No, courts don’t treat the Second Amendment as a ‘second-class right’

The latest gun-rights case may hinge on some conservatives’ sense of victimhood. In oral arguments this month for one of the Supreme Court term’s most anticipated cases , Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. posed a hypothetical question to an attorney defending a century-old New York law that forbids residents to carry a handgun in public unless they can demonstrate a heightened need to do so. He asked whether the justices would “be receptive” to the attorney’s arguments defending the restriction “if we were interpreting, let’s say, the First Amendment?” Observers who have followed Second Amendment law could guess immediately what Alito was doing: He was alluding to the belief in conservative circles that the Second Amendment is widely treated as a “second-class” right, relative to others that liberals support. That persecution narrative is poised to transform the right to keep and bear arms. Alito’s invocation of the Second Amendment as a “second-class” right didn’t arrive out of the blue. Within the courts, the argument originated in Alito’s own opinion in McDonald v. City of Chicago (2010). There he wrote that Chicago, by arguing that the Second Amendment should apply only as a limitation on federal, not state or local governments, was asking the Court to treat the right to keep and bear arms “as a second-class right, subject to an entirely different body of rules than the other Bill of Rights guarantees.” (The court found against Chicago, and Alito wrote the opinion.) Alito returned to this theme in a […]

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