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The 1790s right to bear arms has been twisted to defend gun ownership

"The latest mass shooting in the US is a result of the easy availability of guns and the ‘right to bear arms' is defended by many as a constitutional right. The second amendment to the constitution (passed in 1791) states 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.

"Many have argued, and for a long time the Supreme Court agreed, that this only granted organised state militias the right to bear arms. The right was intended to prevent state tyranny and provide for a defence against foreign invasion. More recently, however, the clause has been reinterpreted by the conservative majority on the Supreme Court as granting individuals the right to carry weapons.

"Back in 1791 mass shootings by lone individuals were impossible: the weapons took too long to reload (even the most skilled could only fire twice per minute), and lacked the accuracy of modern day guns. Today, military grade weaponry is easy to procure and, in the wrong hands, proves deadly. The only way to change this is via a new constitutional amendment, but the chances of that happening are almost nil."

Dr Tim Lockley

For further details please contact Nicola Jones, Communications Manager, University of Warwick 07824 540863 or