William & Mary Bill of Rights Journal
Can Congress Regulate Firearms?: Printz v. United States and the Intersection of the Commerce Clause, the Tenth Amendment, and the Second Amendment
The recent U.S. Supreme Court decision in Printz v. United States restricted congressional legislative authority by striking down the interim provisions of the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act. The decision followed United States v. Lopez, in which the Court struck down the Gun-Free School Zones Act. In both cases, the Court restricted the congressional Commerce Power and renewed the strength of the Tenth Amendment in protecting states' rights from federal intrusion.
Because both cases involved statutes regulating firearms, however, they also raised important questions regarding the Second Amendment. Following the Lopez decision, some commentators argued that both the Tenth and Second Amendments restrict Congress'ability to regulate firearms. Now, after Printz, commentators are likely to argue again that the Court has placed a further significant restriction on federal firearms regulation.
This Note argues that, while Printz raised important questions about the Commerce Power, the Tenth Amendment, and the Second Amendment, Congress' authority to regulate firearms remains substantially intact. The Note demonstrates this by examining the Printz case in the context of the Court's developing Tenth Amendment/Commerce Clause jurisprudence and its longstanding Second Amendment jurisprudence. The Note also proposes that the Supreme Court should reaffirm clearly its "states' rights" interpretation of the Second Amendment to settle the debate over Congress' authority to regulate firearms.