Parsing the Second Amendment After Parkland


One came bearing the message of who can carry and what they can carry; the other came with an interpretation of the founding framers’ words and witness to a culture that vilifies those with whom it doesn’t agree in a debate at the University of Miami School of Law last Wednesday.

Professor Mary Anne Franks

Miami Law’s Mary Anne Franks, a criminal law professor and Second Amendment expert, argued that society has many names for groups of people seek to impose their radical vision of a certain religious text on the world: fundamentalists, extremists, terrorists. But non-religious texts can also inspire cult-like devotion, and this is what has happened with the Second Amendment.

“According to the cult of the Second Amendment, no sacrifice is too great – not even dead children – to protect its ahistorical and self-serving belief in an unlimited right to deadly weapons,” Franks said.

Alan Gura, a Georgetown Law adjunct professor who has successfully argued two Second Amendment cases before the U.S. Supreme Court, focused his opening remarks on two issues: the type of arms he believes people are entitled to have under the amendment and who exactly are “the people” of the Second Amendment, he said.

“Does that right include all people or do we make the distinction that there are some people who we can deprive of the right?” said Guru, who argued the same point in District of Columbia v. Heller in front of the U.S. Supreme Court.

The discussion, billed as “Come Heller High Water,” came at a seminal moment in the wake of the tragedy in Parkland, Florida, and unpacked what may or may not be meant by “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.”

“Second Amendment extremists ignore the fact that the idea that the Second Amendment conferred an individual right to own weapons was not seriously promoted by anyone - including the NRA - before the 1960s,” Franks said. “For the vast majority of our country's history, the Second Amendment was assumed to be a collective right of the people to defend themselves against the threat of a tyrannical government.”