The Law Center’s Second Amendment experts have tracked and analyzed over 1,150 cases challenging smart gun laws since the Supreme Court’s landmark Heller opinion in 2008. And in that time, we’ve observed a clear trend: in 94% of these cases, courts have rejected constitutional challenges to gun laws. Why? Because the Constitution and precedent are clear: lifesaving, commonsense policies like background checks are fully consistent with the Second Amendment.
We round up and evaluate these Second Amendment cases in our biannual Post-Heller Litigation Summary—the most comprehensive, up-to-date survey of developments in firearm-related litigation over the last decade. Today, we’re releasing our spring update of the summary, which takes a look at Second Amendment decisions on topics like guns in public, particularly dangerous weapons, and restrictions on gun possession by criminal offenders, domestic abusers, and those experiencing a mental health crisis.
National attention turned to the Supreme Court recently when Neil Gorsuch was sworn in as the Court’s newest justice. Second Amendment issues cropped up throughout Gorsuch’s confirmation, from the gun lobby’s million dollar ad buy supporting Gorsuch, to Gorsuch’s dodge of a question on whether military-style assault weapons may be regulated consistently with the Constitution (see our litigation director Adam Skaggs’ analysis of this moment in US News and World Report). Intense focus on gun laws and the Second Amendment will undoubtedly continue in the current Supreme Court term, when the justices are scheduled to vote on whether to hear two cases explored in the newest Post-Heller Litigation Summary—Peruta and Binderup—both involving Second Amendment challenges to important state and federal firearm regulations.
In the last decade, gun lobby–backed plaintiffs have used the Heller decision to justify bringing hundreds of aggressive challenges to sensible gun policies, spending millions and millions of dollars in an attempt to reshape the Constitution. The Peruta and Binderup lawsuits are part of the pattern, challenging reasonable regulations on carrying hidden, loaded guns in public (Peruta) and gun possession by dangerous criminal offenders (Binderup). Thankfully, as the Law Center’s litigation tracking efforts have shown, lower courts have overwhelmingly rejected the gun lobby’s specious arguments and recognized that smart gun laws pose no threat to the Second Amendment, regardless of what the gun lobby’s lawyers would have you believe.
It’s notable that much of our post-Heller survey of Second Amendment jurisprudence focuses on decisions by state courts, federal district courts, and appellate courts. That’s because, with only one exception (a case involving stun guns rather than firearms), the US Supreme Court has declined to review any Second Amendment decisions by lower courts since 2010’s McDonald v. Chicago, the companion case to Heller. By denying review, the Court has left in place a growing body of precedent—from state and federal judges across the ideological spectrum—pointing to one conclusion: lawmakers are free to enact the lifesaving gun safety measures the public overwhelmingly supports without violating Second Amendment rights.