The Commonplace Second Amendment

New York University Law Review, Vol. 72, No. 3 (1998)

Posted: 17 Dec 1997

See all articles by Eugene Volokh

Eugene Volokh

University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) - School of Law


The Second Amendment, many argue, has a unique structure: A purpose or justification clause followed by an operative clause. But if one looks at contemporaneous state constitutions, the Amendment proves to be quite commonplace -- many constitutional rights are structured exactly the same way, e.g.,

"The liberty of the press being essential to the security of freedom in a state, any person may publish sentiments on any subject, being responsible for the abuse of that liberty . . . ." (Rhode Island Constitution)

This short (18-page) article asks what these analogous state provisions tell us about interpreting the Second Amendment in a way that takes both its clauses seriously. Part of the answer, the article suggests, is that constitutional rights will often (and for good reason) be written in ways that are to some extent overinclusive and to some extent underinclusive with respect to their stated purposes.

Suggested Citation

Volokh, Eugene, The Commonplace Second Amendment. New York University Law Review, Vol. 72, No. 3 (1998). Available at SSRN:

Eugene Volokh (Contact Author)

University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) - School of Law ( email )

385 Charles E. Young Dr. East
Room 1242
Los Angeles, CA 90095-1476
United States
310-206-3926 (Phone)
310-206-6489 (Fax)

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