In the last ten years, the U.S. Supreme Court has declined to grant review in over 150 Second Amendment cases, including numerous cases where lower courts upheld critical gun safety laws. Among the many cases in which the Court has denied review are a number of gun lobby-backed lawsuits advocating for a dangerously unlimited interpretation of the Second Amendment — one that ignores the careful safeguards expressed in the Supreme Court’s landmark Second Amendment case, District of Columbia v. Heller. By repeatedly declining to review lower court decisions that upheld federal, state, and local gun laws, the Supreme Court has reconfirmed that the Amendment is not an obstacle to the laws that keep our communities safe from gun violence.
Since the Court’s 2008 decision in the Heller case, 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 the challenged gun safety measures 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 1,370 Second Amendment cases challenging gun laws nationwide, but in most cases the gun safety law or criminal conviction at issue has been upheld.
Many of these Second Amendment challenges to gun laws make their way to the Supreme Court. However, the Court has generally 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. ⤴︎