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
NRA Scores Legal Victory Against ATF; “Pistol Brace Rule” Enjoined From Going Into Effect Against NRA Members

Monday, April 1, 2024

NRA Scores Legal Victory Against ATF; “Pistol Brace Rule” Enjoined From Going Into Effect Against NRA Members

NRA Members Among the Largest Class Protected from Draconian Rule

Biden Was Right on Veterans Before He was Wrong; Now Congress Tightens the Reins

Monday, June 10, 2024

Biden Was Right on Veterans Before He was Wrong; Now Congress Tightens the Reins

In March, we reported on an appropriations rider that corrected a longstanding and shameful practice by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) of reporting beneficiaries to NICS as “mental defectives” prohibited from having guns, merely ...

Chicago Crime Alerts – Pernicious Perception or an Inconvenient Truth?

Monday, June 10, 2024

Chicago Crime Alerts – Pernicious Perception or an Inconvenient Truth?

Earlier this year, Chicago city council member Leni Manaa-Hoppenworth made steering-wheel locks available for free to interested residents. The message she shared was that “[s]afety is a top priority for our office. We believe that everyone deserves ...

New York: End-of-Session Typically Means More Gun Control

Wednesday, June 5, 2024

New York: End-of-Session Typically Means More Gun Control

New York is entering the final days of the 2024 legislative session and a flurry of gun control is swirling in Albany. With anti-gun super majorities and limited debate, the unrelentless appetite to penalize gun ...

New York: Legislature Wraps Up 2024 Regular Session

Tuesday, June 11, 2024

New York: Legislature Wraps Up 2024 Regular Session

Gun owners have reason to celebrate when lawmakers drop the final gavel in Albany. Late Friday night, legislators finished their work and mercifully called it quits. It was a mixed bag for gun owners as the Legislature ...

NRA Secures Landmark Legal Victory; Supreme Court Unanimously Rules for NRA in First Amendment Case Against Former New York Regulator

News  

Thursday, May 30, 2024

NRA Secures Landmark Legal Victory; Supreme Court Unanimously Rules for NRA in First Amendment Case Against Former New York Regulator

The National Rifle Association of America (NRA) scored a historic legal victory today in one of the most closely followed First Amendment cases in the nation. In a stinging rebuke of New York’s “blacklisting campaign” against ...

The State of Crime: A Steep Decline, or Another Bidenesque Wild Story?

News  

Monday, May 6, 2024

The State of Crime: A Steep Decline, or Another Bidenesque Wild Story?

In his State of the Union address this year, President Joe Biden proclaimed that “Americans deserve the freedom to be safe, and America is safer today than when I took office,” boasting that “[l]ast year, the murder ...

Michigan: Governor’s New Budget Includes $2.6 Million for Red-Flag Laws

Tuesday, June 11, 2024

Michigan: Governor’s New Budget Includes $2.6 Million for Red-Flag Laws

Governor Gretchen Whitmer announced her recommendations for the upcoming budget, which included the use of taxpayer funds for Michigan’s new red-flag law and other gun-control measures. The governor recommended $2.6 million for the implementation of ...

California: Mandatory Storage Legislation Scheduled for Committee Hearing

Thursday, June 6, 2024

California: Mandatory Storage Legislation Scheduled for Committee Hearing

On Tuesday, June 11th, the California State Assembly Committee on Public Safety will hold a public hearing on Senate Bill 53 to impose strict storage mandates on California’s law-abiding gun owners. 

Understanding SCOTUS Denials of Certiorari

News  

Tuesday, June 4, 2024

Understanding SCOTUS Denials of Certiorari

On May 20, the United States Supreme Court denied certiorari in Bianchi v. Brown, a challenge to Maryland’s ban on “assault weapons.”

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.