Text, History, and Tradition: What the Seventh Amendment Can Teach Us About the Second


In District of Columbia v. Heller and McDonald v. City of Chicago, the Supreme

Court made seemingly irreconcilable demands on lower courts: evaluate Second Amendment

claims through history, avoid balancing, and retain as much regulation as possible. To date,

lower courts have been unable to devise a test that satisfies all three of these conditions. Worse,

the emerging default candidate, intermediate scrutiny, is a test that many jurists and scholars

consider exceedingly manipulable.

This Article argues that courts could look to the Supreme Court’s Seventh Amendment

jurisprudence, and in particular the Seventh Amendment’s “historical test,” to help them devise a

test for the Second. The historical test relies primarily on analogical reasoning from text, history,

and tradition to determine the constitutionality of any given practice or regulation. Yet the

historical test is supple enough to respond to the demands of a twenty-first-century judicial

system. As such, it provides valuable insights, but also its own set of problems, for those judges

and scholars struggling to implement the right to keep and bear arms.

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