Time and again, courts across the nation have affirmed that gun safety laws are constitutional.

The gun lobby has long peddled an extremist and dangerous view of the Second Amendment, one that doesn’t allow for any commonsense gun safety protections. Since the Supreme Court ruled that citizens may keep a handgun at home for self-defense in District of Columbia v. Heller, courts across the country have reaffirmed that gun safety laws are constitutional and not in conflict with Second Amendment rights. 

The History of the Second Amendment

American society has changed drastically since the Framers wrote the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. The combination of these shifts and the gun lobby’s fear mongering has created unnecessary controversy and misconceptions around the Second Amendment.

In the earliest days of this country’s founding, ordinary citizens could be called upon to serve in militias to defend their region. Derived from a 16th-century English tradition, the practice continued through the Revolutionary War as a safeguard against tyranny. Male community members received training and kept the weapons they used in the militia at home.

Of course, we no longer rely on civilian militias as a form of national defense. As the federal military gradually replaced state-based militias, the situation that the founders first considered vanished from American life. 

For almost two centuries, the majority of Americans viewed the Second Amendment as a relic of these militias. There was a general consensus among scholars and the courts that the amendment didn’t comment on an individual’s right to own guns, and that it was up to the states to set their own gun laws.

IN THE COURTS

Time and again, gun safety laws have been proven constitutional. Our attorneys defend lifesaving gun laws and take on the gun lobby in courts around the country, all the way up to the Supreme Court.

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The Second Amendment Today

The dramatic shift in conversations about the Second Amendment can be pinpointed to a few specific turning points, the first one being the so-called “Revolt at Cincinnati,” the NRA’s 1977 annual meeting. Radical members opposed to all gun safety laws seized control of the board and began the organization’s descent into the extremism it is known for today. 

The NRA’s false narrative that the Second Amendment is absolute and unlimited is dishonest and dangerous. The right to bear arms never outweighs the right to live. We know that more guns means more violence, and Americans agree that we need stronger gun safety laws. 

The Supreme Court and lower courts have ruled repeatedly that a wide range of gun safety laws are constitutional, rejecting the gun lobby’s dangerous interpretation of the Second Amendment. The 2008 ruling in District of Columbia v. Heller marked the first Supreme Court ruling on the Second Amendment in nearly 70 years. The Court ruled in favor of Dick Heller, who sued Washington DC over its ban on handguns in the home. The Court clarified an individual’s right to have a handgun in the home for self-defense, but denied that the Second Amendment provides an unlimited license to bring weapons into all corners of American society. In fact, Justice Scalia explicitly noted that the Second Amendment is “not a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose.”

After Heller, the NRA swamped the courts with challenges to reasonable gun laws, falsely believing they had received a green light for their craven agenda. But they were wrong. Courts across the country have consistently cited Justice Scalia’s words in rulings that reaffirm the constitutionality of gun safety laws.

OUR FIGHT FOR A SAFER FUTURE

Giffords Law Center is proud to have fought for the constitutionality of gun safety laws for over 25 years. With arguments delivered before courts across the country and more than 125 amicus briefs filed, we have tirelessly advocated for commonsense reforms. 

Again and again, the courts have agreed that gun safety is constitutional. Despite the millions of dollars the NRA has spent to block legislative efforts and confirm extremist judges, our arguments for gun safety continue to win. Americans today are safer because of successful gun safety laws and litigation that we have pioneered for over two decades.

We are proud of our Supreme Court victories, but we also take pride in our state and local-level successes. Whether before the Supreme Court or state courts considering local ordinances, no challenge that advances lifesaving legislation is too big or too small. Our past cases have shaped judicial precedent, and we continue to lead litigation in future cases at every level of government.

In addition to arguing before the courts, we work to fully inform the public about court cases and judicial nominations affecting gun policy. The gun lobby survives on false narratives about gun violence. Presenting the facts is the best way to combat the gun lobby’s deliberate misinformation. All people have a right to understand the arguments of each case and the position of their judges in the fight against gun violence. 

Giffords Law Center will continue to research, draft, and defend legislation that protects our communities. All Americans have the right to live without fear of gun violence, and we are committed to ensuring our judiciary upholds the constitutionality of gun safety.

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REPORT

GUN VIOLENCE SANCTUARIES

The rise of the “Second Amendment sanctuary” movement underscores the danger of the gun lobby’s false narratives. Sheriffs and other local leaders who refuse to implement lifesaving gun laws put their constituents at risk.

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