The Bill of Rights, including the Second Amendment,
originally applied only to the Federal Government. In Barron ex rel. Tiernan v. Mayor of Baltimore, 7 Pet. 243
(1833), the Court, in an opinion by Chief Justice Marshall, explained that this question was “of great importance” but “not of much difficulty.” Id., at 247. In less than four
pages, the Court firmly rejected the proposition that the first eight Amendments operate as limitations on the States, holding that they apply only to the Federal Government. See also Lessee of Livingston v. Moore, 7 Pet.
469, 551–552 (1833) (“[I]t is now settled that those amend-
ments [in the Bill of Rights] do not extend to the states”).
The constitutional Amendments adopted in the after-
math of the Civil War fundamentally altered our country’s
federal system. The provision at issue in this case, §1 of
the Fourteenth Amendment, provides, among other
things, that a State may not abridge “the privileges or
immunities of citizens of the United States” or deprive
“any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.”