The Second Amendment right is not limited to one’s home. Some observers speculate that the right to keep and bear arms might mean inside one’s home only. However the landmark Supreme Court case, D.C. v Heller clearly demonstrates this assumption is incorrect and the Second Amendment extends out of the home.
Restricting gun possession outside of the home is clear violation of the Second Amendment and intent of the protected right to keep and bear arms guaranteed in the Constitution at the time of ratification. Constitutional rights are supposed to be understood by common people – not requiring primary education, plus a 4-year college degree, a 3-year law degree, and years of professional experience interpreting case-law to understand your pre-existing rights that are protected by the Constitution. Obtuse lawyers, analysts and so-called ‘pundits’ seem to miss the forest for the trees. There’s a reason for this: they look at what a particular case actually ruled on, and the Supreme Court only ruled on a very specific question – ‘is a law that prohibits gun possession in one’s home constitutional?’. The Supreme Court ruled in D.C. v Heller that it is not constitutional. Ergo, some short-sighted commentators take that to mean that the Court has “been silent” on the question of whether gun possession outside of the home is protected under the Second Amendment.
Not so fast.
The Court provided in-depth reasoning as to why the law was invalid, defining every one of the 27 words that comprise the Second Amendment, explaining the words meaning at the time of ratification, the legal history of the right to keep and bear arm from England to Colonial America, and how it was viewed after the ratification of the U.S. Constitution through the post-Civil War era. From this thorough examination, we can clearly see the absurdity of the supposition that the Second Amendment only means you can keep a gun in your home because of the Supreme Court’s ruling in Heller. At no point in Heller did the Court say the Second Amendment only protected the right to keep and bear arms in the home. Let’s look at what the Court did say:
“Held: 1. The Second Amendment protects an individual right to possess a firearm unconnected with service in a militia, and to use that arm for traditionally lawful purposes, such as self-defense within the home” (Syllabus, page 1).
Notice it says “for lawful purposes” – plural – and then says “such as self-defense within the home”. This means that self-defense within the home is one of several lawful purposes, not the sole lawful purpose for which the right to keep and bear arms is protected. Further, the Court explicitly mentions several other lawful purposes in Heller.
Though the Court says the Second Amendment is not dependent upon service in a militia or military unit (p.11-12), it is also clear that militia service is a protected lawful purpose. To be clear, this does not mean the National Guard, which didn’t exist as we know it today didn’t until 1903. The Court clearly states in Heller that the militia were (and still are under Federal law) all able-bodied males (p.23). It should be obvious that militia perform its duties outside of the home.
Hunting is a specifically mentioned lawful purpose in Heller: “most undoubtedly thought it even more important for self-defense and hunting” (p. 26). Hunting, in virtually all cases, means outside of the home. One could not take seriously the idea that hunting is only lawful inside ones home. There is no suggestion in Heller that the Court implied this, only that D.C.’s unconstitutional law violated one of the Second Amendment’s lawful purposes.
The Court notes an additional three lawful protected purposes in discussing the meaning of the phrase ‘the security of a free state’, repelling invasion, suppressing insurrection and resisting tyranny: “it is useful in repelling invasions and suppressing insurrections… when the able-bodied men of a nation are trained in arms and organized, they are better able to resist tyranny” (p.24-25). All listed lawfully protected purposes logically must involve citizens outside their home; repelling a foreign invader could not be done solely within one’s home, nor could suppressing an insurrection, or resisting government tyranny.
An objector may reason that these purposes aren’t necessities in the way they may have been at the time ratification. This is irrelevant, as the Court states: “Constitutional rights are enshrined with the scope they were understood to have when the people adopted them, whether or not future legislatures or (yes) even future judges think that scope too broad” (p.63). At the time of adoption, this is how the right was understood and all are lawful purposes regardless of whether future generations would exercise the lawful purpose later. The fact remains they are lawful purposes, require the people to be outside of their homes, and therefore demonstrate the idea that the Second Amendment’s lawfully protects guns outside of the home by necessity.
We see from Heller itself that the Court lists multiple lawful purposes in plurality, not restricting the Second Amendment to a singular lawful purpose. The Court explicitly details at least five purposes that involve or require activity outside of the home. Therefore we can easily conclude the suggestion that the Court has ruled – or could rule – that the only lawful purpose is gun possession for self-defense within a home, is absurd, defying logic and reason as well as the explicit written letter of the ruling.
Be sure to check out part two of this series as we continue to look at why the Second Amendment protects your right to keep and bear arms outside of the home.
This article was originally published on Brenner Brief. Original publish date Nov 22, 2013. Original author, Matt MacBradaigh.