The Supreme Court will soon decide whether there is a Second Amendment right to carry firearms and other weapons in public places, a question it has yet to weigh in on. A pending case, New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. Bruen, involves restrictions on concealed-carry permits. To decide it, the Court will need to determine whether the Second Amendment applies outside the home. As the studies show, the answer has profound implications not just for public safety but also for constitutional democracy. As courts and legislatures consider gun regulations, they ought to bear in mind not just the physical dangers of armed protests but also the social harms associated with them. For many—perhaps an increasing number of—Americans, participation in armed public protests may simply not be worth the risk. Even if public protest survives, only those willing to risk their life, or who are inclined and able to carry weapons in defense of their own right to protest, may want to participate. Rather than serving as a democratizing means of expression, protest may become an armed contest and the exclusive preserve of the non-peaceable. Most concerning is that public protest as we know it may cease to exist at all. That would deprive Americans of participating in one of the greatest traditions of this country: expressing their views, engaging in public life, and advocating for democratic change.

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