In a landmark decision today, the US Supreme Court extended the Second Amendment right to bear arms nationwide.

To understand the importance of this decision, a little constitutional law history is necessary.  Like the other rights enshrined in the Bill of Rights, the Second Amendment right to bear arms applied originally only against the Federal government.  It was only with the Reconstruction-era passage of the Fourteenth Amendment that certain of the rights set forth in the Bill of Rights began to be seen as applicable against the States as well.  This process is known as “incorporation”.  But even today, not all of the Federal Constitutional rights have been incorporated into the Fourteenth Amendment.  Incorporation has been limited to those rights (freedom of speech, etc.) that were deemed “fundamental rights”. 

As of today, the Second Amendment has (at least to some extent), been incorporated into the 14th Amendment. 

Justice Samuel Alito, writing for the Court, said that the Second Amendment right “applies equally to the federal government and the states.”

The Court was split along familiar ideological lines, with five conservative-moderate justices in favor of gun rights and four liberals opposed. Chief Justice Roberts voted with the majority.

The full extent of the “incorporation” is not immediately clear, as the specific holding of the case was limited to the right of Americans to own a gun for self-defense anywhere they live.