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Upholding Second Amendment Liberties: Insights from Landmark Supreme Court Rulings

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An American flag waving in front of the US Supreme Court

Whether you are an informed citizen, or a law-maker, it’s critically important to understand the major Second Amendment rights cases of our time. Below, I’ll set out a brief overview of the most influential contemporary Supreme Court cases that limit the government’s ability to infringe on the People’s pre-existing Right to Keep and Bear Arms.

Heller addresses arguments attempting to ban firearms and specifies what arms are protected under the 2nd Amendment (all bearable arms that are NOT both dangerous AND unusual). In quoting St. George Tucker from his Blackstone Commentaries, the Heller decision reads:

“This may be considered as the true palladium of liberty …. The right to self defence is the first law of nature: in most governments it has been the study of rulers to confine the right within the narrowest limits possible. Wherever standing armies are kept up, and the right of the people to keep and bear arms is, under any colour or pretext whatsoever, prohibited, liberty, if not already annihilated, is on the brink of destruction.” District of Columbia et al. v. Heller, 554 U.S. 570, 606 (2008)

McDonald incorporates the 2nd Amendment against the states through the due process clause of the 14th Amendment, applying the chain of “shall not be infringed” to the states:

“In debating the Fourteenth Amendment, the 39th Congress referred to the right to keep and bear arms as a fundamental right deserving of protection.” McDonald v. City of Chicago, No. 08-1521, 28 (2010), “Unless considerations of stare decisis counsel otherwise, a provision of the Bill of Rights that protects a right that is fundamental from an American perspective applies equally to the Federal Government and the States. ” McDonald v. City of Chicago, No. 08-1521, 44 (2010)

Caetano clearly defines that “dangerous and unusual” is a conjunctive test, and that arms which are “in common use” are protected by the 2nd Amendment.

“First, the relative dangerousness of a weapon is irrelevant when the weapon belongs to a class of arms commonly used for lawful purposes. See Heller, supra, at 627, 128 S.Ct. 2783 (contrasting ” ‘dangerous and unusual weapons’ ” that may be banned with protected “weapons … ‘in common use at the time'”). Second, even in cases where dangerousness might be relevant, the Supreme Judicial Court’s test sweeps far too broadly. Heller defined the “Arms” covered by the Second Amendment to include “‘any thing that a man wears for his defence, or takes into his hands, or useth in wrath to cast at or strike another.’ ” 554 U.S., at 581, 128 S.Ct. 2783. Under the decision below, however, virtually every covered arm would qualify as “dangerous.”” – Caetano v. Massachusetts, 577 U.S. 411, 418 (2016)

“The lower court’s ill treatment of Heller cannot stand. The reasoning of the Massachusetts court poses a grave threat to the fundamental right of self-defense. The Supreme Judicial Court suggested that Caetano could have simply gotten a firearm to defend herself. 470 Mass., at 783, 26 N.E.3d, at 695. But the right to bear other weapons is “no answer” to a ban on the possession of protected arms.” – Caetano v. Massachusetts, 577 U.S. 411, 421 (2016)

Bruen, the most recent decision, from 2022, builds on top of previous precedent and describes the basis under which courts and legislatures are to deal with Second Amendment issues. It does this by instructing to review the text first, then ONLY if a firearm regulation is consistent with this Nation’s historical tradition may any entity of government conclude that the individual’s conduct falls outside the Second Amendment’s “unqualified command”.

Bruen simply states how these issues must be treated, (even though the nexus of the case dealt with unconstitutional treatment of the People desiring to perfect handgun permits by a single state), its reach is far broader, and settles how courts and legislatures MUST deal with 2nd Amendment issues:

“In keeping with Heller, we hold that when the Second Amendment’s plain text covers an individual’s conduct, the Constitution presumptively protects that conduct. To justify its regulation, the government may not simply posit that the regulation promotes an important interest. Rather, the government must demonstrate that the regulation is consistent with this Nation’s historical tradition of firearm regulation.” New York State Rifle & Pistol Assn., Inc. v. Bruen, No. 20-843, 14 (U.S. Jun. 23, 2022)

It is necessary that every person who loves Liberty in Tennessee, and any other state for that matter, should send these facts to your elected employees and demand that the state, county and city governments portion them out to the various legal and Law Enforcement departments that are sworn to recognize the chains placed on them by the Constitutions of the State and Union per Article 10 Section 1:

Every person who shall be chosen or appointed to any office of trust or profit under this Constitution, or any law made in pursuance thereof, shall, before entering on the duties thereof, take an oath to support the Constitution of this State, and of the United States, and an oath of office.

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