Ruling on the Second Amendment

Why is the Court’s 2nd Amendment decision this term such a huge deal? This would be the fourth time the Court reviews the constitutionality of a law under the Second Amendment since 1900 and the fifth time ever.

Three of those four decisions including the present one will take place under the Roberts Court.

The first case ever to mention the Second Amendment is U.S. v. Cruikshank (1875): “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.

In 1886 the Court held in Presser v. People of IL that “Military Code Ill., Laws 1879, p. 192, § 6, prohibiting all bodies of men except those comprising the regular organized militia of the state and United States troops from associating, drilling, or parading with arms in any state without license from the governor, is not unconstitutional within the meaning of the second amendment, which declares that the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.”

Since 1900

The Court cut back the scope of the 2nd Amendment in US v. Miller (1939) holding, “In the absence of any evidence tending to show that possession or use of a ‘shotgun having a barrel of less than eighteen inches in length’ at this time has some reasonable relationship to the preservation or efficiency of a well regulated militia, we cannot say that the Second Amendment guarantees the right to keep and bear such an instrument. Certainly it is not within judicial notice that this weapon is any part of the ordinary military equipment or that its use could contribute to the common defense.”

Under the Roberts Court

In DC v. Heller (2008) the Court held that the ban on registering handguns and the requirement to keep guns in the home disassembled or nonfunctional with a trigger lock mechanism violate the Second Amendment. The Court also held that the first clause of the Second Amendment that references a “militia” is a prefatory clause that does not limit the operative clause of the Amendment.

Then in McDonald v. Chicago (2010) held that in D.C. v. Heller that the right to self-defense was one such “fundamental” and “deeply rooted” right. The Court reasoned that because of its holding in Heller, the Second Amendment applied to the states.

The last time the 2nd Amendment came up before the Supreme Court in NY Rifle v. NY (2020) the case was mooted as NY changed its law before the Court ruled in the case.

Now in NY State Rifle and Pistol Assn. v. Bruen, the question before the Court is whether the state of New York’s denial of petitioners’ applications for concealed-carry licenses for self-defense violated the Second Amendment.

Huge 2nd Amendment implications here.

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