A Race to the 2nd Amendment

An interview with Prof. Darrell A. H. Miller

The text of the Second Amendment is racially neutral, gun laws and regulation have a complicated connection to race and racial bias in the United States tracing back to reconstruction and slavery. In this interview,  Duke Law Professor Darrell Miller explores how the Constitutional right to bear arms intersects with race and the relationship between gun regulations and racial discrimination, both historically and today.

Professor Miller, a constitutional law scholar and co-director of the Duke Center for Firearms Law, begins by acknowledging the undeniable fact that certain regulations have explicitly targeted African-Americans. These laws, dating back to the post-Civil War era, were designed to disarm Black individuals and maintain racial hierarchies. The discussion then shifts to modern implications, where Professor Miller highlights how historical injustices can resonate in today's legal landscape. He examines the disproportionate impact of current gun regulations on minority communities, emphasizing that while laws have evolved, unbalanced enforcement can perpetuate racial disparities. However, Miller cautions against overreading this history to conclude that all gun laws are racially motivated or fundamentally undermined by it.

Throughout the interview, Professor Miller also addresses the broader constitutional implications, including the balance between individual rights and public safety. He touches on recent Supreme Court decisions that have sparked renewed scrutiny on the Second Amendment, particularly concerning race. By providing historical context and contemporary analysis, Miller offers a nuanced perspective on how race and gun rights intersect in America.


  • Attorney CLE accreditation 

  1. Black Codes: Laws passed after the Emancipation in 1865 that made it difficult for freed persons of color to own guns, among other restrictions

  2. Mulford Act: A California law enacted in 1967 that prohibited the carrying of loaded firearms in public

Cases Discussed:

  1. District of Columbia v. Heller (2008): A landmark Supreme Court case that affirmed an individual's right to possess firearms for lawful purposes, such as self-defense within the home.

    • Significance: This case was pivotal in interpreting the Second Amendment as protecting an individual's right to keep and bear arms.

  2. McDonald v. City of Chicago (2010):

    • Description: A Supreme Court case that determined whether the Second Amendment applies to the states through the Fourteenth Amendment.

    • Significance: The Court held that the Second Amendment is fully applicable to the states, further solidifying individual gun rights.

  3. New York State Rifle & Pistol Association Inc. v. Bruen (2022):

    • Description: A Supreme Court case that challenged New York's stringent regulations on carrying concealed handguns in public.

    • Significance: The Court ruled that the Second Amendment protects an individual's right to carry a handgun for self-defense outside the home, striking down New York's requirement for applicants to demonstrate a special need for self-protection.

  4. United States v. Rahimi Case (pending at the time of taping):

    • Description: This case examines the intersection of domestic violence and gun rights, focusing on the legality and enforcement of disarming individuals under domestic violence protection orders.

    • Significance: It brings renewed attention to how victim safety measures align with constitutional protections and due process requirements.

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