Research Gun Control and the Second Amendment

Current Events, Exploring HeinOnline, Law Journal Library, Statutes at Large, U.S. Congressional Documents, U.S. Federal Legislative History, World Constitutions Illustrated
Shannon Furtak

It's nearly impossible to turn on the news in the United States without learning of a new mass shooting or other deadly incident involving guns. After each incident, the debate over gun control is reignited, with one side calling for stricter regulation of gun sales and ownership and the other side arguing that any type of such restrictions violate the Second Amendment of the United States Constitution.

Regardless of your position on this controversial issue, start your research in HeinOnline. The entire text of the current United States Constitution is available in the World Constitutions Illustrated library, which also contains constitutions and constitutional histories for all countries of the world. Here, you can access the Second Amendment, which reads:

A broad search for the phrases "gun control" AND "Second Amendment" across all subscribed libraries produces thousands of results from the Law Journal Library and U.S. Congressional Documents collection, as well as hundreds of case law results. Two journal articles are actually titled Second Amendment and Gun Control:

The most cited law review article resulting from this search query is Embarrassing Second Amendment by Sanford Levinson, who is currently ranked at number 64 based on HeinOnline's ScholarCheck metrics. Another frequently cited article is an analysis of legal scholarship pertaining to the Second Amendment, titled Critical Guide to the Second Amendment by Glenn Harlan Reynolds. Reynolds' piece summarizes and criticizes a number of important articles relating to the Second Amendment, with a goal of improving Second Amendment literacy for his readers.  Sorting the results by date shows articles containing both phrases from 1964 to 2016, highlighting the length of time that this issue has been debated in the legal community.

Interestingly, a search for "right to bear arms" produces 4,142 results in the Law Journal Library, while a search for "gun control" produces nearly double that amount. "Right to bear arms" is mentioned in just over 1,200 articles written between 2010 and 2016; "gun control" occurs in nearly 1,800 articles from the same time frame.  

The U.S. Congressional Documents collection also contains more than 2,000 results which include both the phrases "gun control" and "Second Amendment." To search exclusively for Congressional Hearings and to eliminate results from the Congressional Record, enter the collection and use the Advanced Search tool. Enter your phrases in a Text box, choose Congressional Hearings under Select Document Type, and click Search:

Sort results by date (newest first) to access the most current hearings on this topic.

HeinOnline also contains a four-volume compiled legislative history on the Brady Act, formally known as the Handgun Control, Multiple Firearm Purchases, and Federal Firearms License Reform (Public Law Number 103-159). The Act mandated federal background checks on firearm purchasers in the United States and required a five-day waiting period on purchases. The Act is popularly known as the Brady Act.  Jim Brady was press secretary to Ronald Reagan when he, the President, and Secret Service Agent Tim McCarthy were shot during an assassination attempt by John Hinckley, Jr. Brady suffered a serious gunshot wound to the head and was left partially paralyzed for life. Hinckley had a history of mental health issues and criminal behavior.

In 1991, President Ronald Reagan stated:

"The Brady bill would require the handgun dealer to provide a copy of the prospective purchaser's sworn statement to local law enforcement authorities so that background checks could be made. Based upon the evidence in states that already have handgun purchase waiting periods, this bill—on a nationwide scale—can't help but stop thousands of illegal handgun purchases."

The Act was signed into law by President Bill Clinton in 1993, and its full text is available in the U.S. Statutes at Large library, in addition to the aforementioned compiled legislative history.

For help researching this important topic in HeinOnline, contact our support team at (800) 277-6995, email us, or chat with  us. Visit our help page for helpful guides on searching the database, using the Law Journal Library, and more!

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