To endure for all time or to change with the times? The Supreme Court and the Second Amendment

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

17 Downloads (Pure)


In June 2008, the US Supreme Court handed down its decision in District of Columbia v. Heller, ruling for the fi rst time that the Second Amendment to the US Constitution guaranteed an individual right to bear arms for the purposes of self-defence. Gun rights activists responded with joy that a majority of the Justices had endorsed a reading of the Amendment that they had advocated for nearly three decades. Gun control supporters expressed disappointment at the Court’s ruling, which struck down what were the strictest gun laws in the nation, but also argued that Heller offered support for their position too. In fact, both leading presidential candidates, John McCain and Barack Obama, publicly offered their support for Heller.1 How could both sides in the seemingly Manichaean debate between greater gun rights and greater gun control claim support from the same ruling? Because, in reality, Heller offered something to both sides. While fi nding the Amendment protected an individual right to own fi rearms separate from militia participation, the Court also clearly stated that right was not unlimited, and it offered what one commentator called a “laundry list” of regulations on gun ownership and use that remained acceptable under the Second Amendment.2 Thus in answering one question (the scope of the right protected by the Amendment), the Court’s ruling in Heller offered up an array of others (exactly what regulations were permitted), guaranteeing continued debate about guns in American society that ensured the Second Amendment would remain relevant well into the twenty-fi rst century.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Second Amendment and Gun Control
Subtitle of host publicationFreedom, Fear, and the American Constitution
EditorsKevin Yuill, Joe Street
Place of PublicationLondon
Number of pages13
ISBN (Electronic)9781351783347
ISBN (Print)9781138706286
Publication statusPublished - 12 Sep 2017

Cite this