Honors Theses

Date of Award


Document Type

Undergraduate Thesis


Political Science

First Advisor

John Winkle

Relational Format



In this thesis, I describe the history of debate surrounding the interpretation of the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution, leading up to the United States Supreme Court weighing in on the issue in the case of District of Columbia v. Heller (2009). To find information for my study I examined many scholarly historical and legal journals Second Amendment interpretation. I chose to use as my sources journals which I felt were most representative of the oppposing sides in the debate. I also gained information from newspaper articles on the Heller case as it evolved, both to learn about the background of the case and, after the case was announced, to learn about the effects of the case. I also examined texts of specific court cases, including, most notably, Heller, Miller, and Emerson. Of note, I spoke briefly with Mr. Heller and his lawyers outside the Supreme Court just after the Court announced its decision. They were helpful in guiding me to the importance of Emerson both in providing a pathway for the Heller case to reach the Supreme Court, and in how its arguments had such an influence on the Court’s final opinion. I found that the lower court rulings of Silviera and Emerson were influential in the issue reaching the Supreme Court because of their opposing interpretations of the meaning of the Second Amendment and because of the extensive research they both used to support their disputing claims. I examine the opinion of the Supreme Court in District of Columbia v. Heller (2009) and the extent of its influence. While the decision was landmark because it definitively interpreted the Second Amendment right to bear arms as individual, the ruling’s practical effect so far has been limited.

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