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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