ON WRIT OF CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE SEVENTH CIRCUIT Court Below: 567 F.3d 856
Two years ago, in District of Columbia v. Heller, 554 U. S. ___, this Court held that the Second Amendment protects the right to keep and bear arms for the purpose of self-defense and struck down a District of Columbia law that banned the possession of handguns in the home. Chicago (hereinafter City) and the village of Oak Park, a Chicago suburb, have laws effectively banning handgun possession by almost all private citizens. After Heller, petitioners filed this federal suit against the City, which was consolidated with two related actions, alleging that the City's handgun ban has left them vulnerable to criminals. They sought a declaration that the ban and several related City ordinances violate the Second and Fourteenth Amendments. Rejecting petitioners' argument that the ordinances are unconstitutional, the court noted that the Seventh Circuit previously had upheld the constitutionality of a handgun ban, that Heller had explicitly refrained from opining on whether the Second Amendment applied to the States, and that the court had a duty to follow established Circuit precedent. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, relying on three 19th-century cases-United States v. Cruikshank, 561 U. S. ____ (2010)
JUSTICE ALITO announced the judgment of the Court and delivered the opinion of the Court with respect to Parts I, II--A, II--B, II--D, III--A, and III--B, in which THE CHIEF JUSTICE, JUSTICE SCALIA, JUSTICE KENNEDY, and JUSTICE THOMAS join, and an opinion with respect to Parts II--C, IV, and V, in which THE CHIEF JUSTICE, JUSTICE SCALIA, and JUSTICE KENNEDY join.
Two years ago, in District of Columbia v. Heller, 554 U. S. ___ (2008), we held that the Second Amendment protects the right to keep and bear arms for the purpose of self-defense, and we struck down a District of Columbia law that banned the possession of handguns in the home. The city of Chicago (City) and the village of Oak Park, a Chicago suburb, have laws that are similar to the District of Columbia's, but Chicago and Oak Park argue that their laws are constitutional because the Second Amendment has no application to the States. We have previously held that most of the provisions of the Bill of Rights apply with full force to both the Federal Government and the States. Applying the standard that is well established in our case law, we hold that the Second Amendment right is fully applicable to the States.
Otis McDonald, Adam Orlov, Colleen Lawson, and David Lawson (Chicago petitioners) are Chicago residents who would like to keep handguns in their homes for self-defense but are prohibited from doing so by Chicago's firearms laws. A City ordinance provides that "[n]o person shall . . . possess . . . any firearm unless such person is the holder of a valid registration certificate for such firearm." Chicago, Ill., Municipal Code §8--20--040(a) (2009). The Code then prohibits registration of most handguns, thus effectively banning handgun possession by almost all private citizens who reside in the City. §8--20--050(c). Like Chicago, Oak Park makes it "unlawful for any person to possess . . . any firearm," a term that includes "pistols, revolvers, guns and small arms . . . commonly known as handguns." Oak Park, Ill., Municipal Code §§27--2--1 (2007), 27--1--1 (2009).
Chicago enacted its handgun ban to protect its residents "from the loss of property and injury or death from firearms." See Chicago, Ill., Journal of Proceedings of the City Council, p. 10049 (Mar. 19, 1982). The Chicago petitioners and their amici, however, argue that the handgun ban has left them vulnerable to criminals. Chicago Police Department statistics, we are told, reveal that the City's handgun murder rate has actually increased since the ban was enacted*fn1 and that Chicago residents now face one of the highest murder rates in the country and rates of other violent crimes that exceed the average in comparable cities.*fn2
Several of the Chicago petitioners have been the targets of threats and violence. For instance, Otis McDonald, who is in his late seventies, lives in a high-crime neighborhood. He is a community activist involved with alternative policing strategies, and his efforts to improve his neighborhood have subjected him to violent threats from drug dealers. App. 16--17; Brief for State Firearm Associations as Amici Curiae 20--21; Brief for State of Texas et al. as Amici Curiae 7--8. Colleen Lawson is a Chicago resident whose home has been targeted by burglars. "In Mrs. Lawson's judgment, possessing a handgun in Chicago would decrease her chances of suffering serious injury or death should she ever be threatened again in her home."*fn3
McDonald, Lawson, and the other Chicago petitioners own handguns that they store outside of the city limits, but they would like to keep their handguns in their homes for protection. See App. 16--19, 43--44 (McDonald), 20--24 (C. Lawson), 19, 36 (Orlov), 20--21, 40 (D. Lawson).
After our decision in Heller, the Chicago petitioners and two groups*fn4 filed suit against the City in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois. They sought a declaration that the handgun ban and several related Chicago ordinances violate the Second and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution. Another action challenging the Oak Park law was filed in the same District Court by the National Rifle Association (NRA) and two Oak Park residents. In addition, the NRA and others filed a third action challenging the Chicago ordinances. All three cases were assigned to the same District Judge.
The District Court rejected plaintiffs' argument that the Chicago and Oak Park laws are unconstitutional. See App. 83--84; NRA, Inc. v. Oak Park, 617 F. Supp. 2d 752, 754 (ND Ill. 2008). The court noted that the Seventh Circuit had "squarely upheld the constitutionality of a ban on handguns a quarter century ago," id., at 753 (citing Quilici v. Morton Grove, 695 F. 2d 261 (CA7 1982)), and that Heller had explicitly refrained from "opin[ing] on the subject of incorporation vel non of the Second Amendment," NRA, 617 F. Supp. 2d, at 754. The court observed that a district judge has a "duty to follow established precedent in the Court of Appeals to which he or she is beholden, even though the logic of more recent caselaw may point in a different direction." Id., at 753.
The Seventh Circuit affirmed, relying on three 19th-century cases-United States v. Cruikshank, 92 U. S. 542 (1876), Presser v. Illinois, 116 U. S. 252 (1886), and Miller v. Texas, 153 U. S. 535 (1894)-that were decided in the wake of this Court's interpretation of the Privileges or Immunities Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment in the Slaughter-House Cases, 16 Wall. 36 (1873). The Seventh Circuit described the rationale of those cases as "defunct" and recognized that they did not consider the question whether the Fourteenth Amendment's Due Process Clause incorporates the Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms. NRA, Inc. v. Chicago, 567 F. 3d 856, 857, 858 (2009). Nevertheless, the Seventh Circuit observed that it was obligated to follow Supreme Court precedents that have "direct application," and it declined to predict how the Second Amendment would fare under this Court's modern "selective incorporation" approach. Id., at 857-- 858 (internal quotation marks omitted).
We granted certiorari. 557 U. S. ___ (2009).
Petitioners argue that the Chicago and Oak Park laws violate the right to keep and bear arms for two reasons. Petitioners' primary submission is that this right is among the "privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States" and that the narrow interpretation of the Privileges or Immunities Clause adopted in the SlaughterHouse Cases, supra, should now be rejected. As a secondary argument, petitioners contend that the Fourteenth Amendment's Due Process Clause "incorporates" the Second Amendment right.
Chicago and Oak Park (municipal respondents) maintain that a right set out in the Bill of Rights applies to the States only if that right is an indispensable attribute of any " 'civilized' " legal system. Brief for Municipal Respondents 9. If it is possible to imagine a civilized country that does not recognize the right, the municipal respondents tell us, then that right is not protected by due process. Ibid. And since there are civilized countries that ban or strictly regulate the private possession of handguns, the municipal respondents maintain that due process does not preclude such measures. Id., at 21--23. In light of the parties' far-reaching arguments, we begin by recounting this Court's analysis over the years of the relationship between the provisions of the Bill of Rights and the States.
The Bill of Rights, including the Second Amendment, originally applied only to the Federal Government. In Barron ex rel. Tiernan v. Mayor of Baltimore, 7 Pet. 243 (1833), the Court, in an opinion by Chief Justice Marshall, explained that this question was "of great importance" but "not of much difficulty." Id., at 247. In less than four pages, the Court firmly rejected the proposition that the first eight Amendments operate as limitations on the States, holding that they apply only to the Federal Government. See also Lessee of Livingston v. Moore, 7 Pet. 469, 551--552 (1833) ("[I]t is now settled that those amendments [in the Bill of Rights] do not extend to the states").
The constitutional Amendments adopted in the aftermath of the Civil War fundamentally altered our country's federal system. The provision at issue in this case, §1 of the Fourteenth Amendment, provides, among other things, that a State may not abridge "the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States" or deprive "any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law."
Four years after the adoption of the Fourteenth Amendment, this Court was asked to interpret the Amendment's reference to "the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States." The Slaughter-House Cases, supra, involved challenges to a Louisiana law permitting the creation of a state-sanctioned monopoly on the butchering of animals within the city of New Orleans. Justice Samuel Miller's opinion for the Court concluded that the Privileges or Immunities Clause protects only those rights "which owe their existence to the Federal government, its National character, its Constitution, or its laws." Id., at 79. The Court held that other fundamental rights-rights that predated the creation of the Federal Government and that "the State governments were created to establish and secure"-were not protected by the Clause. Id., at 76.
In drawing a sharp distinction between the rights of federal and state citizenship, the Court relied on two principal arguments. First, the Court emphasized that the Fourteenth Amendment's Privileges or Immunities Clause spoke of "the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States," and the Court contrasted this phrasing with the wording in the first sentence of the Fourteenth Amendment and in the Privileges and Immunities Clause of Article IV, both of which refer to state citizenship.*fn5 (Emphasis added.) Second, the Court stated that a contrary reading would "radically chang[e] the whole theory of the relations of the State and Federal governments to each other and of both these governments to the people," and the Court refused to conclude that such a change had been made "in the absence of language which expresses such a purpose too clearly to admit of doubt." Id., at 78. Finding the phrase "privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States" lacking by this high standard, the Court reasoned that the phrase must mean something more limited.
Under the Court's narrow reading, the Privileges or Immunities Clause protects such things as the right "to come to the seat of government to assert any claim [a citizen] may have upon that government, to transact any business he may have with it, to seek its protection, to share its offices, to engage in administering its functions . . . [and to] become a citizen of any State of the Union by a bonâ fide residence therein, with the same rights as other citizens of that State." Id., at 79--80 (internal quotation marks omitted).
Finding no constitutional protection against state intrusion of the kind envisioned by the Louisiana statute, the Court upheld the statute. Four Justices dissented. Justice Field, joined by Chief Justice Chase and Justices Swayne and Bradley, criticized the majority for reducing the Fourteenth Amendment's Privileges or Immunities Clause to "a vain and idle enactment, which accomplished nothing, and most unnecessarily excited Congress and the people on its passage." Id., at 96; see also id., at 104. Justice Field opined that the Privileges or Immunities Clause protects rights that are "in their nature . . . fundamental," including the right of every man to pursue his profession without the imposition of unequal or discriminatory restrictions. Id., at 96--97. Justice Bradley's dissent observed that "we are not bound to resort to implication . . . to find an authoritative declaration of some of the most important privileges and immunities of citizens of the United States. It is in the Constitution itself." Id., at 118. Justice Bradley would have construed the Privileges or Immunities Clause to include those rights enumerated in the Constitution as well as some unenumerated rights. Id., at 119. Justice Swayne described the majority's narrow reading of the Privileges or Immunities Clause as "turn[ing] . . . what was meant for bread into a stone." Id., at 129 (dissenting opinion).
Today, many legal scholars dispute the correctness of the narrow Slaughter-House interpretation. See, e.g., Saenz v. Roe, 526 U. S. 489, 522, n. 1, 527 (1999) (THOMAS, J., dissenting) (scholars of the Fourteenth Amendment agree "that the Clause does not mean what the Court said it meant in 1873"); Amar, Substance and Method in the Year 2000, 28 Pepperdine L. Rev. 601, 631, n. 178 (2001) ("Virtually no serious modern scholar-left, right, and center-thinks that this [interpretation] is a plausible reading of the Amendment"); Brief for Constitutional Law Professors as Amici Curiae 33 (claiming an "overwhelming consensus among leading constitutional scholars" that the opinion is "egregiously wrong"); C. Black, A New Birth of Freedom 74--75 (1997).
Three years after the decision in the Slaughter-House Cases, the Court decided Cruikshank, the first of the three 19th-century cases on which the Seventh Circuit relied. 92 U. S. 542. In that case, the Court reviewed convictions stemming from the infamous Colfax Massacre in Louisiana on Easter Sunday 1873. Dozens of blacks, many unarmed, were slaughtered by a rival band of armed white men.*fn6 Cruikshank himself allegedly marched unarmed African-American prisoners through the streets and then had them summarily executed.*fn7 Ninety-seven men were indicted for participating in the massacre, but only nine went to trial. Six of the nine were acquitted of all charges; the remaining three were acquitted of murder but convicted under the Enforcement Act of 1870, 16 Stat. 140, for banding and conspiring together to deprive their victims of various constitutional rights, including the right to bear arms.*fn8
The Court reversed all of the convictions, including those relating to the deprivation of the victims' right to bear arms. Cruikshank, 92 U. S., at 553, 559. The Court wrote that the right of bearing arms for a lawful purpose "is not a right granted by the Constitution" and is not "in any manner dependent upon that instrument for its existence." Id., at 553. "The second amendment," the Court continued, "declares that it shall not be infringed; but this . . . means no more than that it shall not be infringed by Congress." Ibid. "Our later decisions in Presser v. Illinois, 116 U. S. 252, 265 (1886), and Miller v. Texas, 153 U. S. 535, 538 (1894), reaffirmed that the Second Amendment applies only to the Federal Government." Heller, 554 U. S., at ___, n. 23 (slip op., at 48, n. 23).
As previously noted, the Seventh Circuit concluded that Cruikshank, Presser, and Miller doomed petitioners' claims at the Court of Appeals level. Petitioners argue, however, that we should overrule those decisions and hold that the right to keep and bear arms is one of the "privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States." In petitioners' view, the Privileges or Immunities Clause protects all of the rights set out in the Bill of Rights, as well as some others, see Brief for Petitioners 10, 14, 15--21, but petitioners are unable to identify the Clause's full scope, Tr. of Oral Arg. 5--6, 8--11. Nor is there any consensus on that question among the scholars who agree that the Slaughter-House Cases' interpretation is flawed. See Saenz, supra, at 522, n. 1 (THOMAS, J., dissenting).
We see no need to reconsider that interpretation here. For many decades, the question of the rights protected by the Fourteenth Amendment against state infringement has been analyzed under the Due Process Clause of that Amendment and not under the Privileges or Immunities Clause. We therefore decline to disturb the SlaughterHouse holding.
At the same time, however, this Court's decisions in Cruikshank, Presser, and Miller do not preclude us from considering whether the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment makes the Second Amendment right binding on the States. See Heller, 554 U. S., at ___, n. 23 (slip op., at 48, n. 23). None of those cases "engage[d] in the sort of Fourteenth Amendment inquiry required by our later cases." Ibid. As explained more fully below, Cruikshank, Presser, and Miller all preceded the era in which the Court began the process of "selective incorporation" under the Due Process Clause, and we have never previously addressed the question whether the right to keep and bear arms applies to the States under that theory.
Indeed, Cruikshank has not prevented us from holding that other rights that were at issue in that case are binding on the States through the Due Process Clause. In Cruikshank, the Court held that the general "right of the people peaceably to assemble for lawful purposes," which is protected by the First Amendment, applied only against the Federal Government and not against the States. See 92 U. S., at 551--552. Nonetheless, over 60 years later the Court held that the right of peaceful assembly was a "fundamental righ[t] . . . safeguarded by the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment." De Jonge v. Oregon, 299 U. S. 353, 364 (1937). We follow the same path here and thus consider whether the right to keep and bear arms applies to the States under the Due Process Clause.
In the late 19th century, the Court began to consider whether the Due Process Clause prohibits the States from infringing rights set out in the Bill of Rights. See Hurtado v. California, 110 U. S. 516 (1884) (due process does not require grand jury indictment); Chicago, B. & Q. R. Co. v. Chicago, 166 U. S. 226 (1897) (due process prohibits States from taking of private property for public use without just compensation). Five features of the approach taken during the ensuing era should be noted.
First, the Court viewed the due process question as entirely separate from the question whether a right was a privilege or immunity of national citizenship. See Twining v. New Jersey, 211 U. S. 78, 99 (1908).
Second, the Court explained that the only rights protected against state infringement by the Due Process Clause were those rights "of such a nature that they are included in the conception of due process of law." Ibid. See also, e.g., Adamson v. California, 332 U. S. 46 (1947); Betts v. Brady, 316 U. S. 455 (1942); Palko v. Connecticut, 302 U. S. 319 (1937); Grosjean v. American Press Co., 297 U. S. 233 (1936); Powell v. Alabama, 287 U. S. 45 (1932). While it was "possible that some of the personal rights safeguarded by the first eight Amendments against National action [might] also be safeguarded against state action," the Court stated, this was "not because those rights are enumerated in the first eight Amendments." Twining, supra, at 99.
The Court used different formulations in describing the boundaries of due process. For example, in Twining, the Court referred to "immutable principles of justice which inhere in the very idea of free government which no member of the Union may disregard." 211 U. S., at 102 (internal quotation marks omitted). In Snyder v. Massachusetts, 291 U. S. 97, 105 (1934), the Court spoke of rights that are "so rooted in the traditions and conscience of our people as to be ranked as fundamental." And in Palko, the Court famously said that due process protects those rights that are "the very essence of a scheme of ordered liberty" and essential to "a fair and enlightened system of justice." 302 U. S., at 325.
Third, in some cases decided during this era the Court "can be seen as having asked, when inquiring into whether some particular procedural safeguard was required of a State, if a civilized system could be imagined that would not accord the particular protection." Duncan v. Louisiana, 391 U. S. 145, 149, n. 14 (1968). Thus, in holding that due process prohibits a State from taking private property without just compensation, the Court described the right as "a principle of natural equity, recognized by all temperate and civilized governments, from a deep and universal sense of its justice." Chicago, B. & Q. R. Co., supra, at 238. Similarly, the Court found that due process did not provide a right against compelled incrimination in part because this right "has no place in the jurisprudence of civilized and free countries outside the domain of the common law." Twining, supra, at 113.
Fourth, the Court during this era was not hesitant to hold that a right set out in the Bill of Rights failed to meet the test for inclusion within the protection of the Due Process Clause. The Court found that some such rights qualified. See, e.g., Gitlow v. New York, 268 U. S. 652, 666 (1925) (freedom of speech and press); Near v. Minnesota ex rel. Olson, 283 U. S. 697 (1931) (same); Powell, supra (assistance of counsel in capital cases); De Jonge, supra (freedom of assembly); Cantwell v. Connecticut, 310 U. S. 296 (1940) (free exercise of religion). But others did not. See, e.g., Hurtado, supra (grand jury indictment requirement); Twining, supra (privilege against self-incrimination).
Finally, even when a right set out in the Bill of Rights was held to fall within the conception of due process, the protection or remedies afforded against state infringement sometimes differed from the protection or remedies provided against abridgment by the Federal Government. To give one example, in Betts the Court held that, although the Sixth Amendment required the appointment of counsel in all federal criminal cases in which the defendant was unable to retain an attorney, the Due Process Clause required appointment of counsel in state criminal proceedings only where "want of counsel in [the] particular case . . . result[ed] in a conviction lacking in . . . fundamental fairness." 316 U. S., at 473. Similarly, in Wolf v. Colorado, 338 U. S. 25 (1949), the Court held that the "core of the Fourth Amendment" was implicit in the concept of ordered liberty and thus "enforceable against the States through the Due Process Clause" but that the exclusionary rule, which applied in federal cases, did not apply to the States. Id., at 27--28, 33.
An alternative theory regarding the relationship between the Bill of Rights and §1 of the Fourteenth Amendment was championed by Justice Black. This theory held that §1 of the Fourteenth Amendment totally incorporated all of the provisions of the Bill of Rights. See, e.g., Adamson, supra, at 71--72 (Black, J., dissenting); Duncan, supra, at 166 (Black, J., concurring). As Justice Black noted, the chief congressional proponents of the Fourteenth Amendment espoused the view that the Amendment made the Bill of Rights applicable to the States and, in so doing, overruled this Court's decision in Barron.*fn9
Adamson, 332 U. S., at 72 (dissenting opinion).*fn10 Nonetheless, the Court never has embraced Justice Black's "total incorporation" theory.
While Justice Black's theory was never adopted, the Court eventually moved in that direction by initiating what has been called a process of "selective incorporation," i.e., the Court began to hold that the Due Process Clause fully incorporates particular rights contained in the first eight Amendments. See, e.g., Gideon v. Wainright, 372 U. S. 335, 341 (1963); Malloy v. Hogan, 378 U. S. 1, 5--6 (1964); Pointer v. Texas, 380 U. S. 400, 403--404 (1965); Washington v. Texas, 388 U. S. 14, 18 (1967); Duncan, 391 U. S., at 147--148; Benton v. Maryland, 395 U. S. 784, 794 (1969).
The decisions during this time abandoned three of the previously noted characteristics of the earlier period.*fn11
The Court made it clear that the governing standard is not whether any "civilized system [can] be imagined that would not accord the particular protection." Duncan, 391 U. S., at 149, n. 14. Instead, the Court inquired whether a particular Bill of Rights guarantee is fundamental to our scheme of ordered liberty and system of justice. Id., at 149, and n. 14; see also id., at 148 (referring to those "fundamental principles of liberty and justice which lie at the base of all our civil and political institutions" (emphasis added; internal quotation marks omitted)).
The Court also shed any reluctance to hold that rights guaranteed by the Bill of Rights met the requirements for protection under the Due Process Clause. The Court eventually incorporated almost all of the provisions of the Bill of Rights.*fn12 Only a handful of the Bill of Rights protections remain unincorporated.*fn13
Finally, the Court abandoned "the notion that the Fourteenth Amendment applies to the States only a watered-down, subjective version of the individual guarantees of the Bill of Rights," stating that it would be "incongruous" to apply different standards "depending on whether the claim was asserted in a state or federal court." Malloy, 378 U. S., at 10--11 (internal quotation marks omitted). Instead, the Court decisively held that incorporated Bill of Rights protections "are all to be enforced against the States under the Fourteenth Amendment according to the same standards that protect those personal rights against federal encroachment." Id., at 10; see also Mapp v. Ohio, 367 U. S. 643, 655--656 (1961); Ker v. California, 374 U. S. 23, 33--34 (1963); Aguilar v. Texas, 378 U. S. 108, 110 (1964); Pointer, 380 U. S., at 406; Duncan, supra, at 149, 157--158; Benton, 395 U. S., at 794--795; Wallace v. Jaffree, 472 U. S. 38, 48--49 (1985).*fn14
Employing this approach, the Court overruled earlier decisions in which it had held that particular Bill of Rights guarantees or remedies did not apply to the States. See, e.g., Mapp, supra (overruling in part Wolf, 338 U. S. 25); Gideon, 372 U. S. 335 (overruling Betts, 316 U. S. 455); Malloy, supra (overruling Adamson, 332 U. S. 46, and Twining, 211 U. S. 78); Benton, supra, at 794 (overruling Palko, 302 U. S. 319).
With this framework in mind, we now turn directly to the question whether the Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms is incorporated in the concept of due process. In answering that question, as just explained, we must decide whether the right to keep and bear arms is fundamental to our scheme of ordered liberty, Duncan, 391 U. S., at 149, or as we have said in a related context, whether this right is "deeply rooted in this Nation's history and tradition," Washington v. Glucksberg, 521 U. S. 702, 721 (1997) (internal quotation marks omitted).
Our decision in Heller points unmistakably to the answer. Self-defense is a basic right, recognized by many legal systems from ancient times to the present day,*fn15 and in Heller, we held that individual self-defense is "the central component" of the Second Amendment right. 554 U. S., at ___ (slip op., at 26); see also id., at ___ (slip op., at 56) (stating that the "inherent right of self-defense has been central to the Second Amendment right"). Explaining that "the need for defense of self, family, and property is most acute" in the home, ibid., we found that this right applies to handguns because they are "the most preferred firearm in the nation to 'keep' and use for protection of one's home and family," id., at ___ (slip op., at 57) (some internal quotation marks omitted); see also id., at ___ (slip op., at 56) (noting that handguns are "overwhelmingly chosen by American society for [the] lawful purpose" of self-defense); id., at ___ (slip op., at 57) ("[T]he American people have considered the handgun to be the quintessential self-defense weapon"). Thus, we concluded, citizens must be permitted "to use [handguns] for the core lawful purpose of self-defense." Id., at ___ (slip op., at 58).
Heller makes it clear that this right is "deeply rooted in this Nation's history and tradition." Glucksberg, supra, at 721 (internal quotation marks omitted). Heller explored the right's origins, noting that the 1689 English Bill of Rights explicitly protected a right to keep arms for self-defense, 554 U. S., at ___--___ (slip op., at 19--20), and that by 1765, Blackstone was able to assert that the right to keep and bear arms was "one of the fundamental rights of Englishmen," id., at ___ (slip op., at 20).
Blackstone's assessment was shared by the American colonists. As we noted in Heller, King George III's attempt to disarm the colonists in the 1760's and 1770's "provoked polemical reactions by Americans invoking their rights as Englishmen to keep arms."*fn16 Id., at ___ (slip op., at 21); see also L. Levy, Origins of the Bill of Rights 137--143 (1999) (hereinafter Levy).
The right to keep and bear arms was considered no less fundamental by those who drafted and ratified the Bill of Rights. "During the 1788 ratification debates, the fear that the federal government would disarm the people in order to impose rule through a standing army or select militia was pervasive in Antifederalist rhetoric." Heller, supra, at ___ (slip op., at 25) (citing Letters from the Federal Farmer III (Oct. 10, 1787), in 2 The Complete Anti-Federalist 234, 242 (H. Storing ed. 1981)); see also Federal Farmer: An Additional Number of Letters to the Republican, Letter XVIII (Jan. 25, 1788), in 17 Documentary History of the Ratification of the Constitution 360, 362-- 363 (J. Kaminski & G. Saladino eds. 1995); S. Halbrook, The Founders' Second Amendment 171--278 (2008). Federalists responded, not by arguing that the right was insufficiently important to warrant protection but by contending that the right was adequately protected by the Constitution's assignment of only limited powers to the Federal Government. Heller, supra, at ___ (slip op., at 25--26); cf. The Federalist No. 46, p. 296 (C. Rossiter ed. 1961) (J. Madison). Thus, Antifederalists and Federalists alike agreed that the right to bear arms was fundamental to the newly formed system of government. See Levy 143--149; J. Malcolm, To Keep and Bear Arms: The Origins of an Anglo-American Right 155--164 (1994). But those who were fearful that the new Federal Government would infringe traditional rights such as the right to keep and bear arms insisted on the adoption of the Bill of Rights as a condition for ratification of the Constitution. See 1 J. Elliot, The Debates in the Several State Conventions on the Adoption of the Federal Constitution 327--331 (2d ed. 1854); 3 id., at 657--661; 4 id., at 242--246, 248--249; see also Levy 26--34; A. Kelly & W. Harbison, The American Constitution: Its Origins and Development 110, 118 (7th ed. 1991). This is surely powerful evidence that the right was regarded as fundamental in the sense relevant here.
This understanding persisted in the years immediately following the ratification of the Bill of Rights. In addition to the four States that had adopted Second Amendment analogues before ratification, nine more States adopted state constitutional provisions protecting an individual right to keep and bear arms between 1789 and 1820. Heller, supra, at ___ (slip op., at 27--30). Founding-era legal commentators confirmed the importance of the right to early Americans. St. George Tucker, for example, described the right to keep and bear arms as "the true palladium of liberty" and explained that prohibitions on the right would place liberty "on the brink of destruction." 1 Blackstone's Commentaries, Editor's App. 300 (S. Tucker ed. 1803); see also W. Rawle, A View of the Constitution of the United States of America, 125--126 (2d ed. 1829) (reprint 2009); 3 J. Story, Commentaries on the Constitution of the United States §1890, p. 746 (1833) ("The right of the citizens to keep and bear arms has justly been considered, as the palladium of the liberties of a republic; since it offers a strong moral check against the usurpation and arbitrary power of rulers; and will generally, even if these are successful in the first instance, enable the people to resist and triumph over them").
By the 1850's, the perceived threat that had prompted the inclusion of the Second Amendment in the Bill of Rights-the fear that the National Government would disarm the universal militia-had largely faded as a popular concern, but the right to keep and bear arms was highly valued for purposes of self-defense. See M. Doubler, Civilian in Peace, Soldier in War 87--90 (2003); Amar, Bill of Rights 258--259. Abolitionist authors wrote in support of the right. See L. Spooner, The Unconstitutionality of Slavery 66 (1860) (reprint 1965); J. Tiffany, A Treatise on the Unconstitutionality of American Slavery 117--118 (1849) (reprint 1969). And when attempts were made to disarm "Free-Soilers" in "Bloody Kansas," Senator Charles Sumner, who later played a leading role in the adoption of the Fourteenth Amendment, proclaimed that "[n]ever was [the rifle] more needed in just self-defense than now in Kansas." The Crime Against Kansas: The Apologies for the Crime: The True Remedy, Speech of Hon. Charles Sumner in the Senate of the United States 64--65 (1856). Indeed, the 1856 Republican Party Platform protested that in Kansas the constitutional rights of the people had been "fraudulently and violently taken from them" and the "right of the people to keep and bear arms" had been "infringed." National Party Platforms 1840-- 1972, p. 27 (5th ed. 1973).*fn17
After the Civil War, many of the over 180,000 African Americans who served in the Union Army returned to the States of the old Confederacy, where systematic efforts were made to disarm them and other blacks. See Heller, 554 U. S., at ___ (slip op., at 42); E. Foner, Reconstruction: America's Unfinished Revolution 1863--1877, p. 8 (1988) (hereinafter Foner). The laws of some States formally prohibited African Americans from possessing firearms. For example, a Mississippi law provided that "no freedman, free negro or mulatto, not in the military service of the United States government, and not licensed so to do by the board of police of his or her county, shall keep or carry fire-arms of any kind, or any ammunition, dirk or bowie knife." Certain Offenses of Freedmen, 1865 Miss. Laws p. 165, §1, in 1 Documentary History of Reconstruction 289 (W. Fleming ed. 1950); see also Regulations for Freedmen in Louisiana, in id., at 279--280; H. R. Exec. Doc. No. 70, 39th Cong., 1st Sess., 233, 236 (1866) (describing a Kentucky law); E. McPherson, The Political History of the United States of America During the Period of Reconstruction 40 (1871) (describing a Florida law); id., at 33 (describing an Alabama law).*fn18
Throughout the South, armed parties, often consisting of ex-Confederate soldiers serving in the state militias, forcibly took firearms from newly freed slaves. In the first session of the 39th Congress, Senator Wilson told his colleagues: "In Mississippi rebel State forces, men who were in the rebel armies, are traversing the State, visiting the freedmen, disarming them, perpetrating murders and outrages upon them; and the same things are done in other sections of the country." 39th Cong. Globe 40 (1865). The Report of the Joint Committee on Reconstruction- which was widely reprinted in the press and distributed by Members of the 39th Congress to their constituents shortly after Congress approved the Fourteenth Amendment*fn19 -contained numerous examples of such abuses. See, e.g., Joint Committee on Reconstruction, H. R. Rep. No. 30, 39th Cong., 1st Sess., pt. 2, pp. 219, 229, 272, pt. 3, pp. 46, 140, pt. 4, pp. 49--50 (1866); see also S. Exec. Doc. No. 2, 39th Cong., 1st Sess., 23--24, 26, 36 (1865). In one town, the "marshal [took] all arms from returned colored soldiers, and [was] very prompt in shooting the blacks whenever an opportunity occur[red]." H. R. Exec. Doc. No. 70, at 238 (internal quotation marks omitted). As Senator Wilson put it during the debate on a failed proposal to disband Southern militias: "There is one unbroken chain of testimony from all people that are loyal to this country, that the greatest outrages are perpetrated by armed men who go up and down the country searching houses, disarming people, committing outrages of every kind and description." 39th Cong. Globe 915 (1866).*fn20
Union Army commanders took steps to secure the right of all citizens to keep and bear arms,*fn21 but the 39th Congress concluded that legislative action was necessary. Its efforts to safeguard the right to keep and bear arms demonstrate that the right was still recognized to be fundamental.
The most explicit evidence of Congress' aim appears in §14 of the
Freedmen's Bureau Act of 1866, which provided that "the right . . . to
have full and equal benefit of all laws and proceedings concerning
personal liberty, personal security, and the acquisition, enjoyment,
and disposition of estate, real and personal, including the
constitutional right to bear arms, shall be secured to and enjoyed by
all the citizens . . . without respect to race or color, or previous
condition of slavery." 14 Stat. 176--177 (emphasis added).*fn22
Section 14 thus explicitly guaranteed that "all the
citizens," black and white, would have "the constitutional right to
The Civil Rights Act of 1866, 14 Stat. 27, which was considered at the same time as the Freedmen's Bureau Act, similarly sought to protect the right of all citizens to keep and bear arms.*fn23 Section 1 of the Civil Rights Act guaranteed the "full and equal benefit of all laws and proceedings for the security of person and property, as is enjoyed by white citizens." Ibid. This language was virtually identical to language in §14 of the Freedmen's Bureau Act, 14 Stat. 176--177 ("the right . . . to have full and equal benefit of all laws and proceedings concerning personal liberty, personal security, and the acquisition, enjoyment, and disposition of estate, real and personal"). And as noted, the latter provision went on to explain that one of the "laws and proceedings concerning personal liberty, personal security, and the acquisition, enjoyment, and disposition of estate, real and personal" was "the constitutional right to bear arms." Ibid. Representative Bingham believed that the Civil Rights Act protected the same rights as enumerated in the Freedmen's Bureau bill, which of course explicitly mentioned the right to keep and bear arms. 39th Cong. Globe 1292. The unavoidable conclusion is that the Civil Rights Act, like the Freedmen's Bureau Act, aimed to protect "the constitutional right to bear arms" and not simply to prohibit discrimination. See also Amar, Bill of Rights 264--265 (noting that one of the "core purposes of the Civil Rights Act of 1866 and of the Fourteenth Amendment was to redress the grievances" of freedmen who had been stripped of their arms and to "affirm the full and equal right of every citizen to self-defense").
Congress, however, ultimately deemed these legislative remedies insufficient. Southern resistance, Presidential vetoes, and this Court's pre-Civil-War precedent persuaded Congress that a constitutional amendment was necessary to provide full protection for the rights of blacks.*fn24 Today, it is generally accepted that the Fourteenth Amendment was understood to provide a constitutional basis for protecting the rights set out in the Civil Rights Act of 1866. See General Building Contractors Assn., Inc. v. Pennsylvania, 458 U. S. 375, 389 (1982); see also Amar, Bill of Rights 187; Calabresi, Two Cheers for Professor Balkin's Originalism, 103 Nw. U. L. Rev. 663, 669--670 (2009).
In debating the Fourteenth Amendment, the 39th Congress referred to the right to keep and bear arms as a fundamental right deserving of protection. Senator Samuel Pomeroy described three "indispensable" "safeguards of liberty under our form of Government." 39th Cong. Globe 1182. One of these, he said, was the right to keep and bear arms:
"Every man . . . should have the right to bear arms for the defense of himself and family and his homestead. And if the cabin door of the freedman is broken open and the intruder enters for purposes as vile as were known to slavery, then should a well-loaded musket be in the hand of the occupant to send the polluted wretch to another world, where his wretchedness will forever remain complete." Ibid.
Even those who thought the Fourteenth Amendment unnecessary believed that blacks, as citizens, "have equal right to protection, and to keep and bear arms for self-defense." Id., at 1073 (Sen. James Nye); see also Foner 258--259.*fn25
Evidence from the period immediately following the ratification of the Fourteenth Amendment only confirms that the right to keep and bear arms was considered fundamental. In an 1868 speech addressing the disarmament of freedmen, Representative Stevens emphasized the necessity of the right: "Disarm a community and you rob them of the means of defending life. Take away their weapons of defense and you take away the inalienable right of defending liberty." "The fourteenth amendment, now so happily adopted, settles the whole question." Cong. Globe, 40th Cong., 2d Sess., 1967. And in debating the Civil Rights Act of 1871, Congress routinely referred to the right to keep and bear arms and decried the continued disarmament of blacks in the South. See Halbrook, Freedmen 120--131. Finally, legal commentators from the period emphasized the fundamental nature of the right. See, e.g., T. Farrar, Manual of the Constitution of the United States of America §118, p. 145 (1867) (reprint 1993); J. Pomeroy, An Introduction to the Constitutional Law of the United States §239, pp. 152--153 (3d ed. 1875).
The right to keep and bear arms was also widely protected by state constitutions at the time when the Fourteenth Amendment was ratified. In 1868, 22 of the 37 States in the Union had state constitutional provisions explicitly protecting the right to keep and bear arms. See Calabresi & Agudo, Individual Rights Under State Constitutions when the Fourteenth Amendment was Ratified in 1868: What Rights Are Deeply Rooted in American History and Tradition? 87 Texas L. Rev. 7, 50 (2008).*fn26 Quite a few of these state constitutional guarantees, moreover, explicitly protected the right to keep and bear arms as an individual right to self-defense. See Ala. Const., Art. I, §28 (1868); Conn. Const., Art. I, §17 (1818); Ky. Const., Art. XIII, §25 (1850); Mich. Const., Art. XVIII, §7 (1850); Miss. Const., Art. I, §15 (1868); Mo. Const., Art. I, §8 (1865); Tex. Const., Art. I, §13 (1869); see also Mont. Const., Art. III, §13 (1889); Wash. Const., Art. I, §24 (1889); Wyo. Const., Art. I, §24 (1889); see also State v. McAdams, 714 P. 2d 1236, 1238 (Wyo. 1986). What is more, state constitutions adopted during the Reconstruction era by former Confederate States included a right to keep and bear arms. See, e.g., Ark. Const., Art. I, §5 (1868); Miss. Const., Art. I, §15 (1868); Tex. Const., Art. I, §13 (1869). A clear majority of the States in 1868, therefore, recognized the right to keep and bear arms as being among the foundational rights necessary to our system of Government.*fn27
In sum, it is clear that the Framers and ratifiers of the Fourteenth Amendment counted the right to keep and bear arms among those fundamental rights necessary to our system of ordered liberty.
Despite all this evidence, municipal respondents contend that Congress, in the years immediately following the Civil War, merely sought to outlaw "discriminatory measures taken against freedmen, which it addressed by adopting a non-discrimination principle" and that even an outright ban on the possession of firearms was regarded as acceptable, "so long as it was not done in a discriminatory manner." Brief for Municipal Respondents 7. They argue that Members of Congress overwhelmingly viewed §1 of the Fourteenth Amendment "as an antidiscrimination rule," and they cite statements to the effect that the section would outlaw discriminatory measures. Id., at 64. This argument is implausible.
First, while §1 of the Fourteenth Amendment contains "an antidiscrimination rule," namely, the Equal Protection Clause, municipal respondents can hardly mean that §1 does no more than prohibit discrimination. If that were so, then the First Amendment, as applied to the States, would not prohibit nondiscriminatory abridgments of the rights to freedom of speech or freedom of religion; the Fourth Amendment, as applied to the States, would not prohibit all unreasonable searches and seizures but only discriminatory searches and seizures-and so on. We assume that this is not municipal respondents' view, so what they must mean is that the Second Amendment should be singled out for special-and specially unfavorable-treatment. We reject that suggestion.
Second, municipal respondents' argument ignores the clear terms of the Freedmen's Bureau Act of 1866, which acknowledged the existence of the right to bear arms. If that law had used language such as "the equal benefit of laws concerning the bearing of arms," it would be possible to interpret it as simply a prohibition of racial discrimination. But §14 speaks of and protects "the constitutional right to bear arms," an unmistakable reference to the right protected by the Second Amendment. And it protects the "full and equal benefit" of this right in the States. 14 Stat. 176--177. It would have been nonsensical for Congress to guarantee the full and equal benefit of a constitutional right that does not exist.
Third, if the 39th Congress had outlawed only those laws that discriminate on the basis of race or previous condition of servitude, African Americans in the South would likely have remained vulnerable to attack by many of their worst abusers: the state militia and state peace officers. In the years immediately following the Civil War, a law banning the possession of guns by all private citizens would have been nondiscriminatory only in the formal sense. Any such law-like the Chicago and Oak Park ordinances challenged here-presumably would have permitted the possession of guns by those acting under the authority of the State and would thus have left firearms in the hands of the militia and local peace officers. And as the Report of the Joint Committee on Reconstruction revealed, see supra, at 24--25, those groups were widely involved in harassing blacks in the South.
Fourth, municipal respondents' purely antidiscrimination theory of the Fourteenth Amendment disregards the plight of whites in the South who opposed the Black Codes. If the 39th Congress and the ratifying public had simply prohibited racial discrimination with respect to the bearing of arms, opponents of the Black Codes would have been left without the means of self-defense-as had abolitionists in Kansas in the 1850's.
Fifth, the 39th Congress' response to proposals to disband and disarm the Southern militias is instructive. Despite recognizing and deploring the abuses of these militias, the 39th Congress balked at a proposal to disarm them. See 39th Cong. Globe 914; Halbrook, Freedmen, supra, 20--21. Disarmament, it was argued, would violate the members' right to bear arms, and it was ultimately decided to disband the militias but not to disarm their members. See Act of Mar. 2, 1867, §6, 14 Stat. 485, 487; Halbrook, Freedmen 68--69; Cramer 858--861. It cannot be doubted that the right to bear arms was regarded as a substantive guarantee, not a prohibition that could be ignored so long as the States legislated in an evenhanded manner.
Municipal respondents' remaining arguments are at war with our central holding in Heller: that the Second Amendment protects a personal right to keep and bear arms for lawful purposes, most notably for self-defense within the home. Municipal respondents, in effect, ask us to treat the right recognized in Heller as a second-class right, subject to an entirely different body of rules than the other Bill of Rights guarantees that we have held to be incorporated into the Due Process Clause.
Municipal respondents' main argument is nothing less than a plea to disregard 50 years of incorporation precedent and return (presumably for this case only) to a bygone era. Municipal respondents submit that the Due Process Clause protects only those rights " 'recognized by all temperate and civilized governments, from a deep and universal sense of [their] justice.' " Brief for Municipal Respondents 9 (quoting Chicago, B. & Q. R. Co., 166 U. S., at 238). According to municipal respondents, if it is possible to imagine any civilized legal system that does not recognize a particular right, then the Due Process Clause does not make that right binding on the States. Brief for Municipal Respondents 9. Therefore, the municipal respondents continue, because such countries as England, Canada, Australia, Japan, Denmark, Finland, Luxembourg, and New Zealand either ban or severely limit handgun ownership, it must follow that no right to possess such weapons is protected by the Fourteenth Amendment. Id., at 21--23.
This line of argument is, of course, inconsistent with the long-established standard we apply in incorporation cases. See Duncan, 391 U. S., at 149, and n. 14. And the present-day implications of municipal respondents' argument are stunning. For example, many of the rights that our Bill of Rights provides for persons accused of criminal offenses are virtually unique to this country.*fn28 If our understanding of the right to a jury trial, the right against self-incrimination, and the right to counsel were necessary attributes of any civilized country, it would follow that the United States is the only civilized Nation in the world.
Municipal respondents attempt to salvage their position by suggesting that their argument applies only to substantive as opposed to procedural rights. Brief for Municipal Respondents 10, n. 3. But even in this trimmed form, municipal respondents' argument flies in the face of more than a half-century of precedent. For example, in Everson v. Board of Ed. of Ewing, 330 U. S. 1, 8 (1947), the Court held that the Fourteenth Amendment incorporates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. Yet several of the countries that municipal respondents recognize as civilized have established state churches.*fn29 If we were to adopt municipal respondents' theory, all of this Court's Establishment Clause precedents involving actions taken by state and local governments would go by the boards.
Municipal respondents maintain that the Second Amendment differs from all of the other provisions of the Bill of Rights because it concerns the right to possess a deadly implement and thus has implications for public safety. Brief for Municipal Respondents 11. And they note that there is intense disagreement on the question whether the private possession of guns in the home increases or decreases gun deaths and injuries. Id., at 11, 13--17.
The right to keep and bear arms, however, is not the only constitutional right that has controversial public safety implications. All of the constitutional provisions that impose restrictions on law enforcement and on the prosecution of crimes fall into the same category. See, e.g., Hudson v. Michigan, 547 U. S. 586, 591 (2006) ("The exclusionary rule generates 'substantial social costs,' United States v. Leon, 468 U. S. 897, 907 (1984), which sometimes include setting the guilty free and the dangerous at large"); Barker v. Wingo, 407 U. S. 514, 522 (1972) (reflecting on the serious consequences of dismissal for a speedy trial violation, which means "a defendant who may be guilty of a serious crime will go free"); Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U. S. 436, 517 (1966) (Harlan, J., dissenting); id., at 542 (White, J., dissenting) (objecting that the Court's rule "[i]n some unknown number of cases . . . will return a killer, a rapist or other criminal to the streets . . . to repeat his crime"); Mapp, 367 U. S., at 659. Municipal respondents cite no case in which we have refrained from holding that a provision of the Bill of Rights is binding on the States on the ground that the right at issue has disputed public safety implications.
We likewise reject municipal respondents' argument that we should depart from our established incorporation methodology on the ground that making the Second Amendment binding on the States and their subdivisions is inconsistent with principles of federalism and will stifle experimentation. Municipal respondents point out-quite correctly-that conditions and problems differ from locality to locality and that citizens in different jurisdictions have divergent views on the issue of gun control. Municipal respondents therefore urge us to allow state and local governments to enact any gun control law that they deem to be reasonable, including a complete ban on the possession of handguns in the home for self-defense. Brief for Municipal Respondents 18--20, 23.
There is nothing new in the argument that, in order to respect federalism and allow useful state experimentation, a federal constitutional right should not be fully binding on the States. This argument was made repeatedly and eloquently by Members of this Court who rejected the concept of incorporation and urged retention of the two-track approach to incorporation. Throughout the era of "selective incorporation," Justice Harlan in particular, invoking the values of federalism and state experimentation, fought a determined rearguard action to preserve the two-track approach. See, e.g., Roth v. United States, 354 U. S. 476, 500--503 (1957) (Harlan, J., concurring in result in part and dissenting in part); Mapp, supra, at 678--680 (Harlan, J., dissenting); Gideon, 372 U. S., at 352 (Harlan, J., concurring); Malloy, 378 U. S., at 14--33 (Harlan, J., dissenting); Pointer, 380 U. S., at 408--409 (Harlan, J., concurring in result); Washington, 388 U. S., at 23--24 (Harlan, J., concurring in result); Duncan, 391 U. S., at 171--193 (Harlan, J., dissenting); Benton, 395 U. S., at 808--809 (Harlan, J., dissenting); Williams v. Florida, 399 U. S. 78, 117 (1970) (Harlan, J., dissenting in part and concurring in result in part).
Time and again, however, those pleas failed. Unless we turn back the clock or adopt a special incorporation test applicable only to the Second Amendment, municipal respondents' argument must be rejected. Under our precedents, if a Bill of Rights guarantee is fundamental from an American perspective, then, unless stare decisis counsels otherwise,*fn30 that guarantee is fully binding on the States and thus limits (but by no means eliminates) their ability to devise solutions to social problems that suit local needs and values. As noted by the 38 States that have appeared in this case as amici supporting petitioners, "[s]tate and local experimentation with reasonable firearms regulations will continue under the Second Amendment." Brief for State of Texas et al. as Amici Curiae 23.
Municipal respondents and their amici complain that incorporation of the Second Amendment right will lead to extensive and costly litigation, but this argument applies with even greater force to constitutional rights and remedies that have already been held to be binding on the States. Consider the exclusionary rule. Although the exclusionary rule "is not an individual right," Herring v. United States, 555 U. S. ___ (2009) (slip op., at 5), but a "judicially created rule," id., at ___ (slip op., at 4), this Court made the rule applicable to the States. See Mapp, supra, at 660. The exclusionary rule is said to result in "tens of thousands of contested suppression motions each year." Stuntz, The Virtues and Vices of the Exclusionary Rule, 20 Harv. J. Law & Pub. Pol'y, 443, 444 (1997).
Municipal respondents assert that, although most state constitutions protect firearms rights, state courts have held that these rights are subject to "interest-balancing" and have sustained a variety of restrictions. Brief for Municipal Respondents 23--31. In Heller, however, we expressly rejected the argument that the scope of the Second Amendment right should be determined by judicial interest balancing, 554 U. S., at ___--___ (slip op., at 62--63), and this Court decades ago abandoned "the notion that the Fourteenth Amendment applies to the States only a watered-down, subjective version of the individual guarantees of the Bill of Rights," Malloy, supra, at 10--11 (internal quotation marks omitted).
As evidence that the Fourteenth Amendment has not historically been understood to restrict the authority of the States to regulate firearms, municipal respondents and supporting amici cite a variety of state and local firearms laws that courts have upheld. But what is most striking about their research is the paucity of precedent sustaining bans comparable to those at issue here and in Heller. Municipal respondents cite precisely one case (from the late 20th century) in which such a ban was sustained. See Brief for Municipal Respondents 26--27 (citing Kalodimos v. Morton Grove, 103 Ill. 2d 483, 470 N. E. 2d 266 (1984)); see also Reply Brief for Respondents NRA et al. 23, n. 7 (asserting that no other court has ever upheld a complete ban on the possession of handguns). It is important to keep in mind that Heller, while striking down a law that prohibited the possession of handguns in the home, recognized that the right to keep and bear arms is not "a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose." 554 U. S., at ___ (slip op., at 54). We made it clear in Heller that our holding did not cast doubt on such longstanding regulatory measures as "prohibitions on the possession of firearms by felons and the mentally ill," "laws forbidding the carrying of firearms in sensitive places such as schools and government buildings, or laws imposing conditions and qualifications on the commercial sale of arms." Id., at ___--___ (slip op., at 54--55). We repeat those assurances here. Despite municipal respondents' doomsday proclamations, incorporation does not imperil every law regulating firearms.
Municipal respondents argue, finally, that the right to keep and bear arms is unique among the rights set out in the first eight Amendments "because the reason for codifying the Second Amendment (to protect the militia) differs from the purpose (primarily, to use firearms to engage in self-defense) that is claimed to make the right implicit in the concept of ordered liberty." Brief for Municipal Respondents 36--37. Municipal respondents suggest that the Second Amendment right differs from the rights heretofore incorporated because the latter were "valued for [their] own sake." Id., at 33. But we have never previously suggested that incorporation of a right turns on whether it has intrinsic as opposed to instrumental value, and quite a few of the rights previously held to be incorporated-for example the right to counsel and the right to confront and subpoena witnesses-are clearly instrumental by any measure. Moreover, this contention repackages one of the chief arguments that we rejected in Heller, i.e., that the scope of the Second Amendment right is defined by the immediate threat that led to the inclusion of that right in the Bill of Rights. In Heller, we recognized that the codification of this right was prompted by fear that the Federal Government would disarm and thus disable the militias, but we rejected the suggestion that the right was valued only as a means of preserving the militias. 554 U. S., at ___ (slip op., at 26). On the contrary, we stressed that the right was also valued because the possession of firearms was thought to be essential for self-defense. As we put it, self-defense was "the central component of the right itself." Ibid.
We turn, finally, to the two dissenting opinions. JUSTICE STEVENS' eloquent opinion covers ground already addressed, and therefore little need be added in response. JUSTICE STEVENS would " 'ground the prohibitions against state action squarely on due process, without intermediate reliance on any of the first eight Amendments.' " Post, at 8 (quoting Malloy, 378 U. S., at 24 (Harlan, J., dissenting)). The question presented in this case, in his view, "is whether the particular right asserted by petitioners applies to the States because of the Fourteenth Amendment itself, standing on its own bottom." Post, at 27. He would hold that "[t]he rights protected against state infringement by the Fourteenth Amendment's Due Process Clause need not be identical in shape or scope to the rights protected against Federal Government infringement by the various provisions of the Bill of Rights." Post, at 9.
As we have explained, the Court, for the past half-century, has moved away from the two-track approach. If we were now to accept JUSTICE STEVENS' theory across the board, decades of decisions would be undermined. We assume that this is not what is proposed. What is urged instead, it appears, is that this theory be revived solely for the individual right that Heller recognized, over vigorous dissents.
The relationship between the Bill of Rights' guarantees and the States must be governed by a single, neutral principle. It is far too late to exhume what Justice Brennan, writing for the Court 46 years ago, derided as "the notion that the Fourteenth Amendment applies to the States only a watered-down, subjective version of the individual guarantees of the Bill of Rights." Malloy, supra, at 10--11 (internal quotation marks omitted).
JUSTICE BREYER's dissent makes several points to which we briefly respond. To begin, while there is certainly room for disagreement about Heller's analysis of the history of the right to keep and bear arms, nothing written since Heller persuades us to reopen the question there decided. Few other questions of original meaning have been as thoroughly explored.
JUSTICE BREYER's conclusion that the Fourteenth Amendment does not incorporate the right to keep and bear arms appears to rest primarily on four factors: First, "there is no popular consensus" that the right is fundamental, post, at 9; second, the right does not protect minorities or persons neglected by those holding political power, post, at 10; third, incorporation of the Second Amendment right would "amount to a significant incursion on a traditional and important area of state concern, altering the constitutional relationship between the States and the Federal Government" and preventing local variations, post, at 11; and fourth, determining the scope of the Second Amendment right in cases involving state and local laws will force judges to answer difficult empirical questions regarding matters that are outside their area of expertise, post, at 11--16. Even if we believed that these factors were relevant to the incorporation inquiry, none of these factors undermines the case for incorporation of the right to keep and bear arms for self-defense.
First, we have never held that a provision of the Bill of Rights applies to the States only if there is a "popular consensus" that the right is fundamental, and we see no basis for such a rule. But in this case, as it turns out, there is evidence of such a consensus. An amicus brief submitted by 58 Members of the Senate and 251 Members of the House of Representatives urges us to hold that the right to keep and bear arms is fundamental. See Brief for Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison et al. as Amici Curiae 4.
Another brief submitted by 38 States takes the same position. Brief for State of Texas et al. as Amici Curiae 6.
Second, petitioners and many others who live in high-crime areas dispute the proposition that the Second Amendment right does not protect minorities and those lacking political clout. The plight of Chicagoans living in high-crime areas was recently highlighted when two Illinois legislators representing Chicago districts called on the Governor to deploy the Illinois National Guard to patrol the City's streets.*fn31 The legislators noted that the number of Chicago homicide victims during the current year equaled the number of American soldiers killed during that same period in Afghanistan and Iraq and that 80% of the Chicago victims were black.*fn32 Amici supporting incorporation of the right to keep and bear arms contend that the right is especially important for women and members of other groups that may be especially vulnerable to violent crime.*fn33 If, as petitioners believe, their safety and the safety of other law-abiding members of the community would be enhanced by the possession of handguns in the home for self-defense, then the Second Amendment right protects the rights of minorities and other residents of high-crime areas whose needs are not being met by elected public officials.
Third, JUSTICE BREYER is correct that incorporation of the Second Amendment right will to some extent limit the legislative freedom of the States, but this is always true when a Bill of Rights provision is incorporated. Incorporation always restricts experimentation and local variations, but that has not stopped the Court from incorporating virtually every other provision of the Bill of Rights. "[T]he enshrinement of constitutional rights necessarily takes certain policy choices off the table." Heller, 554 U. S., at __ (slip op., at 64). This conclusion is no more remarkable with respect to the Second Amendment than it is with respect to all the other limitations on state power found in the Constitution.
Finally, JUSTICE BREYER is incorrect that incorporation will require judges to assess the costs and benefits of firearms restrictions and thus to make difficult empirical judgments in an area in which they lack expertise. As we have noted, while his opinion in Heller recommended an interest-balancing test, the Court specifically rejected that suggestion. See supra, at 38--39. "The very enumeration of the right takes out of the hands of government-even the Third Branch of Government-the power to decide on a case-by-case basis whether the right is really worth insisting upon." Heller, supra, at ___ (slip op., at 62--63).
In Heller, we held that the Second Amendment protects the right to possess a handgun in the home for the purpose of self-defense. Unless considerations of stare decisis counsel otherwise, a provision of the Bill of Rights that protects a right that is fundamental from an American perspective applies equally to the Federal Government and the States. See Duncan, 391 U. S., at 149, and n. 14. We therefore hold that the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment incorporates the Second Amendment right recognized in Heller. The judgment of the Court of Appeals is reversed, and the case is remanded for further proceedings.
JUSTICE SCALIA, concurring.
I join the Court's opinion. Despite my misgivings about Substantive Due Process as an original matter, I have acquiesced in the Court's incorporation of certain guarantees in the Bill of Rights "because it is both long established and narrowly limited." Albright v. Oliver, 510 U. S. 266, 275 (1994) (SCALIA, J., concurring). This case does not require me to reconsider that view, since straightforward application of settled doctrine suffices to decide it.
I write separately only to respond to some aspects of JUSTICE STEVENS' dissent. Not that aspect which disagrees with the majority's application of our precedents to this case, which is fully covered by the Court's opinion. But much of what JUSTICE STEVENS writes is a broad condemnation of the theory of interpretation which underlies the Court's opinion, a theory that makes the traditions of our people paramount. He proposes a different theory, which he claims is more "cautiou[s]" and respectful of proper limits on the judicial role. Post, at 57. It is that claim I wish to address.
After stressing the substantive dimension of what he has renamed the "liberty clause," post, at 4--7,*fn34 JUSTICE STEVENS proceeds to urge readoption of the theory of incorporation articulated in Palko v. Connecticut, 302 U. S. 319, 325 (1937), see post, at 14--20. But in fact he does not favor application of that theory at all. For whether Palko requires only that "a fair and enlightened system of justice would be impossible without" the right sought to be incorporated, 302 U. S., at 325, or requires in addition that the right be rooted in the "traditions and conscience of our people," ibid. (internal quotation marks omitted), many of the rights JUSTICE STEVENS thinks are incorporated could not pass muster under either test: abortion, post, at 7 (citing Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pa. v. Casey, 505 U. S. 833, 847 (1992)); homosexual sodomy, post, at 16 (citing Lawrence v. Texas, 539 U. S. 558, 572 (2003)); the right to have excluded from criminal trials evidence obtained in violation of the Fourth Amendment, post, at 18 (citing Mapp v. Ohio, 367 U. S. 643, 650, 655--657 (1961)); and the right to teach one's children foreign languages, post, at 7 (citing Meyer v. Nebraska, 262 U. S. 390, 399--403 (1923)), among others.
That JUSTICE STEVENS is not applying any version of Palko is clear from comparing, on the one hand, the rights he believes are covered, with, on the other hand, his conclusion that the right to keep and bear arms is not covered. Rights that pass his test include not just those "relating to marriage, procreation, contraception, family relationships, and child rearing and education," but also rights against "[g]overnment action that shocks the conscience, pointlessly infringes settled expectations, trespasses into sensitive private realms or life choices without adequate justification, [or] perpetrates gross injustice." Post, at 23 (internal quotation marks omitted). Not all such rights are in, however, since only "some fundamental aspects of personhood, dignity, and the like" are protected, post, at 24 (emphasis added). Exactly what is covered is not clear. But whatever else is in, he knows that the right to keep and bear arms is out, despite its being as "deeply rooted in this Nation's history and tradition," Washington v. Glucksberg, 521 U. S. 702, 721 (1997) (internal quotation marks omitted), as a right can be, see District of Columbia v. Heller, 554 U. S. ___, ___--___, ___--___, ___-- ___ (2008) (slip op., at 20--21, 26--30, 41--44). I can find no other explanation for such certitude except that JUSTICE STEVENS, despite his forswearing of "personal and private notions," post, at 21 (internal quotation marks omitted), deeply believes it should be out.
The subjective nature of JUSTICE STEVENS' standard is also apparent from his claim that it is the courts' prerogative-indeed their duty-to update the Due Process Clause so that it encompasses new freedoms the Framers were too narrow-minded to imagine, post, at 19--20, and n. 21. Courts, he proclaims, must "do justice to [the Clause's] urgent call and its open texture" by exercising the "interpretive discretion the latter embodies." Post, at 21. (Why the people are not up to the task of deciding what new rights to protect, even though it is they who are authorized to make changes, see U. S. Const., Art. V, is never explained.*fn35 ) And it would be "judicial abdication" for a judge to "tur[n] his back" on his task of determining what the Fourteenth Amendment covers by "outsourc[ing]" the job to "historical sentiment," post, at 20-that is, by being guided by what the American people throughout our history have thought. It is only we judges, exercising our "own reasoned judgment," post, at 15, who can be entrusted with deciding the Due Process Clause's scope- which rights serve the Amendment's "central values," post, at 23-which basically means picking the rights we want to protect and discarding those we do not.
JUSTICE STEVENS resists this description, insisting that his approach provides plenty of "guideposts" and "constraints" to keep courts from "injecting excessive subjectivity" into the process.*fn36 Post, at 21. Plenty indeed-and that alone is a problem. The ability of omnidirectional guideposts to constrain is inversely proportional to their number. But even individually, each lodestar or limitation he lists either is incapable of restraining judicial whimsy or cannot be squared with the precedents he seeks to preserve.
He begins with a brief nod to history, post, at 21, but as he has just made clear, he thinks historical inquiry unavailing, post, at 19--20. Moreover, trusting the meaning of the Due Process Clause to what has historically been protected is circular, see post, at 19, since that would mean no new rights could get in.
JUSTICE STEVENS moves on to the "most basic" constraint on subjectivity his theory offers: that he would "esche[w] attempts to provide any all-purpose, top-down, totalizing theory of 'liberty.' " Post, at 22. The notion that the absence of a coherent theory of the Due Process Clause will somehow curtail judicial caprice is at war with reason. Indeterminacy means opportunity for courts to impose whatever rule they like; it is the problem, not the solution. The idea that interpretive pluralism would reduce courts' ability to impose their will on the ignorant masses is not merely naïve, but absurd. If there are no right answers, there are no wrong answers either.
JUSTICE STEVENS also argues that requiring courts to show "respect for the democratic process" should serve as a constraint. Post, at 23. That is true, but JUSTICE STEVENS would have them show respect in an extraordinary manner. In his view, if a right "is already being given careful consideration in, and subjected to ongoing calibration by, the States, judicial enforcement may not be appropriate." Ibid. In other words, a right, such as the right to keep and bear arms, that has long been recognized but on which the States are considering restrictions, apparently deserves less protection, while a privilege the political branches (instruments of the democratic process) have withheld entirely and continue to withhold, deserves more. That topsy-turvy approach conveniently accomplishes the objective of ensuring that the rights this Court held protected in Casey, Lawrence, and other such cases fit the theory-but at the cost of insulting rather than respecting the democratic process.
The next constraint JUSTICE STEVENS suggests is harder to evaluate. He describes as "an important tool for guiding judicial discretion" "sensitivity to the interaction between the intrinsic aspects of liberty and the practical realities of contemporary society." Post, at 24. I cannot say whether that sensitivity will really guide judges because I have no idea what it is. Is it some sixth sense instilled in judges when they ascend to the bench? Or does it mean judges are more constrained when they agonize about the cosmic conflict between liberty and its potentially harmful consequences? Attempting to give the concept more precision, JUSTICE STEVENS explains that "sensitivity is an aspect of a deeper principle: the need to approach our work with humility and caution." Ibid. Both traits are undeniably admirable, though what relation they bear to sensitivity is a mystery. But it makes no difference, for the first case JUSTICE STEVENS cites in support, see ibid., Casey, 505 U. S., at 849, dispels any illusion that he has a meaningful form of judicial modesty in mind.
JUSTICE STEVENS offers no examples to illustrate the next constraint: stare decisis, post, at 25. But his view of it is surely not very confining, since he holds out as a "canonical" exemplar of the proper approach, see post, at 16, 54, Lawrence, which overruled a case decided a mere 17 years earlier, Bowers v. Hardwick, 478 U. S. 186 (1986), see 539 U. S., at 578 (it "was not correct when it was decided, and it is not correct today"). Moreover, JUSTICE STEVENS would apply that constraint unevenly: He apparently approves those Warren Court cases that adopted jotfor-jot incorporation of procedural protections for criminal defendants, post, at 11, but would abandon those Warren Court rulings that undercut his approach to substantive rights, on the basis that we have "cut back" on cases from that era before, post, at 12.
JUSTICE STEVENS also relies on the requirement of a "careful description of the asserted fundamental liberty interest" to limit judicial discretion. Post, at 25 (internal quotation marks omitted). I certainly agree with that requirement, see Reno v. Flores, 507 U. S. 292, 302 (1993), though some cases JUSTICE STEVENS approves have not applied it seriously, see, e.g., Lawrence, supra, at 562 ("The instant case involves liberty of the person both in its spatial and in its more transcendent dimensions"). But if the "careful description" requirement is used in the manner we have hitherto employed, then the enterprise of determining the Due Process Clause's "conceptual core," post, at 23, is a waste of time. In the cases he cites we sought a careful, specific description of the right at issue in order to determine whether that right, thus narrowly defined, was fundamental. See, e.g., Glucksberg, 521 U. S., at 722--728; Reno, supra, at 302--306; Collins v. Harker Heights, 503 U. S. 115, 125--129 (1992); Cruzan v. Director, Mo. Dept. of Health, 497 U. S. 261, 269--279 (1990); see also Vacco v. Quill, 521 U. S. 793, 801--808 (1997). The threshold step of defining the asserted right with precision is entirely unnecessary, however, if (as JUSTICE STEVENS maintains) the "conceptual core" of the "liberty clause," post, at 23, includes a number of capacious, hazily defined categories. There is no need to define the right with much precision in order to conclude that it pertains to the plaintiff's "ability independently to define [his] identity," his "right to make certain unusually important decisions that will affect his own, or his family's, destiny," or some aspect of his "[s]elf-determination, bodily integrity, freedom of conscience, intimate relationships, political equality, dignity [or] respect." Ibid. (internal quotation marks omitted). JUSTICE STEVENS must therefore have in mind some other use for the carefuldescription requirement-perhaps just as a means of ensuring that courts "procee[d] slowly and incrementally," post, at 25. But that could be achieved just as well by having them draft their opinions in longhand.*fn37
If JUSTICE STEVENS' account of the constraints of his approach did not demonstrate that they do not exist, his application of that approach to the case before us leaves no doubt. He offers several reasons for concluding that the Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms is not fundamental enough to be applied against the States.*fn38
None is persuasive, but more pertinent to my purpose, each is either intrinsically indeterminate, would preclude incorporation of rights we have already held incorporated, or both. His approach therefore does nothing to stop a judge from arriving at any conclusion he sets out to reach.
JUSTICE STEVENS begins with the odd assertion that "firearms have a fundamentally ambivalent relationship to liberty," since sometimes they are used to cause (or sometimes accidentally produce) injury to others. Post, at 35. The source of the rule that only nonambivalent liberties deserve Due Process protection is never explained- proof that judges applying JUSTICE STEVENS' approach can add new elements to the test as they see fit. The criterion, moreover, is inherently manipulable. Surely JUSTICE STEVENS does not mean that the Clause covers only rights that have zero harmful effect on anyone. Otherwise even the First Amendment is out. Maybe what he means is that the right to keep and bear arms imposes too great a risk to others' physical well-being. But as the plurality explains, ante, at 35--36, other rights we have already held incorporated pose similarly substantial risks to public safety. In all events, JUSTICE STEVENS supplies neither a standard for how severe the impairment on others' liberty must be for a right to be disqualified, nor (of course) any method of measuring the severity.
JUSTICE STEVENS next suggests that the Second Amendment right is not fundamental because it is "different in kind" from other rights we have recognized. Post, at 37. In one respect, of course, the right to keep and bear arms is different from some other rights we have held the Clause protects and he would recognize: It is deeply grounded in our nation's history and tradition. But JUSTICE STEVENS has a different distinction in mind: Even though he does "not doubt for a moment that many Americans . . . see [firearms] as critical to their way of life as well as to their security," he pronounces that owning a handgun is not "critical to leading a life of autonomy, dignity, or political equality."*fn39 Post, at 37--38. Who says?
Deciding what is essential to an enlightened, liberty-filled life is an inherently political, moral judgment-the antithesis of an objective approach that reaches conclusions by applying neutral rules to verifiable evidence.*fn40
No determination of what rights the Constitution of the United States covers would be complete, of course, without a survey of what other countries do. Post, at 40--41. When it comes to guns, JUSTICE STEVENS explains, our Nation is already an outlier among "advanced democracies"; not even our "oldest allies" protect as robust a right as we do, and we should not widen the gap. Ibid. Never mind that he explains neither which countries qualify as "advanced democracies" nor why others are irrelevant. For there is an even clearer indication that this criterion lets judges pick which rights States must respect and those they can ignore: As the plurality shows, ante, at 34--35, and nn. 28-- 29, this follow-the-foreign-crowd requirement would foreclose rights that we have held (and JUSTICE STEVENS accepts) are incorporated, but that other "advanced" nations do not recognize-from the exclusionary rule to the Establishment Clause. A judge applying JUSTICE STEVENS' approach must either throw all of those rights overboard or, as cases JUSTICE STEVENS approves have done in considering unenumerated rights, simply ignore foreign law when it undermines the desired conclusion, see, e.g., Casey, 505 U. S. 833 (making no mention of foreign law).
JUSTICE STEVENS also argues that since the right to keep and bear arms was codified for the purpose of "prevent[ing] elimination of the militia," it should be viewed as " 'a federalism provision' " logically incapable of incorporation. Post, at 41--42 (quoting Elk Grove Unified School Dist. v. Newdow, 542 U. S. 1, 45 (2004) (THOMAS, J., concurring in judgment); some internal quotation marks omitted). This criterion, too, evidently applies only when judges want it to. The opinion JUSTICE STEVENS quotes for the "federalism provision" principle, JUSTICE THOMAS's concurrence in Newdow, argued that incorporation of the Establishment Clause "makes little sense" because that Clause was originally understood as a limit on congressional interference with state establishments of religion. Id., at 49--51. JUSTICE STEVENS, of course, has no problem with applying the Establishment Clause to the States. See, e.g., id., at 8, n. 4 (opinion for the Court by STEVENS, J.) (acknowledging that the Establishment Clause "appl[ies] to the States by incorporation into the Fourteenth Amendment"). While he insists that Clause is not a "federalism provision," post, at 42, n. 40, he does not explain why it is not, but the right to keep and bear arms is (even though only the latter refers to a "right of the people"). The "federalism" argument prevents the incorporation of only certain rights.
JUSTICE STEVENS next argues that even if the right to keep and bear arms is "deeply rooted in some important senses," the roots of States' efforts to regulate guns run just as deep. Post, at 44 (internal quotation marks omitted). But this too is true of other rights we have held incorporated. No fundamental right-not even the First Amendment-is absolute. The traditional restrictions go to show the scope of the right, not its lack of fundamental character. At least that is what they show (JUSTICE STEVENS would agree) for other rights. Once again, principles are applied selectively.
JUSTICE STEVENS' final reason for rejecting incorporation of the Second Amendment reveals, more clearly than any of the others, the game that is afoot. Assuming that there is a "plausible constitutional basis" for holding that the right to keep and bear arms is incorporated, he asserts that we ought not to do so for prudential reasons. Post, at 47. Even if we had the authority to withhold rights that are within the Constitution's command (and we assuredly do not), two of the reasons JUSTICE STEVENS gives for abstention show just how much power he would hand to judges. The States' "right to experiment" with solutions to the problem of gun violence, he says, is at its apex here because "the best solution is far from clear." Post, at 47-- 48 (internal quotation marks omitted). That is true of most serious social problems-whether, for example, "the best solution" for rampant crime is to admit confessions unless they are affirmatively shown to have been coerced, but see Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U. S. 436, 444--445 (1966), or to permit jurors to impose the death penalty without a requirement that they be free to consider "any relevant mitigating factor," see Eddings v. Oklahoma, 455 U. S. 104, 112 (1982), which in turn leads to the conclusion that defense counsel has provided inadequate defense if he has not conducted a "reasonable investigation" into potentially mitigating factors, see, e.g., Wiggins v. Smith, 539 U. S. 510, 534 (2003), inquiry into which question tends to destroy any prospect of prompt justice, see, e.g., Wong v. Belmontes, 558 U. S. ___ (2009) (per curiam) (reversing grant of habeas relief for sentencing on a crime committed in 1981). The obviousness of the optimal answer is in the eye of the beholder. The implication of JUSTICE STEVENS' call for abstention is that if We The Court conclude that They The People's answers to a problem are silly, we are free to "interven[e]," post, at 47, but if we too are uncertain of the right answer, or merely think the States may be on to something, we can loosen the leash.
A second reason JUSTICE STEVENS says we should abstain is that the States have shown they are "capable" of protecting the right at issue, and if anything have protected it too much. Post, at 49. That reflects an assumption that judges can distinguish between a proper democratic decision to leave things alone (which we should honor), and a case of democratic market failure (which we should step in to correct). I would not-and no judge should-presume to have that sort of omniscience, which seems to me far more "arrogant," post, at 41, than confining courts' focus to our own national heritage.
JUSTICE STEVENS' response to this concurrence, post, at 51--56, makes the usual rejoinder of "living Constitution" advocates to the criticism that it empowers judges to eliminate or expand what the people have prescribed: The traditional, historically focused method, he says, reposes discretion in judges as well.*fn41 Historical analysis can be difficult; it sometimes requires resolving threshold questions, and making nuanced judgments about which evidence to consult and how to interpret it.
I will stipulate to that.*fn42 But the question to be decided is not whether the historically focused method is a perfect means of restraining aristocratic judicial Constitutionwriting; but whether it is the best means available in an imperfect world. Or indeed, even more narrowly than that: whether it is demonstrably much better than what JUSTICE STEVENS proposes. I think it beyond all serious dispute that it is much less subjective, and intrudes much less upon the democratic process. It is less subjective because it depends upon a body of evidence susceptible of reasoned analysis rather than a variety of vague ethicopolitical First Principles whose combined conclusion can be found to point in any direction the judges favor. In the most controversial matters brought before this Court-for example, the constitutionality of prohibiting abortion, assisted suicide, or homosexual sodomy, or the constitutionality of the death penalty-any historical methodology, under any plausible standard of proof, would lead to the same conclusion.*fn43 Moreover, the methodological differences that divide historians, and the varying interpretive assumptions they bring to their work, post, at 52--54, are nothing compared to the differences among the American people (though perhaps not among graduates of prestigious law schools) with regard to the moral judgments JUSTICE STEVENS would have courts pronounce. And whether or not special expertise is needed to answer historical questions, judges most certainly have no "comparative . . . advantage," post, at 24 (internal quotation marks omitted), in resolving moral disputes. What is more, his approach would not eliminate, but multiply, the hard questions courts must confront, since he would not replace history with moral philosophy, but would have courts consider both.
And the Court's approach intrudes less upon the democratic process because the rights it acknowledges are those established by a constitutional history formed by democratic decisions; and the rights it fails to acknowledge are left to be democratically adopted or rejected by the people, with the assurance that their decision is not subject to judicial revision. JUSTICE STEVENS' approach, on the other hand, deprives the people of that power, since whatever the Constitution and laws may say, the list of protected rights will be whatever courts wish it to be. After all, he notes, the people have been wrong before, post, at 55, and courts may conclude they are wrong in the future. JUSTICE STEVENS abhors a system in which "majorities or powerful interest groups always get their way," post, at 56, but replaces it with a system in which unelected and lifetenured judges always get their way. That such usurpation is effected unabashedly, see post, at 53-with "the judge's cards . . . laid on the table," ibid.-makes it even worse. In a vibrant democracy, usurpation should have to be accomplished in the dark. It is JUSTICE STEVENS' approach, not the Court's, that puts democracy in peril.
JUSTICE THOMAS, concurring in part and concurring in the judgment.
I agree with the Court that the Fourteenth Amendment makes the right to keep and bear arms set forth in the Second Amendment "fully applicable to the States." Ante, at 1. I write separately because I believe there is a more straightforward path to this conclusion, one that is more faithful to the Fourteenth Amendment's text and history.
Applying what is now a well-settled test, the plurality opinion concludes that the right to keep and bear arms applies to the States through the Fourteenth Amend-ment's Due Process Clause because it is "fundamental" to the American "scheme of ordered liberty," ante, at 19 (citing Duncan v. Louisiana, 391 U. S. 145, 149 (1968)), and " 'deeply rooted in this Nation's history and tradition,' " ante, at 19 (quoting Washington v. Glucksberg, 521 U. S. 702, 721 (1997)). I agree with that description of the right. But I cannot agree that it is enforceable against the States through a clause that speaks only to "process." Instead, the right to keep and bear arms is a privilege of American citizenship that applies to the States through the Fourteenth Amendment's Privileges or Immunities Clause.
In District of Columbia v. Heller, 554 U. S. ___ (2008), this Court held that the Second Amendment protects an individual right to keep and bear arms for the purpose of self-defense, striking down a District of Columbia ordinance that banned the possession of handguns in the home. Id., at __ (slip op., at 64). The question in this case is whether the Constitution protects that right against abridgment by the States.
As the Court explains, if this case were litigated before the Fourteenth Amendment's adoption in 1868, the answer to that question would be simple. In Barron ex rel. Tiernan v. Mayor of Baltimore, 7 Pet. 243 (1833), this Court held that the Bill of Rights applied only to the Federal Government. Writing for the Court, Chief Justice Marshall recalled that the founding generation added the first eight Amendments to the Constitution in response to Antifederalist concerns regarding the extent of federal- not state-power, and held that if "the framers of these amendments [had] intended them to be limitations on the powers of the state governments," "they would have declared this purpose in plain and intelligible language." Id., at 250. Finding no such language in the Bill, Chief Justice Marshall held that it did not in any way restrict state authority. Id., at 248--250; see Lessee of Livingston v. Moore, 7 Pet. 469, 551--552 (1833) (reaffirming Barron's holding); Permoli v. Municipality No. 1 of New Orleans, 3 How. 589, 609--610 (1845) (same).
Nearly three decades after Barron, the Nation was splintered by a civil war fought principally over the question of slavery. As was evident to many throughout our Nation's early history, slavery, and the measures designed to protect it, were irreconcilable with the principles of equality, government by consent, and inalienable rights proclaimed by the Declaration of Independence and embedded in our constitutional structure. See, e.g., 3 Records of the Federal Convention of 1787, p. 212 (M. Farrand ed. 1911) (remarks of Luther Martin) ("[S]lavery is inconsistent with the genius of republicanism, and has a tendency to destroy those principles on which it is supported, as it lessens the sense of the equal rights of mankind" (emphasis deleted)); A. Lincoln, Speech at Peoria, Ill. (Oct. 16, 1854), reprinted in 2 The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln 266 (R. Basler ed. 1953) ("[N]o man is good enough to govern another man, without that other's consent. I say this is the leading principle-the sheet anchor of American republicanism. . . . Now the relation of masters and slaves is, pro tanto, a total violation of this principle").
After the war, a series of constitutional amendments were adopted to repair the Nation from the damage slavery had caused. The provision at issue here, §1 of the Fourteenth Amendment, significantly altered our system of government. The first sentence of that section provides that "[a]ll persons born or naturalized in the United States and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside." This unambiguously overruled this Court's contrary holding in Dred Scott v. Sandford, 19 How. 393 (1857), that the Constitution did not recognize black Americans as citizens of the United States or their own State. Id., at 405--406.
The meaning of §1's next sentence has divided this Court for many years. That sentence begins with the command that "[n]o State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States." On its face, this appears to grant the persons just made United States citizens a certain collection of rights-i.e., privileges or immunities- attributable to that status.
This Court's precedents accept that point, but define the relevant collection of rights quite narrowly. In the Slaughter-House Cases, 16 Wall. 36 (1873), decided just five years after the Fourteenth Amendment's adoption, the Court interpreted this text, now known as the Privileges or Immunities Clause, for the first time. In a closely divided decision, the Court drew a sharp distinction between the privileges and immunities of state citizenship and those of federal citizenship, and held that the Privileges or Immunities Clause protected only the latter category of rights from state abridgment. Id., at 78. The Court defined that category to include only those rights "which owe their existence to the Federal government, its National character, its Constitution, or its laws." Id., at 79. This arguably left open the possibility that certain individual rights enumerated in the Constitution could be considered privileges or immunities of federal citizenship. See ibid. (listing "[t]he right to peaceably ...