Interpreting the second amendment - WOWK 13 Charleston, Huntington WV News, Weather, Sports

Interpreting the second amendment

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The second amendment to the United States Constitution reads: "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."

It's a clause more than 220 years old, and it's reawakening a nationwide debate about the type of arms we can bear.

"At the time of the Constitution, we had muskets and single-shot rifles," said Dr. Frank Vaughan, a professor at West Virginia State University in Institute, who studies the evolution of constitutions. "Firearms have advanced."

Vaughan said the power to define gun laws ultimately belongs to one branch of government: the Supreme Court, which has yet to address the issue of what type of "arms" people are entitled to own.

But in 2008, the Supreme Court did rule that individuals can own firearms to protect themselves in their homes.

And in 2010, it decided that regulating that right falls under state jurisdiction. The state of New York just passed its own set of gun laws on Tuesday.

13NEWS showed people in our region a copy of the second amendment to see how they interpreted the words.

"This means to me, the people of the United States should have the right to bear arms against foreign countries and our own government, if need be," said Taylor Green, a student at WVSU.

Others said the clause is dated.

"I don't think the second amendment is valid these days because there are no ways we could protect ourselves against the government," said Laura Cooper, a wife and mother of two boys. "The government has nuclear weapons."

And some translated the wording into modern-day terminology.

"It means that every state should have a militia, or today, a national guard, that should be armed," said Sarah Martin, an intern living in Charleston.

President Barack Obama signed 23 executive orders Wednesday to improve gun safety.

One directs the Center for Disease Control to study gun violence; another helps young people get mental health treatment.

The president also called for a ban on assault weapons and ammunition magazines with more than 10 rounds.

People in our area also weighed in on whether the public should have access to military-style weapons.

Green said everyone has a right to own a semi-automatic rifle.

"Guns don't kill people, people do that," said the Hurricane native.

Martin also questioned the people behind the weapon but said she feels only trained professionals should use high-powered artillery.

"To me, it's like why people who aren't a surgeon shouldn't be allowed to cut people open," said Martin, originally from Lexington, Ky.

Vaughan added that nobody should expect an *immediate* ban on any type of assault weapon. Like any other law, the legislation needs to be approved by Congress. The first hearing on the president's gun control proposals will be January 30.