The ACLU Defends Gun Owners’ Constitutional Rights, Except for the Second Amendment Right to Own Guns

  • Reason | by: Jacob Sullum |
  • 2019-04-12
When the American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey announced its lawsuit on behalf of two public high school students who were suspended because they posted pictures of themselves at a gun range on Snapchat, the first reply on Twitter congratulated the organization for “defending all of the civil liberties.” But while the ACLU is commendably willing to defend the First Amendment rights of gun owners and Second Amendment advocates, the national organization still takes the position that, contrary to what the Supreme Court has said, the Constitution does not guarantee an individual right to armed self-defense.

“Given the reference to ‘a well regulated Militia’ and ‘the security of a free State,’ the ACLU has long taken the position that the Second Amendment protects a collective right rather than an individual right,” the ACLU says. “In striking down Washington D.C.’s handgun ban by a 5-4 vote, the Supreme Court’s decision in D.C. v. Heller held for the first time that the Second Amendment protects an individual’s right to keep and bear arms, whether or not associated with a state militia. The ACLU disagrees with the Supreme Court’s conclusion about the nature of the right protected by the Second Amendment.” It adds, however, that “particular federal or state laws on licensing, registration, prohibition, or other regulation of the manufacture, shipment, sale, purchase or possession of guns may raise civil liberties questions.”

On its face, that position is quite different from what Ira Glasser, then the ACLU’s executive director, told me back in 1991, 17 years before the Supreme Court first explicitly recognized that the Second Amendment imposes limits on gun control legislation. Glasser conceded that the Second Amendment protects an individual right, but he said that still leaves room for government regulation. If the federal government tried to completely ban private gun ownership, he said, the ACLU would challenge that policy.

In a subsequent letter to the editor, Glasser elaborated on his views, which he said were consistent with ACLU policy:

Once we concede the constitutionality of government bans on some weapons, we are not talking any longer about whether the government may restrict weapons but rather what constitutes a reasonable restriction. If the Second Amendment provides no basis for such distinctions, as it does not, then it is up to the legislature.

Comments

Privacy Policy

The ACLU Defends Gun Owners’ Constitutional Rights, Except for the Second Amendment Right to Own Guns is dedicated to protecting consumer privacy on the Internet. Our practices are consistent with privacy guidelines established by eTrust.com.

The ACLU Defends Gun Owners’ Constitutional Rights, Except for the Second Amendment Right to Own Guns does not require any personal information to obtain access to our website.

The ACLU Defends Gun Owners’ Constitutional Rights, Except for the Second Amendment Right to Own Guns does require limited personal information including name and mailing address from individuals wishing to join as members. Additional information such as e-mail address and phone number may also be requested in order that we may contact members in a timely manner on issues related to our mission.

You will only receive e-mail from us if you request to be added to our e-mail list. You may revise or remove your e-mail address from our files at any time.

The ACLU Defends Gun Owners’ Constitutional Rights, Except for the Second Amendment Right to Own Guns uses "cookie" technology to obtain non-personal information from our online visitors, such as browser/computer type, number of visitors, and site usage. We do not use cookies to extract personal information.

Our website contains links to other sites, but The ACLU Defends Gun Owners’ Constitutional Rights, Except for the Second Amendment Right to Own Guns does not necessarily advocate, support or condone the privacy practices or content of these websites.

The ACLU Defends Gun Owners’ Constitutional Rights, Except for the Second Amendment Right to Own Guns makes all information received from our online visitors as secure as possible against unauthorized access and use. All information is protected by state-of-the-art security technology.

The ACLU Defends Gun Owners’ Constitutional Rights, Except for the Second Amendment Right to Own Guns respects the individual privacy rights and concerns of visitors to our website. We support meaningful self-regulation of the Internet to ensure that responsible organizations maintain the right to use all communications media to interact with the public.