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January 18, 2022

Key Cases

U.S. Supreme Court Second Amendment Cases

Caetano v. Massachusetts (2016)

In a per curiam decision, the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously vacated the Massachusetts conviction of a woman who carried a stun gun for self-defense. The woman had been convicted under a state law that outlawed the possession of stun guns.  The Court concluded that "the Second Amendment extends, prima facie, to all instruments that constitute bearable arms, even those that were not in existence at the time of the founding" and "the Second Amendment right is fully applicable to the States."

McDonald v. Chicago (2010)

In a 5-4 decision striking down a Chicago gun ordinance banning handguns and regulating other firearms, the U.S. Supreme Court held that the right of an individual to "keep and bear arms” in the Second Amendment was incorporated by the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment and applies to the states. This case effectively extended the holding of the 2008 case of District of Columbia v. Heller, which applied to federal jurisdictions, to states and municipalities.

District of Columbia v. Heller (2008)

In a 5-4 decision, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down provisions of the Firearms Control Regulations Act of 1975 that virtually banned handguns in the District of Columbia. It was the first Supreme Court case to decide whether the Second Amendment protects an individual right to keep and bear arms for self-defense.

United States v. Miller (1939)

The U.S. Supreme Court upheld the conviction of a man who had been charged with violating the National Firearms Act by transporting in interstate commerce a 12-gauge shotgun with a barrel less than 18 inches long without having registered. The Court concluded that 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 has a reasonable relationship to the preservation or efficiency of a well regulated militia, it could not say that the Second Amendment guaranteed the right to keep and bear such an instrument.