Second Amendment Realism

62 Pages Posted: 28 Apr 2021 Last revised: 29 Jun 2022

See all articles by Michael R. Ulrich

Michael R. Ulrich

Boston University - School of Law; Boston University School of Public Health; Yale Law School

Date Written: June 1, 2022


In District of Columbia v. Heller, the Supreme Court declared a constitutionally protected individual right to keep and bear arms. Subsequently, the scope of the right has been hotly debated, resulting in circuit splits and lingering questions about what, exactly, the right entails. Despite these splits, the Court has denied certiorari to the myriad gun cases to land on its doorstep. But the balance of the Court has shifted, and likely, too, its willingness to hear these cases. Among the most pressing questions in Second Amendment jurisprudence is the constitutionality of public carry restrictions. With a constitutional challenge inevitable given the Court's new makeup, the issue demands scrutiny into how the justices should consider the question in light of a growing gun violence epidemic. This Article argues against a rights-as-trumps approach, instead using a population-based perspective to shift the focus from the scope of the right and properly place the rights and liberties of the general public into the equation. This Article uses public health law principles, such as social determinants and its inevitable balancing of protecting the public and safeguarding individual rights, and empirics to examine the true burden on self-defense in comparison to the state’s ability to protect the wider community. In doing so, this analysis proposes that “good cause” restrictions—which have divided the Circuit courts thus far—are a constitutional approach that respects both the individual right declared in Heller and the state’s interest in protecting its citizens from a public health crisis.

Keywords: Second Amendment, gun violence, public health, constitutional law, rights, public safety

Suggested Citation

Ulrich, Michael R., Second Amendment Realism (June 1, 2022). Cardozo Law Review, Vol. 43, No. 4, 2022, Available at SSRN:

Michael R. Ulrich (Contact Author)

Boston University - School of Law ( email )

765 Commonwealth Avenue
Boston, MA 02215
United States

Boston University School of Public Health ( email )

715 Albany Street
Boston, MA 02118
United States

Yale Law School ( email )

127 Wall Street
New Haven, CT 06510
United States

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