2nd Amendment

Your Second Amendment Rights – US Supreme Court Decisions

Purist will say rightly that the second amendment means what it says but court decisions do matter.

Amendment II – 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.

This decision says the 2nd Amendment is an individual right.

District of Columbia v. Heller No. 07-290 March 18, 2008 Oct Term 2007

SCALIA, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which ROBERTS, C. J., and KENNEDY, THOMAS, and ALITO, JJ., joined.  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.


This decision says the right is extended to the states and localities.

McDonald v. City of Chicago No. 08-1521 March 2, 2010 Oct Term 2009

JUSTICE ALITO delivered the opinion of the Court with respect to Parts I, II–A, II–B, II–D, III–A, and III–B, concluding that the Fourteenth Amendment incorporates the Second Amendment right, recognized in Heller, to keep and bear arms for the purpose of self defense.


This decision says treaties cannot take away Constitutional Rights.

Important March Supreme Court ruling clarifies treaty law issue The New Gun Week April 15, 2008

The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) took note of a special benefit of a Mar. 25 Supreme Court decision in an editorial commentary published the following day. While the decision is not clearly linked to the right to keep and bear arms, it should be welcomed by gunowners concerned about the threat of global gun control schemes promulgated by the European Union and United Nations.

“Everyone waxing outraged about the big Medellín decision on Mar. 25 is focusing on the death penalty,” said the WSJ, “but the Supreme Court did something else entirely: It insulated American law from the international variety. And this modest and limited ruling should help restore those two qualities to US courts, which is no doubt one of the reasons the Roberts Court’s political opponents are so livid.

“Though the case became a global cause célèbre, its sordid origins trace to 1993, when José Medellín, a Mexican national, murdered two Houston teenagers. He was sentenced to death by a Texas jury, but his lawyers argued on appeal that he hadn’t had access to Mexico’s consulate before he confessed to his crimes,” the editorial reprised.

“This was a violation of the 1963 Vienna Convention, which holds that diplomats are supposed to be notified when their nationals are arrested. In response, the US government took steps to ensure states better comply in the future, both to fulfill its treaty obligations and serve the reciprocal interests of US citizens detained abroad.”

The case also became a referendum on American commitment to international law and what treaties bind the US government and its 50 states. The Mexican authorities made the case a referendum on capital punishment and international legal norms, ultimately suing the US in the International Court of Justice (ICJ) at The Hague. The ICJ ruled in Mexico’s favor, ordering states to give Medellín and some 51 other nationals new hearings. The question before the Supreme Court was whether such international dictates must be enforced by sovereign state courts. An affirmative answer might have gone a long way toward validating the expansive claims of liberal legal theorists that US courts take instruction from the United Nations (UN), and other international legal norms.

“Chief Justice John Roberts, writing for the 6-3 majority, ruled that the ICJ finding was not binding because the Vienna Convention is an understanding between governments, a diplomatic compact, The Journal continued. “It was never intended to automatically create new individual rights enforceable domestically by international bodies. Texas’s violation was of diplomatic protocols, and calls for a diplomatic remedy.”

Here’s the important part about the differences in treaties super ceding the US constitution.

“Treaty obligations, in other words,” said The Journal in explaining the decision, “do not necessarily take on the force of law domestically. Rather, Congress must enact legislation for whatever provisions—such as consular notification—that it wants to make the formal law of the land. This distinction matters because it establishes a fire wall between international and domestic law. It also protects the core American constitutional principles of federalism and the separation of powers. As Justice Roberts points out, the courts must leave to the political branches “the primary role in deciding when and how international agreements will be enforced.”

Clearly, a president cannot enter into an international treaty—like the Arms Trade Agreement at the UN—without approval of Congress.

Medellín v. Texas also swatted away a claim of presidential power, The Journal noted. While the Bush Administration did not agree with Mexico’s choice of venue, or the intrusion on US sovereignty, it attempted to allay the diplomatic ruckus by directing states to comply with the ICJ ruling in a 2005 executive order. The Court ruled that the President’s power, too, was limited by the Constitution. The authority to make treaty commitments did not extend to unilaterally asserting new state responsibilities or legal duties. Again, the executive could only make new laws in conjunction with the legislature.

“Devotees of using foreign law to overrule American politicians will squawk,” WSJ concluded, “but the Medellín majority has delivered a victory for legal modesty and the US Constitution.

Chief Justice Roberts wrote the opinion in the 6-3 decision, with Justices Scalia, Kennedy, Thomas and Alito signing on, and Stevens concurring but with a separate opinion. Dissenting were Justices Breyer, Souter and Ginsburg.


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