Second Amendment

On Wednesday, Barack Obama outlined his plans to tighten controls on gun ownership after the Sandy Hook school shooting. Those in favour of greater gun control hope January 16 2013 could be a turning point; those who want further relaxation of gun regulation will do everything they can to make sure it’s just one more day in a long-running battle. Here are ten key moments that have shaped the debate thus far:

1) 1791: The Second Amendment (or, the birth of a very ambiguous string of words)
The Bill of Rights – which includes 10 amendments to the 1787 US Constitution – was adopted in 1791. The Second Amendment reads:

The Bill of Rights (image courtesy US National Archives)

The Bill of Rights (image courtesy US National Archives)

“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.”

This would become a sacred text for the gun rights lobby.

2) 1871: The National Rifle Association is founded (or, promoting good marksmanship)

The NRA was created in 1871 by two men, Colonel William C. Church and General George Wingate, veterans of the Civil war who had fought for the North and who felt that soldiers should be trained to shoot more accurately. Contrary to what you might think, the original NRA wasn’t actually the American one: the British National Rifle Association was set up in 1859 “to provide a focus for marksmanship for the newly formed corps of volunteers which had been raised to meet the perceived threat of invasion by the French”. Read more