NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Bush Shift On Second Amendment Could Change Gun Laws

May 8, 2002

The Bush administration's change in position on the right to bear arms represents a significant change in firearms policy that legal analysts say eventually could help form the basis for overturning some restrictions on guns. The Justice Department told the Supreme Court Monday that the right to bear arms applies to individuals, not just to state militias.

  • The move reverses the U.S. government's long-standing view of the Second Amendment, voiced since the Nixon administration.
  • The government's new legal position could entice the Supreme Court -- which last ruled on the right to bear arms in 1939 -- to again weigh in on the issue.
  • The Court ruled then the Second Amendment applied to "well regulated militias" -- but in recent years some justices have suggested the court re-examine whether individuals are covered.
  • Solicitor General Theodore Olson told the Court in two briefs that gun restrictions should be subject to the toughest constitutional test, called "strict scrutiny."

The briefs concerned two cases the high court received Monday for possible review. Olson wrote the government had changed its stance on the Second Amendment since the cases, from Texas and Oklahoma, were heard in lower courts.

Source: Joan Biskupic, "Individual Gun Rights Get Administration's Support," USA Today, May 8, 2002.


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