ACLJ Submits Amicus Brief to Supreme Court in Pivotal Second Amendment Case
The ACLJ has always fought to protect the Constitution, and now the Second Amendment is under fire at the Supreme Court. The Radical Left wishes to eviscerate the right to bear arms. We’ve just taken action to defend the Second Amendment – and the U.S. Constitution as a whole.
As ACLJ Senior Counsel Mike Pompeo explained recently, “Liberty necessarily depends on self-defense.” In fact, our Founders knew the utmost importance of that right:
Alexander Hamilton stated in Federalist No. 28 that our Founders also saw the right to bear arms as “that original right of self-defense which is paramount to all positive forms of government” – and essential to the preservation of the freedom of the American people against the risk of an overbearing, or even tyrannical, government at home.
That right is under attack today like never before. Now, for the first time in a decade, the Supreme Court has taken up a major case on the Second Amendment. This case will either quickly block President Biden's slippery slope toward disarming Americans or it will unleash the biggest assault on the Second Amendment we've ever seen.
We have just filed an amicus brief at the Supreme Court in New York State Rifle & Pistol Association Inc. v. Corlett, urging the Court to reverse the Second Circuit’s decision, which essentially held that the Second Amendment did not apply to carrying firearms outside one’s home. That Court got it wrong. The critical rights of the American people and the constitutional principles at stake are so significant that we had to weigh in.
Even after the Supreme Court’s last decision on this issue in 2010, holding that the Second Amendment is a personal right and acknowledging that it protects the rights of law-abiding gun owners to possess a firearm in their own home, multiple states have since deprived individuals of their Second Amendment rights by not allowing them to carry weapons outside of the home. This is a major violation of a protected constitutional right because the need to defend oneself is not limited to the home. With its decision in this case, the Supreme Court has a chance to reaffirm the Second Amendment rights of every American.
At the ACLJ, we believe that the Second Amendment, the right to bear arms, and the right to self-defense are some of the most fundamental of constitutional rights – the guarantors of our other freedoms. In fact, the ACLJ has written similar amicus briefs in support of Second Amendment rights in the two landmark Supreme Court cases, District of Columbia v. Heller and McDonald v. City of Chicago.
The case before the Supreme Court today involves a New York law that only grants concealed carry permits to individuals who show a special, unique need for self-defense, setting up a bar that is nearly impossible to meet in order to be given governmental permission to exercise a fundamental, enumerated constitutional right. The law allows government officials to decide whether the applicant demonstrated “proper cause.” Although private individuals technically could qualify for the permit, the law practically operates as a total ban on carrying weapons outside of the home. Now, the state Rifle & Pistol Association is challenging the validity of the law. This law is blatantly unconstitutional, but the lower courts refused to acknowledge that fact. Those courts are not alone, as a few other federal courts have followed this concerning trend of refusing to uphold individuals’ constitutional rights.
Based on the Supreme Court’s past decisions, it is clear that the Second Amendment protects every American’s right to possess a weapon both inside and outside of the home for self-defense. In addition to the basic right to keep one’s own family safe, the Founding Fathers felt very strongly that an armed citizenry was necessary to prevent the rise of a tyrannical government. Despite Justice Antonin Scalia’s clear enunciation of the right to bear arms in the seminal case of District of Columbia v. Hellerin 2008, some state governments continue to encroach on this constitutional right.
Our argument to the Supreme Court is simple: The Second Amendment guarantees every individual’s right to bear arms in self-defense, and that right existed even before our government did (just like our God-given rights to free religious exercise and speech). In addition, we are asking the Court to analyze the Second Amendment through a textual and historical lens, like it did in previous Second Amendment cases. In fact, we began our argument with the text because the Constitution is clear that “the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” The text and history of the amendment clearly show that the right to self-defense was not limited to the home in the Founding era.
As we wrote in our brief:
According to the text and history of the Second Amendment, along with this Court’s decisions in Heller and McDonald, the right of individuals to carry a weapon for self-defense pre-exists government and applies both inside and outside of the home.
The Founders drafted the Bill of Rights to protect the rights of the individual from governmental intrusion. Like the Constitution and Declaration of Independence, the Bill of Rights presupposed certain inalienable rights that the government could not infringe upon. In particular, the Founders included the right to keep and carry arms in the Bill of Rights for the express purpose of preserving liberty and preventing government overreach. The Second Amendment would be incomplete if the right to carry arms outside of the home were neglected.
From the Declaration of Independence to the Bill of Rights, the Founding Fathers made one thing abundantly clear: The government protects rights, it does not create them. This distinction is crucial because it defines what a legitimate government can and cannot do. For example, the right to worship and freely practice religion is inherently vested in every individual, and a legitimate government becomes tyrannical whenever it starts to deprive individuals of that right. Similarly, the right to self-defense is inherent—it’s in our DNA to protect our family and ourselves. Therefore, a government, like the state of New York, that tries to restrict that right is behaving in an authoritarian way.
[N]o other right enumerated in the Bill of Rights has ever been, nor could logically ever be, constrained to one’s home. (The obvious exception is that right protected by the Third Amendment, which expressly limits its application to the quartering of soldiers “in any house.”) The rights of free speech, religion, and against unreasonable searches, etc., naturally go beyond the boundaries of the home. To constrain the right to bear or carry arms to the confines of the home would be contrary to the plain meaning of the Constitution and would treat the Second Amendment different from every other right protected by the Constitution, with no foundation in the text and history. Heller made clear that the Second Amendment should not be treated differently from any “other enumerated constitutional right.” Heller, 554 U.S. at 634. Like the freedoms of speech, religion, assembly, etc., the right to bear arms must naturally flow beyond the four walls of one’s home or its meaning and purpose for inclusion within the Bill of Rights would be eviscerated. For these reasons, the Court should hold that the right to bear arms is not only personal but is held by that person wherever that person may go.
We submitted our brief because the ACLJ fights to protect the liberties of every American. We filed this brief because the Second Amendment is critical, but also because what happens to the Second Amendment in court will impact all our other constitutionally protected rights as well. Hopefully, the Supreme Court will take this opportunity to firmly defend the Second Amendment, which, in turn, will protect our other fundamental rights.