Faculty Journal Articles and Book Chapters


After Donald Trump supporters breached the U.S. Capitol on January 6 wielding weapons including tasers, chemical sprays, knives, police batons, and baseball bats, Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) remarked that the insurrection “didn’t seem . . . armed.” Johnson, who is A-rated by the National Rifle Association (NRA), observed, “When you hear the word ‘armed,’ don’t you think of firearms?” For many, the answer is likely yes.

This essay describes how the gun rights movement has contributed to the conflation of arms and firearms. In doing so, it shows how that conflation is flatly inconsistent with the most important legal context for arms — the Second Amendment. Neglecting non-gun arms obscures how Americans actually own, carry, and use weapons for self-defense and elevates guns over less lethal alternatives that receive constitutional protection under District of Columbia v. Heller. Now is the time to place gun rights into the broader Second Amendment context, on the eve of the Supreme Court’s next big Second Amendment case, New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. Corlett.

Publication Title

Brennan Center for Justice

Document Type



Second Amendment, Popular Movements, Firearms, Supreme Court



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