Explore The NRA Universe Of Websites

APPEARS IN Second Amendment

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
Supreme Court Gets it Right, Congress Gets it Wrong

Friday, June 24, 2022

Supreme Court Gets it Right, Congress Gets it Wrong

On Thursday, SCOTUS released a historic decision in the NYSRPA v. Bruen case when they found the Second Amendment protects the right of law-abiding Americans to carry a firearm outside of the home. Despite the hysteria from ...

NRA Wins Supreme Court Case, NYSRPA v. Bruen

News  

Second Amendment  

Thursday, June 23, 2022

NRA Wins Supreme Court Case, NYSRPA v. Bruen

The National Rifle Association (NRA) welcomes the Supreme Court’s decision in NYSRPA v. Bruen. The Court affirmed that the right to bear arms does not stop at a person’s front door. This is the most ...

Treachery! White House Moves to Strangle U.S. Ammunition Supply

News  

Thursday, June 16, 2022

Treachery! White House Moves to Strangle U.S. Ammunition Supply

Last night, news broke that the Biden Administration is taking behind-the-scenes steps to further strangle the already constricted market for ammunition in the United States. The move could result in a reduction of the commercial production ...

Gun Control Package Passes U.S. Senate; House Vote Imminent

Thursday, June 23, 2022

Gun Control Package Passes U.S. Senate; House Vote Imminent

On Thursday, the U.S Senate passed a sweeping package of gun control measures. The text of the legislation was only unveiled Tuesday evening. And while much of the 80-page bill did indeed seek to address ...

Senate Gun Control Package Creates De Facto Waiting Periods

News  

Wednesday, June 22, 2022

Senate Gun Control Package Creates De Facto Waiting Periods

Most law-abiding Americans over the age of 18 enjoy the right to purchase a firearm from a Federal Firearms Licensee (FFL or gun dealer) following an instant background check through the FBI’s National Instant Background ...

The So-called “Boyfriend Loophole” is About Undermining the Second Amendment

News  

Tuesday, June 21, 2022

The So-called “Boyfriend Loophole” is About Undermining the Second Amendment

At present, federal law generally bars anyone who is convicted in any court for a domestic violence felony, or any felony for that matter, from possessing firearms. But federal law also imposes a lifetime firearm possession prohibition on ...

Federal Judge Rules Against New Jersey and In Favor of Retired Officers In LEOSA Case.

Wednesday, June 22, 2022

Federal Judge Rules Against New Jersey and In Favor of Retired Officers In LEOSA Case.

Back in 2020, a coalition of retired federal law enforcement officers and the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association sued the state of New Jersey for not honoring their carry rights under the Law Enforcement Officer ...

Delaware: Gun & Mag Bans Going to Gov. Carney

Friday, June 17, 2022

Delaware: Gun & Mag Bans Going to Gov. Carney

Last night, the House passed Senate Bill 6, to ban many standard capacity magazines in common use, sending it to Governor John Carney’s desk. The Senate passed House Bill 450, to ban many commonly-owned firearms, and ...

NRA Announces Opposition to Senate Gun Control Legislation

News  

Tuesday, June 21, 2022

NRA Announces Opposition to Senate Gun Control Legislation

This legislation can be abused to restrict lawful gun purchases, infringe upon the rights of law-abiding Americans, and use federal dollars to fund gun control measures being adopted by state and local politicians.

NRA Achieves Historical Milestone as 25 States Recognize Constitutional Carry

News  

Friday, April 1, 2022

NRA Achieves Historical Milestone as 25 States Recognize Constitutional Carry

Half the country will now enjoy the freedom to carry a handgun for self-defense without a permit from the state thanks to the tireless efforts of men and women of the National Rifle Association. 

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.