By Ellie Fletcher – International Affairs Editor
The acquittal of Kyle Rittenhouse has sparked further debate regarding the Second Amendment in the United States. One side argues that Rittenhouse had a right to bear arms, and that he only acted in self-defence. Others argue that he murdered two people in cold blood, and that guns should not be so easily available. The Second Amendment states that “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 basis of the debate is the wording of the Amendment itself. Does that mean all citizens have the right to own a gun? Or was the Second Amendment intended as a method to defend the United States before it had an army, therefore, ensuring that the Second Amendment has now become outdated and no longer a necessary part of the Constitution?
Firstly, those in favour of the Second Amendment focus on the latter half of the Amendment. ‘The right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed’ implies that all citizens have the right to own a gun. They argue against gun control and lobby against any form of legislation that would restrict their rights. In 2008, the United States Supreme Court made a ruling in favour of the Second Amendment during the DC vs Heller case. They ruled that Washington DC had been unconstitutional when enacting a law that banned handguns and required that all lawfully owned rifles and shotguns were to be kept unloaded and disassembled or bound by trigger lock. DC vs Heller was a major victory for pro-gun Americans. Furthermore, the Rittenhouse verdict has been seen as another victory for them because, whilst the case was not heard at the Supreme Court, there has been a judicial verdict that supports the argument that people are allowed to act on the Second Amendment and defend themselves from any perceived threats.
On the other hand, those against the Second Amendment opt to focus on the part where it states, ‘a well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State’. This infers that the Founding Fathers original intention was for the Amendment to become redundant once the United States had its own army. Many claim that the Founding Fathers wrote the Constitution with the idea another group would come along and rewrite it, as such the Constitution was never intended to be so closely scrutinized and enacted upon. This allows both sides of a debate to use different interpretations of a single document to be the basis of their argument resulting in very little compromise. Those who argue against gun control often use the number of mass shootings in the United States as a reason for gun control. In terms of the Rittenhouse verdict, many claim that he murdered two people deliberately, and if he had been of different ethnicity not only would he not have been acquitted but there is a high chance he would have been shot and killed at the scene. This suggests that the case itself is more to do with the issue of racism in the United States rather than the right to bear arms. A debate which persists in tearing apart the American Repulic.
Whilst the Rittenhouse verdict has brought the issue of gun control back to the forefront of political conversation and garnered worldwide media attention, it is unlikely that any legislation will be introduced to Congress or State legislatures. The case has allowed for further divisions to flourish throughout the United States and deepened the anger that both sides hold for the other.