Yes, you have the natural right to bear arms for self-defense and other lawful purposes, and in the United States of America, that right has finally been confirmed as a civil right.
It has taken a long, strange journey to get to this point. Never mind that the first battles of the American Revolutionary War were sparked by an attempt to seize American arms. Never mind that the U.S. Constitution was explicitly amended to protect the right to keep and bear arms. Never mind that the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Dred Scott v. Sandford that if black slaves were recognized as free citizens, they would have the right “to keep and carry arms wherever they went.” Never mind that the racist, slaving traitors who provoked the worst war in American history didn’t hang—but that’s a battle for another day.
In less ancient history, it’s been 14 years since the U.S. Supreme Court finally, reluctantly confirmed that the Second Amendment really did recognize an individual right to keep and bear arms—to own and carry weapons for self-defense and other lawful purposes in other words. Unfortunately, due to a quirk of American jurisprudential history, that fact still had to be incorporated among the several states. Never mind that the U.S. Constitution is still “the supreme Law of the Land.”
Nordyke v. King, an unlikely case about gun shows out of California, suddenly took center stage. For a moment it looked like the litigation would quickly establish incorporation for the Second Amendment right. Hopeful, naïve civil libertarians predicted that the citizens of California and similarly benighted states would win their rights within 18 months—but instead we got an education in en banc review. Instead we saw the lower courts in prohibitionist jurisdictions—where the unrepentant traitors’ bigoted poison had so long festered among otherwise liberal minds—revolt against the plain language of the Supreme Court.
What was supposed to be a quick victory for individual liberties became a long, exhausting and divisive slog through the courts—and even through the White House. Once we did eventually win incorporation in McDonald v. Chicago, constitutionalists, right-to-arms advocates, and civil libertarians lost again and again when we tried to make something meaningful out of the Second Amendment. Coalitions rose and fell, friendships were made and destroyed, and the Supreme Court seemed content to allow the lower courts to ignore its guidance and continue to treat the right to bear arms as “a second-class right.” That is … until today.
In the majority opinion for New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. Bruen, Justice Clarence Thomas wrote, “We know of no other constitutional right that an individual may exercise only after demonstrating to government officers some special need.… New York’s proper-cause requirement violates the Fourteenth Amendment in that it prevents law-abiding citizens with ordinary self-defense needs from exercising their right to keep and bear arms.” Moreover, the ruling insists upon textual and historical analysis alone when determining the constitutionality of any laws regulating the right to arms, negating the “intermediate” approach used by the lower courts so often during the last 14 years.
You have the right to carry firearms for lawful purposes … but under Justice Thomas’s reasoning, licensing regimes and other categorical prohibitions should all fall. Of course, time will tell, and the price to get this far has been steep.
However, for those of you in the six states most affected by today’s ruling, if you worry about “blood in the streets” when law-abiding gun owners are allowed to carry their weapons, you shouldn’t. That fear has always been based on propaganda. After the ruling has been implemented, you won’t notice any difference. In fact, after a few months, you will probably forget all about this … or maybe you will decide to exercise the right yourself.