The Second Amendment
The Second Amendment clearly states: “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”
On June 26, 2008, in Heller v. D.C., the U.S. Supreme Court for the first time ruled that the Second Amendment guarantees individual Americans the right to own a gun.
The ACRU filed amicus briefs at every opportunity during the course of this landmark decision supporting the Second Amendment rights of Americans. All the other basic Constitutional rights guaranteed by the Bill of Rights had long before been declared by the courts as “fundamental,” and thus they applied to the states as well as to the federal government. The Supreme Court in Heller for the first time declared that the right to bear arms in the Second Amendment was also a fundamental right guaranteed to all Americans by the nation’s Founders and thus it was also enforceable against state and local governments.
But the fight was not yet over. The case McDonald v. City of Chicago questioned again whether the Second Amendment right to bear arms was indeed applicable to state and local governments, or was instead a limited right that only protected Americans against the actions of the federal government. Specifically, the question was whether the right to bear arms applies (or is “incorporated”) to the states through the Privileges or Immunities Clause or the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment—as the rest of our rights as Americans under the Bill of Rights have been.
In a five-four decision, the Supreme Court in McDonald held that an individual’s right to keep and bear arms is incorporated and applicable to the states through the 14th Amendment’s Due Process Clause. Writing for the majority, Justice Alito observed: “It is clear that the Framers and ratifiers of the Fourteenth Amendment counted the right to keep and bear arms among those fundamental rights necessary to our system of ordered liberty” (p. 31). “The Fourteenth Amendment makes the Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms fully applicable to the States.” In a separate concurring opinion, Justice Thomas wrote that the 2nd Amendment is fully applicable to states because the right to keep and bear arms is guaranteed by the 14th Amendment as a privilege of American citizenship.
The ACRU is committed to ensuring that the Heller decision is not undermined through regulatory means by local, state, or federal bureaucrats. In Michelle Lane, et al. v. Eric Holder, Jr., et al., the ACRU filed a brief at the U.S. Supreme Court in 2013 in support of a District of Columbia woman who had purchased handguns in Virginia but was unable to possess them in D.C. in a timely fashion. The problem was a D.C. law that requires buyers to obtain permits for guns from a single, federally licensed firearms dealer permitted to do business in D.C.—a deliberately unnecessary and inordinate delay and expense for those who want to own a gun in the nation’s capital. The city has since attempted to revise the law, and the ACRU will help ensure that the language of any new law fully complies with the right to bear arms guaranteed by the Second Amendment.
In another case, Woollard and Second Amendment Foundation, Inc. v. Gallagher, et al., the ACRU filed a brief before the U.S. Supreme Court challenging a Maryland state law that unconstitutionally limits a citizen’s right to self-defense or to bear arms within his or her home.
The ACRU will pursue every opportunity to defend our precious Second Amendment rights.