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What Are the Origins and Interpretations of the Right to Keep and Bear Arms?

115 min


  • Students will understand the historical roots of the right to keep and bear arms.
  • Students will analyze Second Amendment controversies.
  • Students will analyze how colonists and the British regarded control of weapons.
  • Students will compare gun issues in 1775 to a modern gun controversy.
  • Students will evaluate arguments about how best to protect personal security.

  1. Using Handout C: Tickets, copy enough tickets before class for approximately three equal groups: British Soldiers, Concord Town Council, and Sons of Liberty.
  2. As students enter the room, hand each one a “ticket.” Use the tickets to assemble the students into three identity groups (“Group One”) from 1775.
  3. In a jigsaw activity, have each “Group One” meet to read and discuss the scenario on Handout D: Group Discussion Guide. Have them record their answers on their own paper.
  4. Choose two students from each of the groups to form new six-member groups. Each “Group Two” will be made be made up of two from the British Soldiers, two from the Concord Town Council, and two from the Sons of Liberty groups.

(Time estimate includes time for independent research.)

  1. Have students jigsaw into their newly assigned “Group Two” configuration and give each group a copy of Handout E: Town Council Discussion Guide. Have each pair of students explain their response on Handout D to the Concord Town Council members.
  2. Record general types of responses from each Sons of Liberty and British Soldiers group.
  3. Ask the pair representing the Concord Town Council within each group to listen to each group and then fill out Handout E and explain which side (if either) the council will support in the deepening controversy.
  4. Have the Town Council members from each Group Two report to the whole class their answers to Handout E.
  5. Close by asking the class to discuss any lessons for today that they can draw from the role-playing activity. Possible discussion questions:
    1. Does the United States face any current challenges that might be similar to the challenges faced by Concord citizens?
    2. What future challenges might the United States face that might be similar to those faced by Concord citizens?
    3. How might the right to bear arms relate to the need to provide security today?
    4. Why might some people favor more or less restrictive gun regulation laws?

  1. Present political cartoons related to the Second Amendment, gun control laws, and other pertinent current issues. Have students analyze the cartoons for what they reveal about views of the Second Amendment.
    1. Have students draw a political cartoon presenting their point of view on a current gun issue such as allowing airline pilots to carry guns, laws forcing people to register their guns with the government, school shootings, or kids not being allowed by schools to wear shirts with slogans mentioning guns or illustrations picturing guns.
  2. Have students write a two to three paragraph response to the following question: One argument against gun control laws is that tyrants will always try to take citizens’ weapons. Do you agree or disagree? Use examples from history or today to support your answer.

Student Handouts

Next Lesson

How Has the Second Amendment Been Interpreted?