Second Amendment Animus

Jacob D. Charles | August 29, 2021

The Supreme Court’s animus doctrine has proven surprisingly adaptive. The Court has employed the doctrine not just in the typical equal protection context from which it arose, but also to claims that religious conduct or beliefs are the target of legislative hostility. Animus law and scholarship are flourishing after several invocations of the doctrine in the high Court’s recent Terms. Coinciding with these developments, gun-rights advocates and other supporters have increasingly railed against the hostility with which they believe government officials are treating the Second Amendment. This Essay connects these developments, mapping three types of gun-supporter claims that sound in an animus register: claims about hostility toward guns, gun owners, and gun rights. It argues, however, that Second Amendment doctrine should not incorporate the blossoming animus rationale into its methodological framework. Typical gun laws are not likely to arise from legislative hostility toward guns, their owners, or gun rights, and the customary Second Amendment framework employing motive-blind means–end scrutiny is sufficient to weed out any anomalous laws that may arise from improper motive.