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
Oregon: Anti-Gun Bill Heads to Senate Floor

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Oregon: Anti-Gun Bill Heads to Senate Floor

Yesterday, on the deadline for policy bills to move out of committee, the Senate Judiciary Committee voted to pass Senate Bill 719 with its -5 amendment.  Because a number of bills were effectively dead for ...

Chicago: Mayor Emanuel Demands Tougher Laws for Gun Dealers as Straw Purchaser Gets Probation

News  

Friday, April 21, 2017

Chicago: Mayor Emanuel Demands Tougher Laws for Gun Dealers as Straw Purchaser Gets Probation

On Tuesday, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel met with representatives of the UCAN organization to make the case for further gun controls to combat the city’s violent crime. Chicago’s WLS reported that Emanuel used the opportunity ...

Pennsylvania: Firearms Preemption Bill Heads to the House Floor Next Week

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Pennsylvania: Firearms Preemption Bill Heads to the House Floor Next Week

Today, April 19, the House Judiciary Committee passed House Bill 671 by a 20-5 vote. HB 671 is scheduled to go before the full House for consideration next week.  Anti-gun billionaire Michael Bloomberg and the gun ...

The Prosecutors and the Pagans: Two Sides of the Empire State’s Gun Laws

News  

Second Amendment  

Friday, April 21, 2017

The Prosecutors and the Pagans: Two Sides of the Empire State’s Gun Laws

Early this month, members of the gun-control group Prosecutors Against Gun Violence met at a “Manhattan Summit” and took the time to express their dismay and alarm over federal bills proposing national concealed carry reciprocity. ...

California: One Gun a Month Bill Passes Senate Public Safety Committee

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

California: One Gun a Month Bill Passes Senate Public Safety Committee

On Tuesday April 18, the Senate Public Safety Committee passed SB 497 by a party-line vote and will be assigned to the Senate Appropriations committee for further consideration.  On Monday, April 17, the Senate Appropriations Committee sent ...

California: Open Carry Ban Passes in the Assembly

Friday, April 21, 2017

California: Open Carry Ban Passes in the Assembly

Yesterday, the state Assembly passed Assembly Bill 7 by a vote of 44 to 29.   AB 424 was not considered during yesterday’s floor session, however it remains eligible for a vote at any time.  

“F” Stands for Fail: School Jeopardizes Student’s Future for Possession of Squirt Gun

News  

Second Amendment  

Friday, April 21, 2017

“F” Stands for Fail: School Jeopardizes Student’s Future for Possession of Squirt Gun

Public education’s long-running “zero tolerance” war against anything that suggests the idea of a firearm (including, for example, clothing, gestures, toys, food, computer images, and favorable opinions of self-defense) has claimed another victim. This time ...

For 2017, A Historic NRA-ILA Leadership Forum

News  

Second Amendment  

Friday, April 21, 2017

For 2017, A Historic NRA-ILA Leadership Forum

For the past decade, NRA-ILA has sponsored leadership forums that have allowed our members to hear directly from national leaders.  Next Friday, that tradition continues and the line up of speakers is top notch.

Washington: Governor Inslee Signs Bill for Permit Renewal Notices

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Washington: Governor Inslee Signs Bill for Permit Renewal Notices

Today, Governor Inslee signed House Bill 1100.  Sponsored by state Representative David Taylor (R-15), HB 1100 creates a renewal notice postcard for concealed pistol licenses that will be sent out 90 days before the expiration beginning ...

NRA Congratulates Senate for Passing Bill to Expand Self-Defense

News  

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

NRA Congratulates Senate for Passing Bill to Expand Self-Defense

The National Rifle Association’s Institute for Legislative Action (NRA-ILA) congratulates the Alabama State Senate for passing Senate Bill 24 – a Constitutional Carry bill that would expand the options of law-abiding citizens to defend themselves. ...

MORE TRENDING +
LESS TRENDING -
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.