Author: Sarah S. Herman, Legislative Attorney
This report examines the scope of the Second Amendment, as interpreted by the federal circuit courts of appeals, after the watershed Supreme Court decisions in District of Columbia v. Heller and McDonald v. City of Chicago. The Second Amendment states that "[a] well-regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed." Before the Supreme Court’s 2008 opinion in Heller, the Second Amendment had received little Supreme Court attention and had been largely interpreted, at least by the lower federal courts, to be intertwined with military or militia use. Still, there had been ample debate in the lower federal courts and political discussion over whether the Second Amendment provides an individual right to keep and bear arms, versus a collective right belonging to the states to maintain militias, with the vast majority of the lower federal courts embracing the collective right theory.