True Threats, Self-Defense, and the Second Amendment

  • Jan 2021
  • 7 Pages


Does the Second Amendment protect those who threaten others by negligently or recklessly wielding firearms? What line separates constitutionally legitimate gun displays from threatening activities that can be legally proscribed? This article finds guidance in the First Amendment doctrine of true threats, which permits punishment of “statements where the speaker means to communicate a serious expression of an intent to commit an act of unlawful violence to a particular individual or group of individual.” The Second Amendment, like the First, should not be read to protect those who threaten unlawful violence. And to the degree that the constitution requires a culpable mental state (mens rea) in such circumstances, the appropriate standard should be recklessness.


1. T. Armus, and K. Bellware, “St. Louis Couple Point Guns at Crowd of Protesters Calling for Mayor to Resign,” Washington Post, June 29, 2020, available at <> (last visited September 9, 2020).

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