The following legal decisions concern the law of self-defense. Some of the rulings are final and others are not. They’re presented here to be read for their excellent judicial logic about the absolute right of armed self-defense as established by the framers of the US Constitution.
[ Read the SemperVerus article, USA State Constitutions Providing for Armed Self-Defense ]
- US District Court for the Southern District of California ruling: Virginia Duncan, et al. v. Rob Bonta, Attorney General of the State of California (September 22, 2023) by US District Senior Judge Roger Benitez (pdf).
- This ruling says, “Removable firearm magazines of all sizes are necessary components of semiautomatic firearms. Therefore, magazines come within the text of the constitutional declaration that the right to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed. Because millions of removable firearm magazines able to hold between 10 and 30 rounds are commonly owned by law-abiding citizens for lawful purposes, including self-defense, and because they are reasonably related to service in the militia, the magazines are presumptively within the protection of the Second Amendment. There is no American history or tradition of regulating firearms based on the number of rounds they can shoot, or of regulating the amount of ammunition that can be kept and carried. The best analogue that can be drawn from historical gun laws are the early militia equipment regulations that required all able-bodied citizens to equip themselves with a gun and a minimum amount of ammunition in excess of 10 rounds.”
“One government solution to a few mad men with guns is a law that makes into criminals responsible, law-abiding people wanting larger magazines simply to protect themselves. The history and tradition of the Second Amendment clearly supports state laws against the use or misuse of firearms with unlawful intent, but not the disarmament of the law-abiding citizen. That kind of a solution is an infringement on the Constitutional right of citizens to keep and bear arms. The adoption of the Second Amendment was a freedom calculus decided long ago by our first citizens who cherished individual freedom with its risks more than the subservient security of a British ruler or the smothering safety of domestic lawmakers. The freedom they fought for was worth fighting for then, and that freedom is entitled to be preserved still.” *
[ Read SemperVerus articles on the subject of the 2nd Amendment ]
- US District Court for the Southern District of California, Southern Division ruling: Lance Boland, Mario Santellan, Reno May, Jerome Schammel, and California Rifle & Pistol Association, Incorporated, v. Robert Bonta, Attorney General of the State of California, and Does 1-10 (March 20, 2023) by US District Judge Cormac J. Carney (pdf).
- This ruling says “the Second Amendment enshrines a fundamental constitutional right for law abiding citizens to keep and bear arms for self-defense. Increasingly in modern times, with ‘the ubiquity of guns and our country’s high level of gun violence,’ ordinary lawabiding people feel a need to possess handguns to protect themselves against violence. The right to possess firearms for protection implies a corresponding right to acquire and maintain proficiency in their use, the core right wouldn’t mean much without the training and practice that makes it effective.” *
- US District Court for the District of Delaware ruling: John Rigby, Alan Knight, and Firearms Policy Coalition, Inc. v. Kathy Jennings, Attorney General of Delaware (September 23, 2022) by District Judge Maryellen Noreika (pdf).
- This ruling says “the right to keep and bear arms implies a corresponding right to manufacture arms. Indeed, the right to keep and bear arms would be meaningless if no individual or entity could manufacture a firearm.” *
- US Supreme Court ruling: New York State Rifle & Pistol Association, Inc., et al. v. Bruen, Superintendent of New York State Police, et al. (June 23, 2022) by Justice Clarence Thomas (pdf).
- This ruling says the Second and Fourteenth Amendments protect an individual’s right to carry a handgun for self-defense outside the home; and reiterates earlier rulings that individual self-defense is “the central component” of the Second Amendment’s “unqualified command.” *
[ Read the SemperVerus article, US Supreme Court Affirms Right to Carry Arms in Public for Self-Defense ]
- US Supreme Court ruling: District of Columbia, et al., v. Dick Anthony Heller (June 26, 2008) by Associate Justice Antonin Scalia (pdf).
- This ruling says the Second Amendment to the US Constitution should be read to guarantee an individual’s right to possess and carry weapons in case of confrontation; that the “inherent right to self-defense” is a critical component of the Second Amendment; and that the handgun is the “quintessential self-defense weapon.” *
- US Supreme Court ruling: McDonald, et al., v. City of Chicago, Illinois, (June 28, 2010) by Associate Justice Samuel Alito (pdf).
- This ruling says rights that are “fundamental to the Nation’s scheme of ordered liberty” or that are “deeply rooted in this Nation’s history and tradition” are appropriately applied to the states through the Fourteenth Amendment. The Court recognized in Heller that the right to self-defense was one such “fundamental” and “deeply rooted” right. *
- US Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas’s dissent in the cert denial of Rogers v. Grewal (June 15, 2020) (pdf).
- “The right to ‘bear arms’ refers to the right to ‘wear, bear, or carry upon the person or in the clothing or in a pocket, for the purpose of being armed and ready for offensive or defensive action in a case of conflict with another person’….Cases and treatises from England, the founding era, and the antebellum period confirm that the right to bear arms includes the right to carry in public….[I]n several jurisdictions throughout the country, law-abiding citizens have been barred from exercising the fundamental right to bear arms because they cannot show that they have a ‘justifiable need’ or ‘good reason’ for doing so. One would think that such an onerous burden on a fundamental right would warrant this Court’s review. This Court would almost certainly review the constitutionality of a law requiring citizens to establish a justifiable need before exercising their free speech rights….But today, faced with a petition challenging just such a restriction on citizens’ Second Amendment rights, the Court simply looks the other way.”
- US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruling: Virginia Duncan, et al., v. State of California (August 14, 2020) by Circuit Judge Kenneth K. Lee (pdf).
- This ruling declared that firearm magazines are protected arms under the Second Amendment, and that magazine capacities of more than 10 rounds are commonly owned and typically used for lawful purposes, and are not “unusual arms” that would fall outside the scope of the Second Amendment; “California’s almost blanket ban on [such magazines] goes too far in substantially burdening the people’s right to self-defense.” *
- US District Court for the Southern District of California ruling: Virginia Duncan, et al., v. State of California (March 29, 2019) by US District Judge Roger T. Benitez (pdf).
- This ruling declared that a California state voter-approved ban on gun magazines of more than 10-round capacity was unconstitutional; a violation of the Second Amendment. *
- US District Court for the Southern District of California ruling: Rhode v. Becerra (April 23, 2020) by US District Judge Roger T. Benitez (pdf)
- This ruling says “California’s ammunition background check law defies common sense while unduly and severely burdening the Second Amendment rights of every responsible, gun-owning citizen desiring to lawfully buy ammunition.”
- US District Court for the Southern District of California ruling: Miller v. Bonta (June 4, 2021) by US District Judge Roger T. Benitez (pdf)
- This ruling says “Like the Swiss Army Knife, the popular AR-15 rifle is a perfect combination of home defense weapon and homeland defense equipment. Good for both home and battle, the AR-15 is the kind of versatile gun that lies at the intersection of the kinds of firearms protected under District of Columbia v. Heller, 554 U.S. 570 (2008) and United States v Miller, 307 U.S. 174 (1939)….You might not know it, but this case is about what should be a muscular constitutional right and whether a state can force a gun policy choice that impinges on that right with a 30-year-old failed experiment. It should be an easy question and answer. Government is not free to impose its own new policy choices on American citizens where Constitutional rights are concerned. As Heller explains, the Second Amendment takes certain policy choices and removes them beyond the realm of permissible state action. California may certainly conceive of a policy that a modern rifle is dangerous in the hands of a criminal, and that therefore it is good public policy to keep modern rifles out of the hands of every citizen. The Second Amendment stands as a shield from government imposition of that policy….There is only one policy enshrined in the Bill of Rights. Guns and ammunition in the hands of criminals, tyrants, and terrorists are dangerous; guns in the hands of law-abiding responsible citizens are better. To give full life to the core right of self-defense, every law-abiding responsible individual citizen has a constitutionally protected right to keep and bear firearms commonly owned and kept for lawful purposes.” *
- US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruling: Young v. State of Hawaii (July 24, 2018) by Senior US Circuit Judge Diarmuid Fionntain O’Scannlain (pdf)
- This ruling says the US Second Amendment protects the right to carry a gun openly in public for self-defense. *
- Illinois Second Judicial Circuit ruling: Illinois v. Vivian Claudine Brown (April 26, 2021) by Illinois Circuit Judge T. Scott Webb (pdf)
- This ruling states, “The Bill of Rights to the Constitution of the United States….is ground zero for the convergence of order and liberty….If the right to bear arms and self-defense are truly core rights, there should be no burden on the citizenry to enjoy those rights.” *
[ Read the SemperVerus article, The 5 Elements of Self-Defense Law ]
Learn about USA state gun laws at
See a summary of legal action on the Firearms Policy Coalition Legal website
Is Provided by US District Judge Douglas P. Woodlock in McCarthy v. Baker
➢ The Second Amendment to the United States Constitution provides:
A well-regulated Militia being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms shall not be infringed.
➢ The Second Amendment “guarantee[s] the individual right to possess and carry weapons in case of confrontation.” District of Columbia v. Heller, 554 U.S. 570, 592 (2008).
➢ The Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution provides in pertinent part:
No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.
➢ The Second Amendment “is fully applicable to the States.” McDonald v. City of Chicago, 561 U.S. 742, 750 (2010); see also id. at 805 (Thomas, J., concurring).
➢ The “core lawful purpose” of the right to keep and bear arms is “self-defense.” Heller, 554 U.S. at 571, 630; accord McDonald, 561 U.S. at 767-68.
➢ The Second Amendment “elevates above all other interests the right of law-abiding, responsible citizens to use arms in defense of hearth and home.” Heller, 554 U.S. at 635.
➢ “Commercial regulations on the sale of firearms do not fall outside the scope of the Second Amendment[.]” United States v. Marzzarella, 614 F.3d 85, 92 n.8 (3d Cir. 2010). Rather, “prohibiting the commercial sale of firearms . . . would be untenable under Heller.” Id.
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