NRA Explore

Firearms Fact Card 2012

Monday, January 9, 2012

The Right To Keep And Bear Arms

The Second Amendment says, “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 right to arms derives from the right of self-defense, and therefore is an individual right. Thomas Jefferson said, “No free man shall be debarred the use of arms.” Patrick Henry said, “The great object is that every man be armed.” Richard Henry Lee said, “To preserve liberty it is essential that the whole body of people always possess arms.” Thomas Paine said, “[A]rms . . . discourage and keep the invader and the plunderer in awe.”

James Madison, who introduced the Bill of Rights in the House of Representatives, said its amendments “relate first to private rights.” Sen. William Grayson said the amendments “altogether respected personal liberty.” Tench Coxe said the Second Amendment protected the people’s “right to keep and bear their private arms.”

The Supreme Court ruled in District of Columbia v. Heller (2008) that “the inherent right of self-defense has been central to the Second Amendment right,” and that the Second Amendment protects a pre-existing individual right to keep and bear arms, without regard to a person’s relationship to a militia, including “the individual right to possess and carry weapons in case of confrontation.” Dissmissing the idea that only 18th century muskets are protected, the Court said “the Second Amendment extends , prima facie, to all instruments that constitute bearable arms.” The Court previously recognized that the Second Amendment protects an individual right in U.S. v. Cruikshank (1876), Presser v. Illinois (1886), U.S. v. Miller (1939) and U.S. v. Verdugo-Urquidez (1990).

Constitutional scholar Stephen P. Halbrook has found no historical evidence that the amendment was intended to protect a “collective right” of states to arm militias, or a “sophisticated collective right” to use arms only when serving in a militia. Richard Henry Lee said the militia are “the people themselves.” George Mason said the “the whole people” are the militia. In U.S. v. Miller, the Supreme Court described the militia as “civilians, primarily, soldiers on occasion . . . a body of citizens. . . . bearing arms supplied by themselves.”

The National Guard is subject to absolute federal control (Perpich v. Dept. of Defense, 1990). When federalized, it is not part of the militia. At other times, it is the “organized militia. ”At all times, the “unorganized militia” consists of other able-bodied males of age and certain other citizens.

Second Amendment Issues

“Assault Weapons” and “Large” Magazines—Congress allowed the federal “assault weapon” and “large” magazine ban of 1994-2004 to expire because a study of the ban concluded that “the banned weapons and magazines were never used in more than a modest fraction of gun murders.” Nevertheless, gun control supporters demand that a new ban be imposed, and some want it to include M1 Garands and M1 carbines, all semi-automatic shotguns, and pump-action rifles and shotguns. Other legislation would prohibit the possession of new magazines that hold more than 10 rounds, most of which are used in modern handguns designed for self-defense.

“Gun Show” Legislation—Sales of guns by dealers at shows already go through the national instant check. Gun control supporters used to say that they wanted checks on non-dealer gun show sales. However, their legislation called for registration of people who attend gun shows, and now they want private sales prohibited entirely.

“Ballistic Fingerprinting”—Gun control supporters want markings on bullets and cartridge cases fired from new handguns to be entered into a database. NRA opposes it, because to enforce it would require gun registration. The National Academy of Sciences has concluded that a national database of such markings is unworkable and shouldn’t be established.

Castle Doctrine–Thirty states have comprehensive “Castle Doctrine” laws protecting the right of self-defense. A total of 34 states don’t impose any “duty to retreat” from violent attack.

Right-to-Carry—The federal and 44 state constitutions, and the laws of every state, recognize the right to use guns for defensive purposes. On the whole, RTC permit-holders are more law-abiding than the rest of the population. To protect the privacy of permit holders, 29 states have laws prohibiting the public release of permit holders’ names.

Firearm Traces—A trace consists of BATFE using a firearm’s make, model and serial number to follow its movement from manufacturer or importer, down the chain of commerce. BATFE and the Congressional Research Service have said traces don’t show how often specific types of guns are used in crimes, traced guns aren’t representative of guns used in crimes, most guns used in violent crimes aren’t traced, and most traced guns haven’t been used in violent crimes.

“Microstamping” and “Encoded Ammunition”—NRA opposes requiring that cartridge cases be marked with serial numbers and registered to gun owners. Criminals could simply use stolen guns and ammunition, disfigure or switch barrels or other parts, reload ammunition with fired cartridge cases, or use guns that don’t eject cases automatically.

Employees’ Right to Transport Guns—Thirteen states prohibit employers from firing workers who leave guns locked in personal vehicles on company property.

Mandatory Storage—NRA opposes requiring gun owners to lock all guns when at home, because locked guns cannot be used for self-defense and such a law would be enforceable only by home inspections by the police.

Protecting FFLs—NRA supports a law to prevent BATFE from revoking firearms dealers’ licenses for insignificant technical violations.

Registration and Licensing—These laws serve no crime-fighting purpose, because criminals don’t register themselves or their guns, and most get guns from theft or the black market. Registration has led to gun confiscation in some foreign countries and some U.S. states. The Supreme Court has ruled that requiring felons to register guns would violate their Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.

Terrorist Watchlist—NRA opposes legislation to prohibit the possession of firearms by people on the watchlist, because the FBI will not say who is on the list or why, and the legislation would violate the 5th Amendment by preventing a watchlisted person from challenging the FBI in a fair and open hearing in court.

“Smart” Guns—NRA opposes requiring that guns have expensive, unreliable features, such as grips that would read your fingerprints before the gun will fire.

D.C. Gun Laws—NRA supports federal legislation to conform D.C.’s gun laws to federal law and the Supreme Court’s decision in District of Columbia v. Heller (2008).

Tiahrt Amendment on Release of Firearm Trace Data—This allows BATFE to provide tracing information on firearms to law enforcement agencies, for law enforcement purposes, but prohibits other disclosure. Gun control supporters want the information to be public, so it can be used in the media and in lawsuits against the firearms industry.

“Gun Control” Doesn’t Work

Studies by or for Congress, the Department of Justice, the Congressional Research Service, the Library of Congress, the National Academy of Sciences, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have found no evidence that “gun control” reduces crime, suicides or accidents in the U.S. or abroad.
More Guns, Less “Gun Control,” and Less Crime

There are more guns and gun owners in the U.S. than ever. During the last decade, “gun control” has been significantly reduced. The federal waiting period on handguns ended in 1998, in favor of the NRA-supported national instant check. Congress refused to renew the federal “assault weapon” and “large” magazine ban, allowing it to expire in 2004. Congress and 33 states have prohibited frivolous lawsuits against the firearms industry. Forty-two states have Right-to-Carry, and 48 states prohibit cities from imposing gun laws more restrictive than state law. From 1991 to 2010, the total violent crime rate declined more than 47% to a 37-year low, and the murder rate declined by 51% to a 47-year low. Both declined more than seven percent more in the first half of 2011.

Firearm Safety

NRA’s 73,000 Certified Instructors and 12,000 Law Enforcement Instructors reach over 800,000 people annually. NRA’s Eddie Eagle GunSafe® Program has been used by more than 26,000 schools, law enforcement agencies, and civic groups to reach more than 24 million children since 1988. The accidental gun death rate has declined 94% since 1904.

General Information

Privately owned firearms in the U.S.: Approaching 300 million, including nearly 100 million handguns. The number of firearms rises over 4 million annually.
Gun owners in the U.S.: 100 million; 40-45 million own handguns
American households that have firearms: 40-45%
Hunting licenses sold annually: 14.5 million
NRA State Associations and Local Clubs: 12,000
NRA Target Shooting Tournaments annually: 11,000
NRA Certified Instructors: 73,000
Number of Individuals Attending an NRA Firearm Course Annually: Over 800,000
NRA Law Enforcement Firearm Instructors: 12,000



Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Appropriations Act Signed Into Law With Important Pro-Second Amendment Provisions

On Wednesday, November 25, the President signed S. 1356, the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2016 into law. Included in the bill were some very important pro-gun provisions that represent the culmination of long-term efforts by ...

Gun Laws  

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Guide To The Interstate Transportation Of Firearms

CAUTION: Federal and state firearms laws are subject to frequent change. This summary is not to be considered ...


Friday, May 15, 2015

Obama Administration Opposes CMP Handgun Sales

The House of Representatives has approved Congressman Mike D. Rogers’ amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act, which—if accepted in ...


Friday, November 20, 2015

“F” Stands for Fail: Gun Turn-in Event Nets a Stack of Paper Pledges and Some Surplus Sporting Goods

Recently, we reported on Hillary Clinton’s praise for local firearm “buyback” events and her view that forcing Americans to participate ...


Friday, November 20, 2015

Anti-gun Politicians, Media Exploit Paris Attacks in “Terrorist Gap” Rehash

The Paris terrorist attacks were not easily pinned on America’s supposedly lax gun laws or the NRA, but ...


Friday, November 20, 2015

Brussels Pushes Gun Control in Wake of Paris Attacks

On November 18, the European Commission expedited a plan to overhaul the European Union’s already restrictive gun control laws. The ...

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Michigan: Governor Snyder Signs Firearm Inheritance Protection Act

Today, November 24, Governor Rick Snyder (R) signed Senate Bills 225 and 226.

Washington Times  

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

White House to GOP: Worry about gun control

The White House said Monday that Republicans concerned about Syrian refugees waging terrorist attacks in the U.S. should focus their energy instead on banning guns sales to people on the government’s terrorist watch list.


Friday, November 20, 2015

Overwhelming 81 Percent of Current and Former Military have Unfavorable View of Clinton

More bad news for Hillary Clinton. Coming off the heels of survey results that found the former Secretary ...


Friday, November 27, 2015

President Obama Signs NRA-Backed Measures into Law

President Barack Obama signed into law the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). It includes several NRA-backed provisions -- expanding gun rights on stateside military bases; prohibiting the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from banning traditional ammunition; and saving taxpayer dollars ...


Established in 1975, the Institute for Legislative Action (ILA) is the "lobbying" arm of the National Rifle Association of America. ILA is responsible for preserving the right of all law-abiding individuals in the legislative, political, and legal arenas, to purchase, possess and use firearms for legitimate purposes as guaranteed by the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.