The Second Amendment and President Obama’s Proposals to Prevent Gun Violence

Posted on February 12, 2013

Since President Obama announced his support for laws requiring universal background checks on all gun buyers, banning military-style assault weapons and large capacity ammunition magazines, and punishing gun traffickers, there has been significant discussion about the constitutionality of these proposals under the Second Amendment. In order to move forward on real change to our nation’s gun laws, it’s vitally important that legislators understand that the president’s proposed reforms are completely constitutional and are critical to stopping our nation’s gun violence epidemic.

Today, a subcommittee of the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing titled “Proposals to Reduce Gun Violence: Protecting Our Communities While Respecting the Second Amendment.” In written testimony submitted to the subcommittee, our Legal Director, Juliet Leftwich, discussed how the Second Amendment presents no obstacle to President Obama’s proposals. The testimony explained that although the U.S. Supreme Court held in District of Columbia v. Heller that the Second Amendment protects the right of a law-abiding, responsible citizen to possess a handgun in the home for self-defense, the president’s proposals are consistent with the Supreme Court’s decisions and the decisions of courts that have evaluated Second Amendment challenges since Heller.

Download Juliet Leftwich’s testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee here.

Additionally, the Center for American Progress today released a memo coauthored by the Law Center’s Executive Director, Robyn Thomas, on the constitutionality of the proposals endorsed by the president. The memo concludes that “many forms of firearm regulation remain constitutional, including laws to prevent firearm possession by criminals and limitations on the possession of dangerous and unusual weapons. The measures endorsed by President Obama and proposed by Congress are safely within these confines and reflect the sort of reasonable regulation that the Supreme Court endorsed in Heller and has accepted in a host of other constitutional contexts.”

Download the Center for American Progress/Law Center memo on the constitutionality of gun laws here.