of the founders was perhaps to cover both the individual's right to own and possess arms and the collective right of the states to maintain a militia within the scope of the Second Amendment.
District of Columbia v. Heller (2008)
The question of whether the right to bear arms is an individual right or a collective right was addressed by the Supreme Court in the case of District of Columbia v. Heller (2008). In this case, a Columbia law that prohibited people from carrying unregistered handguns was challenged by the respondent. Under the concerned law, a license to possess handguns could be issued only by the police chief, and such licenses had a validity of one year.
The Court pointed out that the Second Amendment is divided into two parts. The operative clause provided that individuals have a right to bear arms. The Court pointed out that the operative clause deals with a "right of the people." The same expression, "right of the people," has also been used in the First and Fourth Amendments. The rights conferred in all three instances are individual and not collective.
The prefatory clause provides a purpose for the operative clause. The purpose of the operative clause is to facilitate the maintenance of a well-regulated militia, which is essential for the security of a free state.
Another argument raised before the Court was that the Second Amendment covered only those arms that existed during the 18th century. The Court noted that the word “arms” refers to such weapons that are not meant for military use or to be deployed in a military capacity. The Court thus held that just as the First Amendment covers those forms of communication that developed after the adoption of the Amendment, the Second Amendment also extends to those that were not in existence at the time the Amendment was framed.
Thus, after analyzing the historical background of the Second Amendment, the Court concluded that the right conferred by the Amendment is an individual right and not a collective right.
Reasonable Regulation Test
While laws that abridge the right to bear arms are unconstitutional, the state has the right to impose certain reasonable restrictions on this right. The reasonable regulation test is often used to determine the constitutional validity of the laws that regulate the right to bear arms. The restrictions can be imposed for the purpose of securing public health and safety.
Under this test, the Court upholds the statute if the government is able to establish that the gun control law is a reasonable regulation of the right to bear arms. Thus, if the government is able to establish that the gun control laws are for the purpose of safeguarding the liberties of all people by imposing reasonable and controlled restrictions on the general right to bear arms, then such laws would be held constitutional by the courts. Those gun control laws that uniformly promote the welfare and safety of the citizens will survive the reasonable regulation test.
However, even under the reasonable regulation test, laws that are arbitrary or completely deny the right to bear arms to the people are declared invalid.
Concealed carry and open carry
There seems to be a difference of opinion among the various state courts on the issue of whether the Second Amendment protects only open carry of arms or protects both concealed and open carry of arms. This difference in opinion may also be attributed to the fact that the right to bear arms is protected to varying degrees by the different state constitutions.
In the case of Bliss v. Commonwealth (1822), the law under challenge prohibited the carrying of concealed weapons. The Kentucky Court of Appeals had to examine whether the carrying of concealed weapons was protected by the US Constitution or the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Kentucky. The Court noted that the right to bear arms existed at the time of the adoption of the Constitution, and any law that diminished this right would be violative of the state Constitution. There was no difference between a law prohibiting the open carrying of arms and a law prohibiting the concealed carrying of arms. The Kentucky Constitution provided the owner the right to bear arms in any manner he wanted.
It is pertinent to note that, subsequent to the decision in Bliss, Kentucky amended its Constitution and empowered the legislature to prohibit the concealed carrying of arms but maintained the right of the people to carry arms openly.
In the case of Nunn v. State (1846), the statute in question banned the carrying of handguns in public. The Georgia Supreme Court held that the part of the statute that prohibited the open carrying of arms was violative of the federal as well as state constitutions. However, the Court upheld that ban on the secret carrying of arms on the ground that such a prohibition did not violate the citizen's constitutional rights or right to self-defense.
Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, 2022
Recently, the US Congress signed the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act. The Act was enacted in the wake of mass shootings at a supermarket in New York and a primary school in Texas.
Title II of the Act deals with firearms. It aims to regulate access to firearms and focuses on mental health issues. The Act also provides for a mandatory background check if a firearm is sought by a person under 21 years of age. The background check would include conducting a search of the criminal history repository or juvenile justice information system for the purpose of determining if the person has a disqualifying record. The mental health records of the applicant would be examined, and the authorities would also contact the local law enforcement agencies in the area where the applicant resides. If any disqualifying record is discovered, then the applicant has to be informed of the same. The investigation can be conducted for a maximum period of 10 days.
Moreover, this Act aims at enhancing access to medical services. The Act contains provisions for providing funds to the state medical departments and educational institutions to improve the medical services and resources that are provided in schools. The Act aims to provide greater funding to the states to enable them to effectively implement the "red flag" laws. Red flag laws are those statutes that authorize the state courts to temporarily prevent persons, exhibiting a sign of threat to themselves or others, from possessing or carrying arms.
The Act also prohibits the sale of firearms to such persons who are convicted of abusing their unmarried partners. However, the right of such persons to bear arms would be restored after 5 years of their conviction provided they do not commit any other offense.
The Act amends Chapter 44 of Title 18 of the United States Code for the purpose of prohibiting straw purchases of firearms and prescribing punishment for those who engage in straw purchasing. The Act provides that it shall be illegal for any person to purchase or conspire to purchase any firearm, for or on behalf of any person, if he knows or has reasonable cause to believe that:
- such other person intends to possess, carry, use, or sell the firearm for the purpose of a felony, drug trafficking offense, or terrorism; or,
- such other person fulfills the criterion provided under Section 922(d) of title 18, of the United States Code.
Those who commit the offense of making straw purchases of firearms can be punished with a fine and/or imprisonment for up to 25 years.
United States v. Verdugo-Urquidez (1990)
In the landmark case of United States v. Verdugo-Urquidez (1990), the Court interpreted the scope of the expression “people” in the Second Amendment. The court held that the expression "people" used in the First, Second, and Fourth Amendments refers to such a class of individuals who are members of the national community or have developed such a connection with the country that they can be regarded as members of the national community.
Thus, this landmark judgment implies that even non-citizens can be held to be entitled to the rights guaranteed by the Second Amendment. The expression “people” may include citizens as well as non-citizens.
U.S. v. Skoien (2010)
In the case of U.S. v. Skoien (2010), the concerned law that prohibited convicted domestic violence offenders from possessing arms was challenged before the United States Court of Appeals, Seventh Circuit. The plaintiff had been convicted of domestic battery and had been placed on probation. The District Court had, while denying the motion of the plaintiff, observed that a person may forfeit his right to bear arms if he commits a serious offense. Thus, the plaintiff approached the Seventh Circuit. The court had to determine whether such a restriction was reasonable or not.
The panel opinion of the Court had primarily decided whether the rational-basis view should be applied in the instant case or the intermediate standard.
The rational basis test provides that a statute should be upheld if it could be established that the statute serves a legitimate government interest. It is not necessary for the court to determine whether the interest is served at a reasonable cost or at a very inordinate cost. If the state shows that the interest would be served by the statute, then the Court would uphold the statute irrespective of the costs that it imposes on the people. According to the rational basis test, there is a presumption in favor of the constitutionality of the statute.
However, under the intermediate standard test, the state has the burden of establishing that certain public benefits would be achieved by the statute in question. The state has to justify that the restrictions that the statute imposes are reasonable in relation to the public benefits that it serves to achieve. The state has to discharge this burden by producing sufficient evidence and mere assertions on its part would not suffice.
The Court held that the correct approach would be to apply the intermediate standard. The court pointed out that in order to defend a statute, the government has to establish that a significant government interest is served by the statute under challenge and that the means employed by the state are significantly related to the interest that the government seeks to achieve. The panel held that the government had not presented sufficient evidence to discharge the burden and hence directed the government to provide the evidence to show the need and reasonableness of the statute.
The Court thereafter granted rehearing en banc. The Court determined the constitutionality of the statute in light of the intermediate standard. The Court held that the empirical study produced by the state showed that if the domestic abusers were allowed to bear weapons after their release and they stayed in the same area where they were staying before the arrest, then they were likely to be arrested for domestic abuse again within the next three years. Thus, the Court held that the state was able to justify the reasonableness of the restriction imposed by the statute, and thus the Court upheld the constitutionality of the statute.
New York State Rifle and Pistol Association Inc. v. Bruen (2021)
In the recent case of New York State Rifle and Pistol Association Inc. v. Bruen (2021), a New York law that made it mandatory to obtain an unrestricted license to carry concealed arms was challenged before the Supreme Court. Those applying for the license had to show a proper cause and a reasonable need for a handgun for self-defense.
In a 6-3 ruling, the Court held that the law violated the Second and Fourteenth Amendments. The Court further observed that the judiciary should uphold the laws restricting gun rights only if such restrictions have a historical basis. The Court further observed that the Second Amendment made no distinction between the right to possess arms inside the home and the right to carry arms in public places.
ONGOING DEBATES ON GUN CONTROL LAWS
Advocates for gun control laws fear that a strict interpretation of the Second Amendment and an absolute right of the people to bear arms might result in a significant rise in interstate gun violence and the frequency of gun-related crimes. Instances of mass shootings like those in New York and Texas have led to greater public support for gun control laws. The control laws advocates also argue that with the increase in the production and importing of cheap firearms, there is a greater need for stringent gun control laws.
Gun rights activists or those who oppose gun control laws argue that the state cannot restrict or put an impediment on the people's right to self-defense. They believe that the gun control laws would lead to a total ban on guns and would compromise the people's right to self-defense. Gun control laws are also regarded as an attempt by the government to compromise the constitutional rights of the people.
There has been much debate about the true intent of the Second Amendment as well. Some believe that the Second Amendment is only meant to safeguard the rights of the states to maintain a militia, while others argue that it is also meant to protect the individual's right to possess and transport arms.
It can be concluded that the available legal literature and judicial review on the scope of the Second Amendment are very narrow. The Supreme Court has not yet comprehensively analyzed the extent to which the state can impose restrictions on the right to bear arms. Even in the case of Heller (2008), where it was held that individuals have the right to bear arms for self-defense, the Court noted that its decision would not impact the validity of such laws that prohibit felons and other offenders from bearing arms.
The fate of the Bipartisan Act is yet to be determined. A conclusive and comprehensive interpretation of the Second Amendment requires an analysis of the intention of the founders at the time of the framing of the Second Amendment, its historical background, and the available judicial precedents.
It is noteworthy to mention here that a narrow interpretation of the Second Amendment would set a potentially dangerous precedent. If the Second Amendment is held to guarantee only the collective right of the states to maintain a militia and not any individual right to bear arms, then this could also affect the individual rights contained in the First and Fourth Amendments. Thus, the judiciary seems to be conspicuous of any narrow interpretation while defining the scope of the Second Amendment.
The right to bear arms as conferred by the Second Amendment is certainly an individual right, but the extent to which the state can put restrictions on this right is yet to be conclusively and comprehensively determined by the judiciary. This is what makes the task of interpreting the Second Amendment difficult.
Most state courts apply the reasonable regulation test to determine the validity of gun control laws, and very few laws survive the test. The courts have to determine whether the prefatory clause of the Second Amendment limits the scope of the operative clause or merely provides a purpose for the operative clause, and the two clauses exist independently of each other.
Moreover, it is pertinent to note that while the courts often look to history and traditions when deciding the constitutional validity of gun control laws, they must be conscious of the fact that the traditional gun control laws were tainted with racism.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS (FAQS)
- What is the Bill of Rights in the United States?
The Bill of Rights contains the first ten Amendments to the US Constitution. These ten amendments were ratified in a single unit.
These ten Amendments provide certain rights and civil bodies to the American people and put certain limitations on the powers of the federal and state governments. Congress cannot frame laws that are violative of the ten amendments contained in the Bill of Rights. If a law contravening any of the ten amendments is passed by the federal or any of the state governments, it can be declared void by the judiciary.
- What is a militia?
The term "militia" refers to all able bodied men who are capable of concerted action for the purpose of common self-defense. It refers to a trained and disciplined force entrusted with the security of the state.
- What are en banc hearings?
En banc hearings refer to such cases that are heard by all the judges of the Court. This happens in cases which are complex in nature and involve questions that have a significant value.
En banc hearings and rehearings are not ordinarily permitted, and requests for such hearings are allowed only in those cases that involve exceptional importance. A petition has to be filed to request en banc hearings, and the different courts prescribe the procedure for filing a petition for an en banc hearing.