second amendment

Constitution Check: Can there be no exceptions to Second Amendment gun rights?

by Lyle Denniston, Constitution Daily  |  published on March 20, 2013

Lyle Denniston examines claims that the Second Amendment protects gun ownership rights extensively and how that jibes with a 2008 Supreme Court decision.


Senator Ted Cruz “began by reviewing the historic origins of the Bill of Rights and then asked whether the proposed firearms restrictions might be compared to placing limits on the First Amendment right to free speech or the Fourth Amendment protection against unreasonable search and seizures. Speaking directly to [Senator Dianne] Feinstein, Cruz asked: ‘Would she deem it consistent with the Bill of Rights for Congress to engage in the same endeavor that we are contemplating doing to the Second Amendment in the context of the First or Fourth Amendment?’ ”

– News story in The Washington Post on March 15, describing comments made the previous day by Texas Republican Ted Cruz as the Senate Judiciary Committee prepared to vote on new federal gun control bills drafted by California Democrat Dianne Feinstein.

“Harvard Law grad Ted Cruz is willfully deceiving the public into thinking the Second Amendment is more absolute than the Supreme Court says it is.”

– Comment on March 15 under the byline “Allahpundit” on the Hot Air website.


The Bill of Rights does not speak in terms of absolutes–that is, rights without any exceptions. And the Supreme Court, in interpreting constitutional guarantees of rights, has said exactly that, repeatedly and even predictably. It may be that some defenders of Second Amendment gun rights would not accept as legitimate what the Supreme Court has said, but there is no denying where the court has stood, even on the Second Amendment.

The history of judicial interpretations of the First Amendment has been somewhat different from that for the Fourth Amendment–the two parts of the Bill of Rights discussed by Senator Cruz.

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