THE SECOND AMENDMENT THROUGH TIME
It’s 1775. Joseph is 16 years old. He lives in Concord, Massachusetts and is a member of the Massachusetts Minutemen. They are a group of young men who help the colony’s militia in fighting the British army. The Minutemen got their name because they are supposed to be “ready in a minute” to fight against the English. Joseph is extremely proud to be a Minuteman. He’s been involved in several conflicts already in and around Concord. He hasn’t yet shot his gun at anyone in battle nor been shot at himself, but he’s confident in his abilities to use the long rifle his father gave him. Joseph sees it as his responsibility to defend his colony and his community.
Flash forward to 1789. Joseph is 30 years old, a baker in Concord, married and a father of two young sons. The Americans are no longer fighting the British, and Joseph is no longer a Minuteman. He still keeps the long rifle he got from his father. When his boys are a bit older, he plans to teach them how to use it themselves. When the U.S. government passes the Bill of Rights in 1789, Joseph is especially pleased by the 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.” If anyone ever tried to take Joseph’s rifle away, he’d fight them. He’s used it to protect his community, his friends and his family. He’d never give it up. The Second Amendment makes good sense to him.
Unlike Joseph, you don’t live in 1775 or in 1789. You live now. Over the years, Americans have wrestled with what the Second Amendment means in their time. It’s our responsibility as citizens to reflect on how our laws actually impact our lives today and those of our fellow citizens.
Explore these primary sources. Imagine that someone like Joseph could time travel to our present-day and explore modern American life. Would he have the same positive feelings for the Second Amendment? Or might he think differently about it now? Make your case.
Have your students take this challenge and make their case! To begin, send your students to this website with this challenge’s code.
The Second Amendment provides U.S. citizens the right to bear arms ("arms" means weapons). The 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."