Guns and Lattes: Lethal Analogies and the Future of the Second Amendment

In New York State Rifle & Pistol Association Inc. v. City of New York, New York, the first gun case to reach the high court in almost a decade, gun rights advocates pushed their conception of the scope of the right in a novel direction.  The city regulation being challenged in the case restricted New York City residents who had obtained a premises license from traveling with their arms in public apart from a few well-defined exceptions. The challenged regulation did allow permit holders to take their weapons to firing ranges in the city but prohibited them from taking guns to a country house or firing range outside of the city.   Much of the oral argument focused on the fact that the original regulation at the heart of the case had already been repealed by the city and preempted by new state regulations that effectively barred the city from re-enacting the regulation. In the technical language of the law the case had been mooted.  One legal commentator even compared the case to the famous Monty Python sketch in which a dead parrot is palmed off as merely resting.  The irate customer eventually declares: “This is an ex-parrot.” Several justices, frustrated with the arguments presented by former solicitor general Paul Clement, stopped short of mimicking Monty Python’s John Cleese, but the underlying point was the same. There is no live issue in this case for the Supreme Court to adjudicate.  Most court watchers feel that because it no longer represents a live controversy, a requirement hard wired into the Supreme Court’s Article III constitutional power to hear cases, it will be mooted.

Book Mini-Symposium Part I: Militias, Bearing Arms, and the Forgotten Language of Eighteenth-Century Rights

Although most modern Americans could easily dispense with the militia clause of the Second Amendment, eighteenth-century Americans generally believed that the preamble’s affirmation of the necessity of a well-regulated militia was far more important than asserting a right to keep and bear arms. Indeed, most of the first state constitutions did not even mention the right to bear arms.  Additional evidence of this view may be found in Federalist William Rawle’s comments on the meaning of the Second Amendment in A View of the Constitution of the United States. Rawle described the right to bear arms as a corollary of a well-regulated militia.