The US bill of rights was constructed to prevent misconstruction or abuse of its powers, that further declaratory and restrictive clauses should be added: And as extending the ground of public confidence in the Government.

Let's take for example our second amendment:

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.

We only need two words for definitions "people" and "infringed". People is human beings in general or considered collectively.the men, women, and children of a particular nation, and that would be U.S.A . And at the end of the second amendment it clearly states "shall not be infringed" so that would be be defined as shall not break the terms of (a law, agreement, etc.). Shall not contravene, shall not violate, shall not transgress, shall not break, shall not breach, shall not commit a breach of, shall not disobey, shall not defy, shall not flout, including shall not undermine, erode, diminish, weaken, impair, damage, compromise; limit, curb, check, place a limit on, encroach on, interfere with, disturb, disrupt.

So my question is If our bill of rights was constructed to prevent misconstruction or abuse of its powers, that further declaratory and restrictive clauses should be added: And as extending the ground of public confidence in the Government. Wouldn't passing any gun law federal or state to place a limit on where you can have it interfering with being able to defend yourself wouldn't be a breach of our safety? Diminishing the meaning of a free state?? How is any gun control law that dose everything in the definition of infringed not be a violation of the Second amendment??

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    I'm afraid I can't understand what you are asking. Can you rewrite your question to be more clear? Breaking up the "wall of text" paragraph would help, as would complete sentences with proper punctuation. Commented Jan 20, 2019 at 21:03

3 Answers 3


When an individual or an organization (such as a business or a local or state government) thinks that a governmental action is in violation of a constitutional limitation, s/he/it may file suit against the government (Federal, state, or local as the case may be). Such suits most often seek injunctions against continuation of the action, but sometimes damages, particularly under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Also, persons accused of crime may argue that the law violates their Constitutional rights, or that some part of the enforcement procedure violated those rights. Such suits and court actions are the main way in which US Constitutional rights, including those in the Bill of Rights, are enforced.

Constitutional rights are almost never absolute. For example the rights of free speech and a free press in the First Amendment are stated in rather absolute terms, but libel and defamation laws are constitutionally permitted, although they were somewhat limited by the decision in NY Times vs Sullivan, 376 U.S. 254 (1964). Regulation of the "time, place, and manner" of speech is also permitted. Although the same amendment guarantees Free Exercise of religion, laws prohibiting human sacrifice and polygamy are constitutional. the Fourth Amendment limits search and seizure, but search warrants are still issued every day. The Second Amendment does not mean that no regulation of guns can ever be constitutional.

For much of our history, the clause

A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State

was considered to be a condition of the right, and no individual right to own firearms was guaranteed to those in no way connected with a governmentally authorized militia (private militias were not considered "well regulated"). Since DC. v. Heller that view has changed, but that does not make all regulation of guns impossible under the Constitution. Moreover, a number of legal scholars think that Heller was wrongly decided, and should be reversed. The Supreme Court could decide to do that, although the current Justices have not indicated any such intention.

The U.S. Supreme Court in McDonald v. Chicago, 561 U.S. 742 (2010) said, quoting DC vs Heller:

It is important to keep in mind that Heller, while striking down a law that prohibited the possession of handguns in the home, recognized that the right to keep and bear arms is not “a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose.”

We made it clear in Heller that our holding did not cast doubt on such longstanding regulatory measures as “prohibitions on the possession of firearms by felons and the mentally ill,” “laws forbidding the carrying of firearms in sensitive places such as schools and government buildings, or laws imposing conditions and qualifications on the commercial sale of arms.”

The question suggests that a dictionary definition of "infringe" implies that the right is utterly absolute. This contradicts the Supreme Court statement holding above, and all of our history of constitutional law. To the best of my knowledge there is no provision or right that does not have limited exceptions or room for interpretation. Justice Black's absolutist view of the Bill of Rights, and particularly of the rights of Freedom of Speech and of the Press, never carried a majority of the Court nor of the country.

To "infringe" a right is to violate it, to fail to respect the right. But that leaves the question of just what the right guarantees. Suppose a law requires a permit to own a gun, but that permit is granted to anyone on filing an application and payment of a small fee. Would that infringe the right? Suppose a similar permit requirement, but one excluding felons, persons on parole, and persons under a domestic violence restraining order. Would that infringe? Suppose a requirement that a would-be owner first pass a firearms safety class, which most people pass easily. Would that infringe? There are many such questions, and current case law has not settled all of them. The first two above seem to be answered "No" by the US Supreme Court.

By the way, the history of the debates does not suggest that the ability of individuals to defend themselves, particularly against the government, was a significant concern in drawing up the Second Amendment. The focus was largely on Federal funding of state militias (later the National Guard). Other data shows that gun ownership was comparatively rare at the time of the adoption of the Bill of Rights.

  • " Shall not be infringe " is the most clear cut statement in the whole constitution ! So why is the definition of infringed overlooked?
    – S. Egan
    Commented Jan 21, 2019 at 13:16
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    @S. Egan I would argue that "Congress shall make no law" which starts the few speech section of the First amendment is rather more clear cut. Justice Black used to argue to the rest of SCOTUS that "No law" means no law at all. He never got four other justices to agree. In any case simply quoting dictionary defs will not take you very far in understanding US Constitutional law. Commented Jan 21, 2019 at 15:44
  • The definition and synonyms of infringe is clear cut!
    – S. Egan
    Commented Jan 21, 2019 at 18:40
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    @S.Egan By its terms, the Bill of Rights applies only to Congressionally enacted laws. Its extrapolation first to all acts of the federal government, and then to state and local governments is very much a non-obvious judicial gloss.
    – ohwilleke
    Commented Jan 21, 2019 at 20:52
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    It is also worth noting that legislators and executive branch officials may consider whether something violates the constitution and may refrain from acting when they believe that it does, even though this kind of constitution informed activity doesn't necessarily feel like "enforcement". For example, a state attorney-general sometimes issues an opinion that a statute is unconstitutional unless interpreted in a particular way (e.g. with an unstated exception for indigent people implied as a result of the constitution) that is binding on that state's officials until a court says otherwise.
    – ohwilleke
    Commented Jan 28, 2019 at 17:59

The Bill of Rights is not "enforced" in the way that a federal or state state is enforced (law enforcement agencies may arrest you for violating the law: the courts decide if you did violate the law, and punish you accordingly). Instead, constitutional provisions are used – by the courts – to determine whether a given government action is consistent with the constitutional framework. In American law, as a former English colony where law is based on English common law, the courts have (limited) powers to interpret what the constitution "means". There is a legal principle (known as stare decisis) that when a question has been definitively decided by the courts, that answer binds all subsequent decisions.

The Commerce Clause, for example, gives Congress the power "to regulate commerce ... among the several states", but this has been interpreted by the Supreme Court (starting most clearly with Wickard v. Filburn) to mean "things that can have an effect on interstate commerce", such as growing wheat for your own animals. Federal laws regulating firearms came into existence in the wake of the St. Valentine's day massacre and an attempted assassination of FDR, resulting in the National Firearms Act of 1934. There was a registration and taxation requirement – Congress has the power to levy taxes – and this resulted in the case US v. Miller. You can read the reasoning starting p. 178, which is an example of the "for militias only" reasoning that has pervaded case law on the matter; you can (should) also compare that decision to DC. v. Heller. Miller did not definitively deny the individual right to bear arms.

In other words, it is the Supreme Court, which has final authority to interpret the meaning of law in the US.

  • And the supreme court employees get their paychecks from the federal government right ?
    – S. Egan
    Commented Jan 21, 2019 at 13:11
  • @S. Egan Yes that is the way our system works, and has worked for over 200 years. How do you think it should work? Commented Jan 21, 2019 at 15:51
  • My point is we have a government that has rules to follow, and if they break them rules then they have to investigate and interpret the law make a ruling and pass judgment on themselves!
    – S. Egan
    Commented Jan 21, 2019 at 18:36
  • @S.Egan How would you rather it be done, then? Should the justices on the Supreme Court instead be funded via private charity? Would you rather they not be paid at all? The US government is not some monolithic entity, and as shown by the fuss over judicial appointments whenever they happen, Supreme Court justices do matter (unless, of course, you believe that to all be posturing and that individual justices do not have their own opinions that they apply to the cases they take on).
    – JAB
    Commented Jan 21, 2019 at 19:24
  • Under the current Constitution, you need a long-term plan to elect presidents and senators who will nominate and approve justices who will decide cases the way you would like. Or, amend the Constitution to impose whatever restriction you have in mind on the courts. Only the courts have the power to interpret the Constitution, but the people have the power to amend it.
    – user6726
    Commented Jan 21, 2019 at 19:58

You do

When you believe the government is infringing your rights, you go the the court and ask them to tell the government to stop.

  • So you go to the government and ask them to tell themselves to stop?
    – S. Egan
    Commented Jan 21, 2019 at 13:05
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    @S.Egan Yes. Works OK in countries where the government observes the rule of law (like the US [mostly]) - not so well where government is more corrupt. Given that the government has a monopoly on violence, who else can you go to?
    – Dale M
    Commented Jan 21, 2019 at 19:45
  • Actually many states are giving law enforcement officers their own bill of rights. To protect them from any discipline and even harder to terminate their employment on severe crimes like taking your rights! But we the people should just lay down so we can have security?
    – S. Egan
    Commented Jan 22, 2019 at 10:45

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