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Senate website gets 2nd Amendment wrong, critics say

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Shown, at right, is a screen shot of the Senate web entry on the 2nd Amendment. The controversial passage is highlighted. (Reuters/Senate.gov)

Does the Second Amendment guarantee an individual right to own guns?

The Supreme Court has ruled that it does. But you might be confused if you visit the official Senate web page on the Constitution, which says only: "Whether this provision protects the individual's right to own firearms or whether it deals only with the collective right of the people to arm and maintain a militia has long been debated."

That particular wording was posted on the Senate website in 2009, based on archived web pages at The Internet Archive. However, that's one year after the Supreme Court ruled: "The Second Amendment protects an individual right to possess a firearm unconnected with service in a militia, and to use that arm for traditionally lawful purposes, such as self-defense." 

Given the court ruling, critics say the Senate site's administrators are just wrong.

"After five-and-a-half years of litigation, the Supreme Court unequivocally resolved the long-standing debate over the meaning of the Second Amendment," Bob Levy, one of the lawyers who won the 2008 Supreme Court case, told FoxNews.com.

"No one on either side of the gun debate -- with the possible exception of those persons who devised the U.S. Senate's official website explaining the Constitution -- doubts that the Supreme Court has affirmed the individual rights view of the Second Amendment," he added.

The issue follows on the heels of a similar Second Amendment controversy, in which a Texas history textbook was found to claim that the Second Amendment means "the people have the right to keep and bear arms in a state militia."

But while the textbook was published before the Supreme Court clarified the issue in 2008 -- and the authors say they will revise the book -- the Senate definition was put up after the ruling.

The Senate website content is determined by the "Secretary of the Senate", a post headed by former Tom Daschle staffer Nancy Erickson. FoxNews.com reached her Deputy Chief of Staff, Mark Tratos, by phone on Tuesday and asked if the secretary stood by the wording. Tratos said he would check, but did not get back with an answer as of Wednesday afternoon.

Pro-gun control group Mayors Against Illegal Guns declined to comment on the issue.

Meanwhile, gun rights advocates panned the site's language.

"Considering that this year the party in control of the United States Senate tried to ban many semi-automatic firearms and magazines that hold more than 10 rounds, it does not surprise me that their website takes that position," Alan Gottlieb, founder of the Second Amendment Foundation, said.

"Congress has shown time and time again that they ignore the two Supreme Court decisions that make it very clear that the Second Amendment is in fact an individual right."

The author of this article can be reached at maxim.lott@foxnews.com or on Twitter at @maximlott.