The First Amendment Guide to the Second Amendment

62 Pages Posted: 15 Apr 2014 Last revised: 4 Sep 2014

See all articles by David B. Kopel

David B. Kopel

Independence Institute; Denver University - Sturm College of Law; Cato Institute

Date Written: September 3, 2014


As described in Part I of this article, the Supreme Court has strongly indicated that First Amendment tools should be employed to help resolve Second Amendment issues. Before District of Columbia v. Heller, several Supreme Court cases suggested that the First and Second Amendments should be interpreted in the same manner. Heller and McDonald v. City of Chicago applied this approach, using First Amendment analogies to resolve many Second Amendment questions.

Part II of this Article details how influential lower court decisions have followed (or misapplied) the Supreme Court’s teaching. Of course, precise First Amendment rules cannot necessarily be applied verbatim to the Second Amendment. Part III outlines some general First Amendment principles that are also valid for the Second Amendment. Finally, Part IV looks at how several First Amendment doctrines can be used in Second Amendment cases, showing that some, but not all, First Amendment doctrines can readily fit into Second Amendment jurisprudence.

Keywords: First Amendment, Second Amendment, overbreadth, prior restraint, chilling, vagueness

JEL Classification: K19, K39

Suggested Citation

Kopel, David B., The First Amendment Guide to the Second Amendment (September 3, 2014). Tennessee Law Review, Vol. 81, No. 3, 2014, pp. 417-78, U Denver Legal Studies Research Paper No. 14-23, Available at SSRN:

David B. Kopel (Contact Author)

Independence Institute ( email )

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Denver University - Sturm College of Law

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