Explore The NRA Universe Of Websites

“Strict Scrutiny” Amendments: Iron Plating for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms

Friday, January 26, 2018

“Strict Scrutiny” Amendments: Iron Plating for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms

The Iowa legislature is considering House Joint Resolution 13 to add a right to keep and bear arms to the state’s constitution. Should the introduced language eventually be adopted, the Hawkeye State would become the fourth – behind Louisiana, Missouri, and Alabama – to explicitly designate strict scrutiny as the required judicial standard for adjudicating restrictions on the right to keep and bear arms. This change would rocket Iowa from one of the few states without any constitutional right to arms into an elite group that provides the strongest possible protection for the most fundamental of civil rights. 

Unlike the federal Bill of Rights, state constitutional provisions rarely grab headlines. Yet they are a very important backstop for civil rights and greatly contribute to the American tradition of individual liberty. 

In America’s constitutional system, states cannot infringe on “fundamental” rights protected by the U.S. Constitution.  Many of these rights are spelled out in the Bill of Rights itself, but others – like the right to interstate travel – have been recognized by courts as emanating from other, more explicit guarantees or constitutional principles.

But while the U.S. Constitution sets a “floor” on certain individual liberties, states can exceed that floor with additional protections of their own that apply within their borders to the official acts of state functionaries. States can also create constitutional protections – like the right to hunt and fish – that are not expressly mentioned in the Bill of Rights. 

These principles are especially important as applied to the right to keep and bear arms. 

The U.S. Supreme Court, of course, has recognized that the Second Amendment protects an individual right to arms. But anti-gun lower courts – many of which for years denied the existence of any such individual right at all – have largely ignored the Supreme Court’s Second Amendment rulings and have continued to interpret the provision into near irrelevance. Federal rulings on the Second Amendment are replete with references to “intermediate scrutiny,” a toothless standard that allows antigun officials broad leeway to infringe the rights of law-abiding Americans, including with bans on popular firearms and virtual bans on public carry.

Meanwhile, anti-gun activists and academics have not given up hope of returning to the days when the constitutional right to keep and bear arms did not have to be paid any lip service at all. Calls for the repeal of the Second Amendment remain common after high-profile crimes committed with firearms, and academics are busily re-writing history to bolster what they hope will be future rulings overturning the Supreme Court’s 21st Century jurisprudence on the Second Amendment.

Should that happen, state constitutional provisions could still provide a measure of protection to activity within the state’s borders.  

Some mistakenly believe that including strict scrutiny within a state right to arms somehow invites regulation of the right and that constitutional phrases like “shall not be infringed” preclude any sort of restrictions whatsoever.

Needless to say, history and experience prove otherwise. Legislatures have passed restrictive laws against the backdrop of every sort of constitutional phraseology ever devised, usually while claiming perfect allegiance to the Constitution. 

What strict scrutiny does is ensure that when the matter goes before a court on a constitutional challenge, the state is held to the highest standards of justification for its actions.  And even if the state can substantiate a compelling reason for its law, it still has to structure the law in the most narrowly-tailored way possible to achieve that objective.

The result is that shoddy exercises in political grandstanding – which defines most of the gun control agenda – will not pass muster.

On the other hand, legitimate public safety measures – such as laws banning firearm possession by violent felons or those serving a criminal sentence – will still be permissible, as has been shown time and again in the states that have adopted “strict scrutiny” standards.

The NRA strongly endorses the adoption of strict scrutiny for state constitutional rights to arms. As NRA-ILA Executive Director Chris Cox has said, these measures “build an iron wall” around your freedoms and protect them from antigun officials and activist judges.

TRENDING NOW
Gun Control May be Wasting Away, But Not Because of COVID

News  

Monday, October 19, 2020

Gun Control May be Wasting Away, But Not Because of COVID

A recent article on a gun control news site laments that the COVID-19 pandemic has thwarted ballot initiatives to expand gun bans and restrictions. Initiatives in Florida, Oklahoma, Ohio and Oregon have stalled, allegedly due to the ...

Anti-gun Politicians Seek to Tax Your Second Amendment Rights Into Oblivion

News  

Tuesday, September 8, 2020

Anti-gun Politicians Seek to Tax Your Second Amendment Rights Into Oblivion

In 1819, Chief Justice John Marshall of the U.S. Supreme Court famously wrote:  “the power to tax involves the power to destroy ….”

Anti-Gun Organization Prepared to Launch National Group of Gun Owners Who Apparently Don’t Like Guns

News  

Monday, October 19, 2020

Anti-Gun Organization Prepared to Launch National Group of Gun Owners Who Apparently Don’t Like Guns

Yes, that title doesn’t make much sense, but neither does a group that promotes banning firearms starting a national organization called Gun Owners for Safety. Nonetheless, The Hill recently reported that the anti-gun group Giffords is doing just ...

Law Professors Make Case for Second Amendment Rights in Uncertain Times

News  

Monday, October 19, 2020

Law Professors Make Case for Second Amendment Rights in Uncertain Times

Americans have made clear that they value their Second Amendment rights, especially during uncertain times. Faced with the COVID-19 pandemic and then widespread civil unrest, Americans have bought firearms in record numbers. Through September, the FBI ...

Montana: Californian-funded Fake Hunting Group Lies About Steve Bullock’s Anti-gun Record

News  

Monday, October 12, 2020

Montana: Californian-funded Fake Hunting Group Lies About Steve Bullock’s Anti-gun Record

Montana gun owners have been subjected to an abundance of lies this election season. Leading the misinformation campaign is fake hunting group Montana Hunters & Anglers Leadership Fund. Bankrolled by a wealthy San Francisco Bay ...

Guide To The Interstate Transportation Of Firearms

Gun Laws  

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Guide To The Interstate Transportation Of Firearms

CAUTION: Federal and state firearms laws are subject to frequent change. This summary is not to be considered as legal advice or a restatement of law.

Joe Biden Told Voters the Second Amendment DOES NOT Protect an Individual Right

News  

Monday, September 21, 2020

Joe Biden Told Voters the Second Amendment DOES NOT Protect an Individual Right

During a September 2019 “townhall” hosted by New Hampshire ABC affiliate WMUR, Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden made clear that he does not believe the Second Amendment protects an individual right to keep and bear arms and ...

Please Urge the Department of Justice to Rein in ATF's Arbitrary Determination on "Honey Badger" Pistol

News  

Monday, October 12, 2020

Please Urge the Department of Justice to Rein in ATF's Arbitrary Determination on "Honey Badger" Pistol

As we reported last week, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (“ATF”) recently informed firearm manufacturer Q, LLC that, in ATF’s view, Q’s “Honey Badger” pistol with stabilizing brace is actually a short-barreled rifle and ...

Judge Barrett Picks Second Amendment Case as Her “Most Significant” Ruling

News  

Monday, October 12, 2020

Judge Barrett Picks Second Amendment Case as Her “Most Significant” Ruling

The confirmation hearings of Judge Amy Coney Barrett, President Trump’s nominee to the U.S. Supreme Court, are due to begin on October 12th before the Senate Judiciary Committee, chaired by U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC).

Your Action Needed: Urge the Department of Justice to Rein in ATF's Arbitrary Determination on "Honey Badger" Pistol!

News  

Tuesday, October 6, 2020

Your Action Needed: Urge the Department of Justice to Rein in ATF's Arbitrary Determination on "Honey Badger" Pistol!

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (“ATF”) recently informed firearm manufacturer Q, LLC that, in ATF’s view, Q’s “Honey Badger” pistol with stabilizing brace is actually a short-barreled rifle and therefore subject to the National ...

MORE TRENDING +
LESS TRENDING -

More Like This From Around The NRA

NRA ILA

Established in 1975, the Institute for Legislative Action (ILA) is the "lobbying" arm of the National Rifle Association of America. ILA is responsible for preserving the right of all law-abiding individuals in the legislative, political, and legal arenas, to purchase, possess and use firearms for legitimate purposes as guaranteed by the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.