Bruen Dissent and Gun Control (Part 21)

by | Nov 19, 2022 | Blog, Criminal Law, Monmouth County, New Jersey, Ocean County

Supreme Court - Gun RightsJustice Breyer continued: But the Heller Court did not end its opinion with that preliminary question. After concluding that the Second Amendment protects an individual right to possess a firearm for self-defense, the Heller Court added that that right is “not unlimited.” Id., at 626. It thus had to determine whether the District of Columbia’s law, which banned handgun possession in the home, was a permissible regulation of the right. Id., at 628–630.

In answering that second question, it said: “Under any of the standards of scrutiny that we have applied to enumerated constitutional rights, banning from the home ‘the most preferred firearm in the nation to “keep” and use for protection of one’s home and family’ would fail constitutional muster.” Id., at 628–629 (emphasis added; footnote and citation omitted). That language makes clear that the Heller Court understood some form of means-end scrutiny to apply. It did not need to specify whether that scrutiny should be intermediate or strict because, in its view, the District’s handgun ban was so “severe” that it would have failed either level of scrutiny. Id., at 628–629; see also id., at 628, n. 27 (clarifying that rational-basis review was not the proper level of scrutiny).

Despite Heller’s express invocation of means-end scrutiny, the Court today claims that the majority in Heller rejected means-end scrutiny because it rejected my dissent in that case. But that argument misreads both my dissent and the majority opinion. My dissent in Heller proposed directly weighing “the interests protected by the Second Amendment on one side and the governmental public-safety concerns on the other.” Id., at 689. I would have asked “whether the statute burdens a protected interest in a way or to an extent that is out of proportion to the statute’s salutary effects upon other important governmental interests.” Id., at 689–690.

It is surprising that the Heller case was such a close 5-4 decision. It seems obvious that a ban on handguns in private homes throughout our nation’s capital would violate the Second Amendment.