Volume 98, Number 6

December 2023

Is Bruen Constitutional? On the Methodology that Saved Most Gun Licensing

Adam M. Samaha

Last Term, the U.S. Supreme Court decided a significant Second Amendment case after more than a decade of waiting. The Court’s majority coalition attempted to prevent judges from using deferential means-ends scrutiny and redirect their attention to enacted text, old examples, and analogies thereto. Yet the Court condemned outlier “may-issue” firearm licensing and, at the same time, preserved popular “shall-issue” licensing. That split result seems incompatible with some of the majority’s surface-level methodological commitments. Actually, to craft its holding, the majority deployed a wider range of considerations than text, history, and analogy, even apart from any extra-legal policy preferences that might have mattered. Such methodological inclusiveness is typical in modern constitutional adjudication, of course. But this case raises hard questions about which of the apparently legal considerations used to decide constitutional cases are themselves “constitutional” and which are not, along with how to understand the relationship between them. Perhaps “constitutional considerations” are so inclusive as to not be so special, or else “non-constitutional considerations” are no less supreme than their companions. Dilemmas appear either way, and for us all.