"The right there specified is that of 'bearing arms for a lawful purpose.' This is not a right granted by the Constitution. Neither is it in any manner dependent upon that instrument for its existence. The second amendment declares that it shall not be infringed; but this, as has been seen, means no more than that it shall not be infringed by Congress. This is one of the amendments that has no other effect than to restrict the powers of the national government, leaving the people to look for their protection against any violation by their fellow-citizens of the rights it recognizes, to what is called, in The City of New York v. Miln, 11 Pet. 139, the 'powers which relate to merely municipal legislation, or what was, perhaps, more properly called internal police,' 'not surrendered or restrained' by the Constituton of the United States. "
--United States v. Cruikshank ruling
That said....I've brought this up in conversations about gun ownership with a few people on facebook, and so far the most common responses include (A) "You don't understand the constitution" (I'm not saying I do, I'm merely citing people whose job it is to interpret the Constitution), (B) "Second Amendment rights, I can own whatever guns I want!" (ignores the entire point), and (C) "Well, the SCOTUS said in 2008 that we DO have an individual right!"
"In writing for the Heller majority, Justice Scalia seemingly misinterpreted Cruikshank’s holding of “[t]his is not a right granted by the Constitution” to mean that the individual right to bear arms pre-existed the Constitution, which merely codified that existing right in the form of the Second Amendment.
Scalia made no reference to Cruikshank’s statements immediately following those excerpts, which explicitly disqualify any idea of there being an individual right to bear arms.
Nor did Scalia make any reference to the fact that Cruikshank was evaluating the validity of a law that prohibited two or more people from conspiring to deprive anyone of his constitutional rights – and that the ruling held the second count of the criminal indictment (“an intent to hinder and prevent the exercise by the same persons of the ‘right to keep and bear arms for a lawful purpose’”) as invalid because the Constitution grants no such right.
Justice Scalia’s misunderstanding of Cruikshank aside, is it still possible that the Framers intended to codify through the Second Amendment an individual right to firearms, as the Heller majority contends?
It’s possible, I suppose, but it’s a possibility reliant on the assumption that the understandings of the vast majority of state and federal courts since the ratification of the Second Amendment are incorrect."