Explore The NRA Universe Of Websites

APPEARS IN Legal & Legislation

Supreme Court Hears Arguments in D.C. Gun Ban Case

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Fairfax, Va.-Today, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in District of Columbia v. Heller, a case the Court has stated is "limited to the following question: Whether Washington, D.C.'s bans [on handguns, on having guns in operable condition in the home and on carrying guns within the home] violate the Second Amendment rights of individuals who are not affiliated with any state-regulated militia, but who wish to keep handguns and other firearms for private use in their homes." 

The case came before the Supreme Court on appeal by the District of Columbia, after a panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit declared the city's gun bans unconstitutional. The panel's decision was upheld by the full Court of Appeals. 

The Court of Appeals decision--consistent with the views of the Framers of the Bill of Rights, respected legal commentators of the 19th century, the Supreme Court's ruling in U.S. v. Cruikshank (1876), numerous court decisions of the 19th century, the Supreme Court's ruling in U.S. v. Miller (1939), the position of the U.S. Department of Justice, and the vast majority of Second Amendment scholars today—concluded that "the Second Amendment protects an individual right to keep and bear arms. That right existed prior to the formation of the new government under the Constitution and was premised on the private use of arms for activities such as hunting and self-defense, the latter being understood as resistance to either private lawlessness or the depredations of a tyrannical government (or a threat from abroad)." 

In today's argument, the Justices aggressively questioned advocates for all sides, including Walter Dellinger for the District, Solicitor General Paul Clement for the Department of Justice, and Alan Gura for the plaintiffs challenging D.C.'s law. 

While it would be a mistake to predict the outcome of a case from questions at oral argument, some justices' questions clearly suggested where they stand—as when Chief Justice John Roberts, questioning the District's Dellinger, scoffed at the idea that a citizen awakened by an intruder in the middle of the night could "turn on the lamp … pick up [his] reading glasses," and disengage a trigger lock.  Dellinger back-pedaled from D.C.'s longstanding position that its laws prohibit self-defense, claiming that D.C. actually supports citizens having functional firearms for defense. 

Justices extensively questioned all three attorneys on the meaning and effect of the Second Amendment's "militia clause," with Dellinger taking the extreme position that unless a state "had attributes of [a state] militia contrary to a Federal law," the Second Amendment would have no effect as a restraint on legislation.  Several justices seemed to disagree strongly with that view, with Justice Antonin Scalia noting that even if the militia clause describes the purpose of the Second Amendment, it's not unusual for a law to be written more broadly than necessary for its main purpose. 

Justice Anthony Kennedy questioned the attorneys very actively, especially on the importance of self-defense in the Founding era.  Justice Kennedy suggested that even the Supreme Court's 1939 Miller decision—which gun control advocates have often wrongly cited as protecting only a "collective" right—was "deficient" and may not have addressed the "interests that must have been foremost in the Framers' minds when they were concerned about guns being taken away from the people who needed them for their defense." 

Plaintiffs' attorney Gura—in addition to responding to many hypothetical questions—noted that the Second Amendment was clearly derived from common law rights described by Blackstone and other 18th Century commentators.  Although the militia clause "gives us some guide post as to how we look at the Second Amendment," Gura said, "it's not the exclusive purpose of the Second Amendment."

NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre and NRA-ILA Executive Director Chris Cox (who both attended the arguments) commented, "Washington, D.C.'s ban on keeping handguns and functional firearms in the home for self-defense is unreasonable and unconstitutional under any standard. We remain hopeful that the Supreme Court will agree with the overwhelming majority of the American people, more than 300 members of Congress, 31 state attorneys general and the NRA that the Second Amendment protects the fundamental, individual right to keep and bear arms, and that Washington, D.C.'s bans on handguns and functional firearms in the home for self-defense should be struck down." 

Amicus briefs filed with the Supreme Court in support of the Court of Appeals' decision included those by the National Rifle Association and the NRA Civil Rights Defense Fund; Vice-President Dick Cheney (in his capacity as President of the Senate) and Members of Congress; the state attorneys general; and noted Second Amendment scholars. All the briefs in the case are available at www.nraila.org/heller


 Listen to the audio recording of the oral arguments (RealPlayer required)

 View the transcript

TRENDING NOW
Biden’s Anti-gun Lies are Too Much Even for Legacy Press Fact Checkers

News  

Monday, April 19, 2021

Biden’s Anti-gun Lies are Too Much Even for Legacy Press Fact Checkers

With President Joe Biden securely in office and the 2024 presidential election 43 months away, the mainstream press has determined it an acceptable time to expose the frequent fibber’s most flagrant falsehoods.

Hunter Biden Memoir Among Mounting Evidence of Federal Gun Law Violations

News  

Monday, April 19, 2021

Hunter Biden Memoir Among Mounting Evidence of Federal Gun Law Violations

As President Joe Biden and his Department of Justice concoct new firearm restrictions for ordinary law-abiding Americans, 

Guide To The Interstate Transportation Of Firearms

Gun Laws  

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Guide To The Interstate Transportation Of Firearms

CAUTION: Federal and state firearms laws are subject to frequent change. This summary is not to be considered as legal advice or a restatement of law.

In New Executive Gun Control Push, Biden Seems to Throw Obama, and Himself, Under the Bus

News  

Monday, April 12, 2021

In New Executive Gun Control Push, Biden Seems to Throw Obama, and Himself, Under the Bus

At Biden's recent Rose Garden ceremony, where he announced his latest assault on the Second Amendment, he lied a number of times, and garbled the name of the federal agency tasked with enforcing federal gun ...

New Jersey: Gov. Murphy Announces Drastic Gun Control Agenda

Thursday, April 15, 2021

New Jersey: Gov. Murphy Announces Drastic Gun Control Agenda

Thursday morning, Gov. Phil Murphy held a press conference to unveil yet another gun control package in the Garden State.  

Louisiana: Senate Committee Passes Constitutional Carry Legislation

Monday, April 19, 2021

Louisiana: Senate Committee Passes Constitutional Carry Legislation

Today, Senate Judiciary C Committee passed Constitutional Carry legislation, Senate Bill 118, by a 3 to 2 vote.  

Nevada: Assembly Passes Ban on Home-Built Firearms

Wednesday, April 21, 2021

Nevada: Assembly Passes Ban on Home-Built Firearms

Yesterday, the Assembly voted 26-16 to pass an amended version of Assembly Bill 286, to end the centuries old practice of making firearms for personal use.

North Carolina: House to Hear Pistol Permit Repeal Language

Tuesday, April 20, 2021

North Carolina: House to Hear Pistol Permit Repeal Language

Today, at 3:00PM, the House Judiciary 4 Committee is going to hear an amendment to House Bill 398, to add language legalizing acquiring handguns without having to first apply for a permit.

Guide To The Interstate Transportation Of Firearms

Gun Laws  

Monday, June 30, 2014

Guide To The Interstate Transportation Of Firearms

CAUTION: Federal and state firearms laws are subject to frequent change. This summary is not to be considered as legal advice or a restatement of law.

West Virginia: Gov. Justice Signs Bill to Protect 2A Rights in Emergencies

Wednesday, April 21, 2021

West Virginia: Gov. Justice Signs Bill to Protect 2A Rights in Emergencies

Today, Governor Jim Justice signed Senate Bill 458 into law. It prohibits the state, government officials and agencies, or local governments, from restricting the lawful carrying, sale, or use of firearms and ammunition during states of emergency ...

MORE TRENDING +
LESS TRENDING -

More Like This From Around The NRA

NRA ILA

Established in 1975, the Institute for Legislative Action (ILA) is the "lobbying" arm of the National Rifle Association of America. ILA is responsible for preserving the right of all law-abiding individuals in the legislative, political, and legal arenas, to purchase, possess and use firearms for legitimate purposes as guaranteed by the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution..