In the last nine years, the U.S. Supreme Court has rejected at least 82 cases that sought to expand the very limited right defined in the unprecedented Second Amendment case, District of Columbia v. Heller. By repeatedly declining to review lower court decisions upholding federal, state, and local gun laws, the Supreme Court has maintained important limitations on the Second Amendment and has reconfirmed that the Amendment is not an obstacle to smart gun laws that keep our communities safe from gun violence.
Since the Court’s decision in the Heller case 2008, lower courts across the country have been inundated with costly and time-consuming challenges to state and local gun laws. However, lower courts have consistently upheld these laws, noting that many of these laws have been successful at protecting people from gun violence and keeping guns out of the hands of criminals while still allowing law-abiding citizens to keep guns in their homes for self defense. Since 2008, there have been over 1,230 Second Amendment cases challenging gun laws nationwide, with an overwhelming majority—93%—of the lower court decisions upholding those laws.
Many of these Second Amendment challenges to gun laws make their way to the Supreme Court. However, the Court has refused to hear these cases,1 leaving lower court decisions upholding the laws intact and keeping strong gun laws on the books. For example, the Supreme Court has refused to hear cases that:
- In 2010, the Court decided McDonald v. City of Chicago, which held that the right recognized in Heller extends to state and local governments. That case involved a Chicago law nearly identical to the one struck down in Heller and did not expand the substantive scope of the Second Amendment. The only other Second Amendment case the Supreme Court has weighed in on since 2010 is Caetano v. Massachusetts, involving a Massachusetts law that prohibits private possession of stun guns. In a short, unsigned opinion—see Caetano v. Massachusetts, 136 S. Ct. 1027 (2016) (per curiam)—the Court did not break any new legal ground or rule that stun guns are protected by the Second Amendment. Instead, the Court’s decision in Caetano simply vacated and remanded the Massachusetts Supreme Court’s decision upholding the constitutionality of the state’s stun gun ban, and directed the state court to apply Heller. ⤴︎