Blog of Rights

⬅ Return to Heller Decision and the Second Amendment

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  1. Ken in Illinois Says:

    I am an ACLU member, and have been for many years.

    The Bill of Rights isn’t a buffet, you can’t just pick and choose what Amendments you like and don’t like.

    Sorry, ACLU - you just lost my renewal and any future chance for funding from my family.

  2. Ory Gunner Says:

    Wow. 100% of the comments take the position that the ACLU is WRONG on it's view against the 2nd Amendment and the individual right to keep and bear arms.

    Hello? Anyone listening? ACLU, get your head out of the ground, shake the sand out of your ears and get your morals back on track. Support ALL Civil Rights, not just the ones you like.
    SELF DEFENSE is a BASIC RIGHT. Bearing Arms for self defense is a BASIC CIVIL RIGHT.

    Help us, please?

  3. A. Citizen Says:

    “The ACLU interprets the Second Amendment as a collective right. Therefore, we disagree with the Supreme Court’s decision”

    It is not the place of the ACLU to contravene the decisions of the SCOTUS. ALL of the Supreme Court Justices - even the dissenters - agreed that the right to keep and bear arms is an INDIVIDUAL right.

    For years the ACLU has had the luxury of hiding its true colors regarding firearms behind the Miller ruling. Now, with Heller, that prop has been knocked out from under you, and you are going to have to explain yourselves.

    The ACLU has taken a position directly contrary to the Constitution as interpreted by the highest court in the land.

  4. Rolando Says:

    It was said perfectly above:

    "If the ACLU wants to maintain its credibility as the defender of the bill of rights then it must endorse the 2nd amendment as an individual right, and not maintain its pathetic stance claiming it disagrees with the SCOTUS. The fat lady has sung. Get with the program."

    I was going to join the ACLU until I realized it was just a liberal group using the Constitution as a veil of fraud.

  5. Joel Jacobs Says:

    As a working journalist on five continents I have defended the ACLU against all comers for the past 48 years. Even when I didn't agree with you I defended you for I _knew!_ that your only client was the Constitution.

    I've been betrayed.

  6. Erevis Says:

    I posted this to one of the forums I vist. I figured you should see it:


    I rarely comment on the activities of the ACLU. I don't particularly like some of the stances they take, but I do get it-- based directly on thier own comments in interviews.

    I have the ability to disagree with someone or an organization, but still respect that they have conviction of thier beliefs and integrity. I can actually despise a group or person based upon thier views, and still respect their convictions-- as long as they show integrity.

    Now, I say the above as a prelude for this:

    From an interview that I saw regarding the ACLU NAMBLA case, they explained that they did not support or assert the notion that a person's civil rights were being infringed upon by laws preventing them from having sex with underage boys. They explained that they were taking the case because they felt that legal precedent was lacking and it would be beneficial to establish a more codified position.

    OK. So what they are telling me is that SC interpretation is needed and that they respect the rulings of the SC. In fact, much of the activities of the ACLU has been bringing cases in order to establish legal precedent through cases. At its foundation, they are deferring to the rulings of the legal system as being the final arbitrator of precedent and the rule of law.

    And then we get this....

    The ACLU interprets the Second Amendment as a collective right. Therefore, we disagree with the Supreme Court’s decision in D.C. v. Heller. While the decision is a significant and historic reinterpretation of the right to keep and bear arms, the decision leaves many important questions unanswered that will have to be resolved in future litigation, including what regulations are permissible, and which weapons are embraced by the Second Amendment right that the Court has now recognized. ]

    They have literally stated that they disagree with the SC and that they are therefore-- by dissenting-- suggested a fallibility of the very entity which they have touted and relied upon as the final arbitrator of codified rights.

    What they are saying is that the SC is the final word-- unless it goes against our viewpoint.

    By the statement I have quoted, the ACLU has now identified itself as an organization who is more interested in social engineering rather than codification of rights.

    Many defend the ACLU for not having a position on the 2A as stating that they do not have to defend ALL of the BOR. I reject this notion. If they are to have as thier mission statement that they defend Civil Rights, they do not have the luxury of picking and choosing. They should amend thier mission if that is the case.

    As it is, I see the ACLU as having lost ALL integrity on this issue. Along with it goes the very last vestige of respect that I may have held for the organization.

    I suppose it is liberating for me.

  7. karrde Says:

    As a minor note, the ACLU has long claimed that the Miller court case from the 1930's supported a collective right.

    To my understanding, the Miller case did NOT find in favor of any kind of collective right. The USSC (erroneously) found that the gun Miller had used was not a gun normally used by the military or militia, and thus not covered by the 2nd Amendment.

    (I say the finding was erroneous because Miller was charged with illegally owning a sawed-off shotgun under the restrictions laid out in the 1934 National Firearms Act. Strangely, no one told the Court that sawed-off shotguns did have military use during World War I...this strange fact may be connected to the fact that Miller's attorney was unable to travel to DC to argue the case...for more details, see Wikipedia.)

    However, it is perfectly possible to argue that Miller supports some firearms restrictions...but it is also possible to argue that Miller supports ownership of military-use firearms (ranging from 1911-style pistols with high-capacity magazines to Springfield rifles and M-16's...).

    It is very hard to argue that Miller supports a collective-right interpretation.

    As a curious aside, there was this one case from the 1850's, in which the Supreme Court noted that the rights extended to all legally-recognized persons in the United States included the right to own guns. (At the time, most personal guns were indistinguishable from standard infantry weapons.)

    That case was the Dred Scott case, in which the Supremes found that Blacks were not persons...because if they were, then they would have all the individual rights guaranteed by Amendments 1-10 of the U.S. Constitution.

    Next time you think about Civil Liberties and firearms, think about Dred Scott and whether he was a person under U.S. law.

  8. Tim Peterson Says:

    As a former member of the ACLU who let my membership lapse because I came to the conclusion that the Bill of Rights must be protected in its entirety, I am very dismayed at your response to the Heller decision.

    My donations will go to the Cato Institute in the future, and I will suggest the same to my family, friends and acquaintances as well.

  9. WV libertrian Says:

    I don't know why I was actually disappointed to see the ACLU's position post Heller. I guess I'd thought that maybe they actually believed in the word "Liberty" in their name. Clearly, they wouldn't know liberty if Sam Adams smacked 'em across the face with the Declaration of Independence.

    What's interesting, is the volume of revenue the ACLU is losing because of their position. So, so many gun owners would join if they recognized such a clearly worded individual right both in the BoR and so many state constitutions.

    But no. They shove their fingers in their ears and yell "nananananan we're not listening nananananan collective right nananananana don't care what SCOTUS says nananananana our socialist agenda is at direct odds with personal liberty and responsibility nananananna"

  10. Steve Says:

    Where do I send my cut up membership card?

    I've been a member since 1990 but your behavior in the wake of the clear Heller decision is unacceptable.

    Should you ever become a civil rights organization again I will consider rejoining.

  11. OhioBob Says:

    Perhaps the name, A.C.L.U. (American Civil Liberties Union) should be changed to A.C.L.T.W A.W.U. (American Civil Liberties That We Agree With Union) as it is unbelievable that you would "cherry-pick" which parts of the Bill of Rights that you support from those that you don't... What gall!
    Even if you formerly beleived that the right was a collective one, you now have NO EXCUSE to continue with that belief. Eat your crow, swallow hard, and SUPPORT ALL THE RIGHTS OF AMERICANS!

  12. Former (as of today) ACLU member Says:

    If you don't change your position, you will loose a good deal of financial support over it....not to mention your intellectual honesty.

  13. Ryan Says:

    I'm a former member of the ACLU. I let my membership lapse during law school precisely because I believed that the ACLU's position on the Second Amendment was hypocritical and unworthy of the legacy of the institution.

    The ACLU had the opportunity with the Heller decision to win back people like me, who value what the ACLU does in other areas but cannot accept that the ACLU completely denies a fundamental freedom of the American people.

    The ACLU became great by defending our rights even when the right or the client was unpopular. The hard cases the ACLU fought in the name of freedom demonstrated moral courage.

    Today's ACLU has lost that moral courage. By abandoning the protection of our Second Amendment rights, the ACLU has abandoned its claim to stand for our freedoms, and transformed itself into simply another partisan advocacy group.

    In this day and age, that is a tragic loss.

  14. Nat Mann Says:

    Are there any other Amendments in the Bill of Rights that are "collective"?

    Why would the authors of the Bill of Rights put one, and only one, "collective" right in the middle of the greatest statement of INDIVIDUAL rights ever written?

    The "collective right" theory was a desperate attempt to twist reality to achive a desired outcome. It was based on a convoluted interpretation of US v Miller to make Miller cover ground it didn't cover. It was absurd from the beginning and to cling to it now that it has been officially debunked is ludicrous.

    Change your name to the American Capricious Liberals Union.

  15. Looking for an organization to actually support ALL my right Says:

    The ACLU only supports what will make it look good in headlines.

    Our rights are not a buffet for you to pick and choose from. Let me know when you actually care about rights more than you care about media image.

  16. Anonymous Says:


    I read the bad comments on Heller stance.

    Where is the good comment forum located?

  17. Hank Says:

    I am a member of the ACLU. I can tolerate a neutral stance on the 2nd because of the work the ACLU does for the other amendments, but this statement is not acceptable.

    I guess the big donors who want gun control are more important than people like me.

    If the ACLU is going to serve as a front organization for the Joyce Foundation just tell us, so we can cancel our memberships.

    If their anti-gun donations are more important than my membership I can accept that, but don't expect to be effective as a civil rights organization if your real goal is socialism.

  18. Intune Says:

    Congratulations, my donations will now be directed to the CATO Institute. Reading your duplicitous policy release was unnecessary. One merely has to browse your "Issues" topics to observe your priorities and lack thereof:

    Criminal Justice, Death Penalty, Disability Rights, Drug Policy, Free Speech, HIV/AIDS, Human Rights, Immigrants' Rights, Lesbian & Gay Rights, National Security, Police Practices, Prisoners' Rights, Privacy & Technology, Racial Justice, Religion and Belief, Reproductive Freedom, Rights of the Poor, Safe and Free, StandUp/Youth,
    Voting Rights, Women's Rights

  19. princewally Says:

    Given your assumption that the Second Amendment is a collective right, and given the identical language elsewhere in the Bill of Rights, do you also consider Freedom of Speech to be a collective right?

  20. Gregory Morris Says:

    JNH - I don't think it would help my opinion of the ACLU if they were to defend the Second Amendment via a collective rights argument. The "collective right" theory, which has been academically dead for years now, is now legally dead as well. I hate to say it, but at this point those who espouse the "collective rights" theory in regard to the Second Amendment are either dense, stupid, or intellectually dishonest.

    In addition, while the "collective right" as they view it isn't a right at all, and it certainly does not address anyone's right to join the "militia".

  21. Daniel Says:

    You need to remove American and Liberties from the organizations name. You have exposed yourselves as a political agenda organization. American Liberties come from the constitution. To ignore, no, to repudiate the Supreme Courts decision shows the ACLU is nothing but a bunch of hacks with an agenda.

  22. Glenn P. Davis Says:

    Unfortunately, at least for this liberal (a title I am proud to wear), the ACLU's position on the 2nd Amendment is simply pandering to the majority of the liberals (certainly not me) who send you money. Seems the ACLU only supports those individual rights that will get them the most money. Too bad. Very sad.

  23. Cory Brickner Says:

    What scares you the most ACLU? That individuals have the right to own weapons to protect their lives from life threatening offenses? Or the fact that your "collective" stance means that whatever your agenda was, you can no longer arbitrarily proceed with it without the justified threat of getting a .45 ACP in the chest?

    To deny human beings the individual right to self-defense is the same as condoning slavery. I find the ACLU's position on the Heller decision quite disturbing in the least, especially considering how hard they have worked to undo the "Master" and "Slave" relationships in the 20th Century.

    It's quite obvious the ACLU is in fear of losing money from its large benefactors should it support the Heller decision, or even that these very benefactors make policy decisions for the group.

    I find the hypocrisy going on here quite grotesque. It seems that according to the ACLU, slavery should still exist in the United States, just under your own terms.

    Its refreshing that you've finally shown the public the true face of your organization.

  24. Baird Tarr Says:

    The Bill of Rights is a document that protects the individual from excesses of government power. How is it that your take on the second ammendment only recognizes a collective right in defense of the state?
    Words fail me.

    I guess the supreme law of the land as established by the Supreme Court means nothing to you. I guess your communist history begins to show through.

  25. Mikee in Texas Says:

    The question before the Supreme Court in Heller was whether an individual right to keep and bear arms existed outside of membership in a militia. The answer was that, yes, the individual right to keep and bear arms pre-existed the 2nd Amendment, and that government was limited in its ability to legislate away that right. The necessity of an enumerated right to keep and bear arms was explained as being in support of the unenumerated but inherent, individual, inalienable right to self defense.

    So what is the ACLU position on the individual right to self defense, considered so fundamental that it remains unenumerated in the Constitution?

    This individual right to self defense exists (like the unenumerated right to privacy) as a well-recognized basis for an awful lot of law.

    So what says the ACLU in regards to the individual right to self defense, which is supported by the existence of the 2nd Amendment?

  26. Chris B Says:

    I want my $50 back.

    I could tolerate your absenteeism on the Second Amendment when you took a neutral stance, but now that you're in actual opposition to the fact that this is a pre-existing, enumerated, individual right, I can no longer support you with my donations, or tell people that you're not actually a bunch of socialists.

    Please give me a call whenever you realize that this is going to decimate your member base. We're in open revolt now, and I expect you to receive my cut up membership cards within the week. I'll include a copy of the Heller opinion for further review, with the words 'individual right' highlighted wherever they occur.

  27. Jim Says:

    Thank you for confirming your hypocrisy, by claiming to be for civil liberties, yet you won't stand for one of the most important. It IS the SECOND Amendment for a reason. It was important to the Founding Fathers when they wrote the Bill of Rights.

  28. BC Says:

    I'm a libertarian who has long believed that the right-wing critique of the ACLU was overstated but not without merit. I have long believed that the ACLU does worthy work, but adheres to a definition of "civil liberties" that comports with elite liberalism first and an honest and robust reading of the Constitution second.

    I had hoped that the ACLU would demonstrate some moral courage and dispel those criticisms by embracing the Heller decision. I find it very sad, and very telling, that you've decided that you'll have to be dragged kicking and screaming to accord the Second Amendment the same respect as the First, Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, and Fourteenth.

  29. JN Heath Says:

    Gregory Morris --

    You are right, of course. I simply suggest the ACLU put its money where its mouth is. If the legal experts advising the board believe there exists a colorable argument for a collective right, the board should put that knowledge to constructive use.

    And just because there is an individual right in the 2nd Am does not exclude the possibility of a simultaneous collective right. Right?

    My own (published) research on militia caselaw indicates that Congress has plenary over the militia, via Art.I Sec.8 cl.15 and the Supremacy Clause, and that Congress may preempt state militia laws that conflict or interfere with implementation of the federal law.

    But the ACLU, comprised of many expert lawyers, think they have a colorable argument that Congress cannot interfere with arms-bearing by citizens under state sponsorship. California law gives homosexuals a right to enroll in the militia, but Federal law threatens to withhold funding of the state Guard if California enrolls them.

    It's an ideal opportunity for the ACLU to prove its commitment to the collective right. The victorious result will be fifty states with fifty different standards of militia enrollment, each state vindicating the collective right of its citizens by bringing them under the protection of the 2nd Amendment, just like the ACLU says. A patchwork militia system that "looks like America" even if it is unfortunately unusable for organized national defense.


  30. Another former supporter Says:

    As a libertarian-minded political activist, I've frequently defended the ACLU in the past against the usual batch of accusations.

    I'll not be doing it any more. I'm off to review the CATO Institute's membership offerings.

  31. Gregory Morris Says:

    JNH: Interesting theory. I agree with most of what you are saying... but I seriously doubt that the ACLU or anyone else would go after the "gays in the national guard" issue in court on Second Amendment grounds...

    Aside from the unlikeliness of that court case, the "militia" referred to in the second amendment is NOT the modern instantiation of the National Guard (in California, or elsewhere.) The "militia" is and always has been a body of all armed citizens. The Militia Act, of course, defines it as all men within a certain age group _as_well_as_ women who are members of the National Guard.

    On top of all that, the ACLU isn't "devoted" to the "collective rights" theory, they just get a lot of money from gun control advocates. The "collective rights" theory was invented as a means of legitimizing what would otherwise be clearly unconstitutional gun laws. The ACLU is willfully adopting a legal theory which has very few merits and even less legitimate scholarship... all in the name of money. They have given up the moral high ground they used to claim all because some deep-pocketed donors have a disdain for the right to lawful self defense.

  32. Nick Says:

    I'd like to say I'm surprised by the ACLU refusal to acknowledge the US Supreme Court's decision, however that doesn't diminish my feeling of disappointment.

    I have been tempted at times to join the ACLU, but haven't because of their opinion the 2nd Amendment protects a collective right in connection with a militia. Now that the US Supreme Court has unambiguously ruled the 2nd Amendment protects an individual right, my temptation has turned to pure disgust in hearing the ACLU (the so-called world's premier civil rights advocacy group) refuses to accept the High Court's opinion. Just when I thought I could finally join the ACLU, I now think it's time to replace the ACLU with an organization that's more open and less political.

  33. Michael Says:

    Why is it that we're only seeing this on a blog instead of being presented in an official manner on the main ACLU webpage?

  34. Greg Says:

    As the supposed defenders of civil rights -it amazes me you would say any of the admnedments contained in the Bill of Rights is not and individual right that all US Citizen's have! That can never be taken away, nor nulified by law! You have lost all crediabilty with us real Americans!!

  35. JN Heath Says:

    BTW, I am not kidding. This gay National Guardsman sued California over his membership in the militia, and he won:

  36. Ed Wright Says:

    I guess I will have to add my name to the list of progressives who will now resign from this proud organization. It is clear that a political agenda has replace the noble protector of American Constitutional liberties it once was.

    What happened to the ACLU that defended the Nazis in Skokie?

    Now that I think about it, how about a class action suit against the ACLU for fraudulently accepting our contributions over the years? Anybody else interested?

  37. Jim Seymour Says:

    I'm not going to claim to have been a supporter of the ACLU, either morally or financially, tho I've usually found myself in agreement with the organization's battle de jour and haven't been afraid to say so. However, I've always felt your... reasoning regarding the 2nd Amendment was disingenuous, at best. The organization's latest position, particularly in light of the majority of the last 20 years of scholarly opinion and the Supreme Court's opinion, is simply inexplicable. I can't say as I'd be any more a supporter, in either respect, were the ACLU to adopt an RKBA-friendly stance, but your position pretty much guarantees that isn't going to happen.

  38. Bill Beeman Says:

    tgirsch said: LAs a long time member of the ACLU, I wish the organization’s policy were closer to truly neutral on the gun issue. That is, I’d like the organization to have no official opinion on the second amendment, and simply stay out of those issues."

    This is exactly wrong...the ACLU must either support all constitutional rights or admit that it has sold out to the liberal left.

    Much of what is wrong with the ACLU has stemmed from the shift of financing from individual donations to left oriented foundations. I no longer consider the ACLU as a true civil rights group, and will govern my donation policy on that basis.

  39. Disappointed Says:

    Up until reading this blog post I was a firm regular supporter of the ACLU and it's work toward protecting individual rights.

    I'm disappointed in this decision that the 2nd amendment doesn't qualify or declaring that it is "anachronistic".

    Ignoring the human right to personal protection, there are plenty of examples in the last few decades where governments around the world have shown what they are capable of doing to disarmed citizens (example: Rwanda). Anyone who believes that that our government has evolved to a point where it will never abuse it's citizen should go read a history book.

    I'm still a fan of what the ACLU does for our country but I will no longer be sending in financial support.

  40. CTD Says:

    I am a libertarian, and the ACLU's absurd sophistry on this issue reveals that the organization is nothing but doctrinaire leftist to its core, and cares only about the rights and liberties it THINKS you should have.

    You guys will have to hit up the Joyce Foundation for more cash. You'll never see another dime from me.

    I joined the NRA today instead.

  41. Eric Says:

    What would be the point of passing a law that states that collectively, the United States of America can have a military?

    Were the founding fathers, having recently run away from a military superpower, actually so worried that an abusive government might eliminate the collective right to a military?

    That is absurd...

  42. JMT Says:

    So, basically, the ACLU puts its fingers in its ears and screams "It's not so!". Sorry, folks, you're credibility, while limp in the past, is completely deflated at this point.

    No matter your high minded goals, you do not support the 2nd amendment; therefore you do not support civil rights.

  43. RonWV Says:

    Unbelievable, the ACLU protects some of the scum of the Earth, but won't stand up for my right of protection. Go to France, I'm sure they would love you...

  44. Jeremy in VA Says:

    dear left wing shills...

    ive been on the fence about becoming a member of the ACLU for many distasteful and disgusting i find many of the stances/causes you take up,i felt i could deal with it as it acts as a counterbalance to the disturbing stances on the opposite side of the spectrum.its been your hypocritical stance on the 2nd amendment thats kept me away...i see things havent changed unfortunately.

    i think you'll find that if you stop picking and choosing which rights you feel we're entitled to,your membership would levels would swell to new heights.

    until then...

  45. Nyer Says:

    I believed (past tense) in the work that the ACLU did. You hypocritical take on the 2nd Amendment has caused to me rethink my support both financially and morally. The right to proctect my own life and those I love seem to fall below the rights of child molesters, rascists and terrorists in the ACLU playbook. I'm a gun owning liberal in NYC and look foward to converting all the New yorkers I know away from your hypocritical Institute

  46. David Terrell Says:

    I'm a huge fan of the work the ACLU does.

    The stance they've taken on the 2nd amendment, while clearly not one that's popular with all the people following the link here from the Cato Institute (you commenters are SO subtle), isn't substantively changed by this posting.

    I suggest you read their full statement here again:

    Also, I see a lot of people who were already not disposed to support the ACLU complaining. Shockingly, nobody cares. Calling the ACLU "anti-christian" is also pretty funny from people who supposedly follow a religion that suggests you "turn the other cheek."

    Dear ACLU: I'm a lapsed member. I'm fixing that right now. Thanks.

    (personal note: My feelings on the issues are more closely represented by this:


    People's feelings can evolve. I suggest people find new and novel ways of discussing the issue with the ACLU than simply name-calling and berating.

  47. KenH Says:

    I am pretty much a Libertarian and have never been able to stomach the hypocrisy of the ACLU with regards to the 2A. Miller never stated it was a collective right although many who wished to eliminate it chose to paint it as one. Now the SCOTUS has clearly stated it is and always has been an INDIVIDUAL RIGHT.

    The ACLU will defend a host of "rights" not specifically mentioned in the COTUS because it fits with their social agenda. The 2A though has never fit that agenda and was therefore betrayed at every opportunity.

    It is amusing to see those who have contributed money to your lying organization for years to suddenly see you for what I always knew you to be. While some of your stances have been correct your despicable position on the 2A and willingness to throw away Americans' rights in the past, and now the future, proves what a fraud you really are.

  48. KenH Says:

    "To my understanding, the Miller case did NOT find in favor of any kind of collective right. The USSC (erroneously) found that the gun Miller had used was not a gun normally used by the military or militia, and thus not covered by the 2nd Amendment."

    Actually the court stated they knew of no use suitable to the militia for such a weapon and sent it back to the lower court pending the discovery of such use, which never came up. As stated, WWI pretty much would have cleared this one up.

  49. 2a4ever Says:

    ACLU sucks - American Communist Lovers Union

  50. ACLU Supporter & Gun owner. Says:

    I live in Los Angeles. I'm anti-war, I've supported a lot of the ACLU's positions here but the idea that the 2nd amendment does not protect an individual right to gun ownership is nonsense. To believe that is to completely ignore the history of this country solely to push a political agenda, not to defend the freedom of the citizens of this great nation.

    Gun control is a dead issue in this nation, in part because of the nonsensical laws that came into being because of the legislation passed in the 90's. Hanging on to it at this point is a sad display of an organization grasping onto ideology as a last ditch effort to support the last vestiges of a dying cause.

    Please live up to the ideals your organization stands up for, the freedom of all American citizens. Not just ideology.

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