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The Gun Rights Movement and “Arms” Under the Second Amendment

Summary: With the Supreme Court preparing to hear the next big Second Amendment case, the gun rights movement’s role in equating “arms” and guns — which reflects neither law nor weapons practices — merits consideration.

Published: June 29, 2021

This essay is part of the series Protests, Insurrection, and the Second Amendment.

ABSTRACT: What is an “arm” under the Second Amendment? The Supreme Court has signaled that arms encompass more than just guns, including less lethal alternatives to guns. But for many Americans, the term signifies guns alone. This essay explores the role of the gun rights movement in equating arms and guns, describes how it reflects neither law nor weapons practices, and contends that it could contribute to unduly expansive gun rights. On the eve of the next big Second Amendment case at the Supreme Court, New York State Rifle and Pistol Association v. Corlett, the time is now to put guns and gun rights into a broader perspective.

The Gun Rights Movement and... by The Brennan Center for Justice