Document Type


Publication Date



2nd amendment, second amendment, gun ban, civil rights, black power, conservativism, legal history, constitutional law, african american history, nra, rights, self-defense, right to bear arms


This article posits that the Supreme Court's recent Second Amendment ruling District of Columbia v. Heller is a victory for civil rights, but not in the sense that most activists from the 1960s would recognize. Rather than a product of mid-century legal liberalism, Heller marks the culmination of almost forty years of coalition-based popular constitutionalism aimed at transforming the individual right to bear arms and the common law right to "employ deadly force in self-defense" into new civil rights. The implications of this are potentially great. By declaring the right to use deadly force in self-defense an "essential" right, the Court has just positioned itself to use the same due process analysis that it did in Roe v. Wade to invalidate municipal gun bans, without having to overrule past opinions like Cruickshank or even bothering to incorporate the Second Amendment to the states.