Second Amendment Roundly Applies To States

Jillian Bandes
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Posted: Jun 28, 2010 12:36 PM
The Supreme Court’s McDonald v. Chicago decision today ruled that local government cannot place overly-burdensome restrictions on their citizens ability to own firearms. It was a landmark ruling for the Second Amendment, but also for the principle of the Constitution superseding state laws. Whether the Constitution has more authority than state laws is an issue that is far from settled; as the Wall Street Journal’s Nathan Koppel explains, federal laws have only been sporadically applied to states.
Before the Civil War, courts held that the Bill of Rights applied only to the federal government. After the Union victory, the Reconstruction amendments were adopted to elevate individual rights over state powers and cement the federal role in enforcing them.

The Supreme Court has subsequently held that many constitutional rights considered fundamental to American principles of liberty override state laws. However, more technical provisions—such as the Fifth Amendment requirement that grand juries approve criminal indictments—apply only to the federal government and don't necessarily bind states.
The Heritage Foundation, on the other hand, thinks that the Second Amendment is so clear and sweeping that it's hard to imagine how it couldn't apply to states:
It is hard to believe that anyone could rationally argue that the Second Amendment does not protect a fundamental right. Yet liberals on the Court, including Justice Stevens whose last day is today, could not even bring themselves to recognize this fundamental right because they don’t like the result. They would never do this with other amendments in the Bill of Rights that lead to results they agree with.