Lesson Plan: Second Amendment Supreme Court Cases: DC v Heller and McDonald v Chicago

The Gun Debate and the Second Amendment

University of New Hampshire Law Professor John Garvey explained the Constitutional issues surrounding the debate over gun regulations and restrictions.


The D.C. v. Heller and McDonald v. Chicago Supreme Court cases addressed issues relating to an individual's right to bear arms and the incorporation of the Second Amendment to the Constitution. This lesson has students use C-SPAN video clips of attorneys and law professors discussing the cases to learn about the precedents established in the cases and apply those standards to current gun control topics.


  • WARM-UP:

    Begin class by having students perform the task below in order to engage the class in a discussion about the multiple interpretations of the text.

    • Read the text of the Second Amendment and provide a 1-2 sentence summary of what it means.

    “A well-regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”


    After reviewing and discussing students' interpretation of the Second Amendment, students will view the following three clips and answer the guiding questions. Students can also access these videos and questions using the Second Amendment Supreme Court Cases Handout.

    HANDOUT: Second Amendment Supreme Court Cases (Google Doc)

  • VIDEO CLIP 1: The Gun Debate and the Second Amendment (3:17)

    • Describe the events that led to recent Supreme Court cases regarding the Second Amendment.

    • According to Professor Garvey, what was the major Constitutional question that was debated on this topic? How did D.C. v. Heller address this issue?

    • What did the D.C. v. Heller ruling say about regulation of guns?

    • According to Professor Garvey, what Constitutional questions did the D.C. v. Heller ruling not address?
  • VIDEO CLIP 2: Comparing the Heller and McDonald Supreme Court Cases (3:10)

    • Describe the events and ruling in the District of Columbia v. Heller case.

    • Describe the events and ruling in the McDonald v. Chicago case.

    • How were these cases similar and different?
  • VIDEO CLIP 3: McDonald v. Chicago and Local Gun Restrictions (2:20)

    • Describe the precedent set in the D.C. v. Heller case.

    • What restrictions did the city of Chicago have on firearms?

    • What arguments did Chicago make in this case?

    • Describe the ruling in McDonald v. Chicago.

    Review the answers and information from the introductory videos and address any misconceptions.

    Have the students watch the video clips dealing with the two cases. Using the chart take notes on the impact of the cases and Constitutional questions/issues not addressed in the cases. Students can also be assigned videos and present their information to the class.



    As a class discussion or written assignment, have the students respond to the following prompt. Students should be able to support their arguments with information from the video clips.

    • Based on the precedents in D.C. v. Heller and McDonald v. Chicago, what specific types of gun regulations should be permissible?

    Gun Control Legislation Research- Research a state law relating to gun control. Students can research specific state gun control laws using the Giffords Law Center website. For chosen law provide the following:

    • Summary of the law/policy and the specific restrictions

    • How it relates to D.C. v. Heller and McDonald v. Chicago

    • Using the precedents set in the cases and the two-part test adopted by most federal courts (Does it implicate the Second Amendment and does it burden the right to bear arms?), evaluate whether this law should be Constitutionally permissible?

    • How were the D.C. v. Heller and McDonald v. Chicago cases similar and different?

    • How did the McDonald v. Chicago case use the precedent set in D.C. v. Heller to expand Second Amendment rights?

    • In your opinion, was D.C. v. Heller decided correctly? Explain your answer.

    • Should regulations regarding firearms be implemented at the state or national level? Provide support for your arguments.

Additional Resources


  • Assault Weapons
  • D. C. V. Heller
  • Due Process Doctrine
  • Enumerated
  • Felon
  • Firearms
  • Granting Cert
  • Gun Control
  • Handguns
  • High-capacity Magazine
  • Incorporation
  • Incorporation Doctrine
  • Intermediate Scrutiny
  • Jurisdictions
  • Libertarians
  • Mcdonald V. Chicago
  • Militia
  • Municipalities
  • Precedent
  • Regulation
  • Right To Bear Arms
  • Second Amendment
  • Security
  • Self-defense
  • Strict Scrutiny
  • Time Place And Manner
  • Unconstitutional
  • Writ Of Certiorari


Constitutional FoundationGun Rights & Firearm LegislationSupreme Court Cases


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