The Tools of Political Dissent: A First Amendment Guide to Gun Registries
9 Pages Posted: 23 Mar 2017 Last revised: 24 Mar 2017
Date Written: 2014
In states that insist on gun registration, opponents have had to mold constitutional arguments to challenge registries in the courts. One such argument grows from the First Amendment. Gun ownership, like speech, can be a tool of political dissent. Both guns and speech empower individuals to resist governmental oppression, at least in theory. Yet both become blunt tools if the government imposes registration requirements that numb the right. So, the argument goes, the tools of political dissent must remain unregistered if they are to provide the robust protection against tyranny that the Framers sought. This Essay argues that the First Amendment can be a powerful analog in Second Amendment challenges to gun registries. Part I explores the notion of guns as a tool of political dissent through the lens of history. Part II examines three First Amendment cases that could shape the analog to challenge gun registries. Finally, Part III uses these three decisions to sketch out a blueprint that legislators and litigants can use to analyze gun registries.
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