Explore The NRA Universe Of Websites

APPEARS IN Legal & Legislation

Victory In The Supreme Court!

Friday, June 27, 2008

On June 26, 2008, the Supreme Court affirmed, in a 5-4 decision, the ruling of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit that the Second Amendment protects a pre-existing, private, individually-held Right to Keep Arms and to Bear Arms, without regard to a person’s relationship to a militia. The narrow ruling should be a reminder about the importance of this presidential election.  As the Wall Street Journal noted, “With the next President likely to appoint as many as three Justices, the right to bear arms has been affirmed but still isn’t safe.”

NRA leaders noted the ruling’s political impact, and promised that NRA will soon file new lawsuits challenging local gun bans in San Francisco and the Chicago area. “Anti-gun politicians can no longer deny that the Second Amendment guarantees a fundamental right,” said NRA chief lobbyist Chris W. Cox. “All law-abiding Americans have a fundamental, God-given right to defend themselves in their homes. Washington, D.C. must now respect that right.”

Last year, the District of Columbia appealed a Court of Appeals ruling affirming that the Second Amendment to the Constitution guarantees an individual right to keep and bear arms, and that the District’s bans on handguns, carrying firearms within the home and possession of functional firearms for self-defense violate that fundamental right.

In its opinion in District of Columbia v. Heller (known as Parker v. District of Columbia when decided in the D.C. Circuit), the Supreme Court ruled that the amendment does not (as the District argued) protect a right to possess arms only while serving in a militia, or (as others have argued) a “state’s right” to maintain a militia. In fact, no dissenting justice endorsed the “state’s right” theory.

The decision strikes down the District’s bans on handguns and on having a gun in operable condition at home, as violations of the Second Amendment, and prohibits the District from denying plaintiff Dick Heller a permit to carry a firearm within his home, on “arbitrary and capricious” grounds. 

However, the decision does not strike down other gun laws in D.C. or elsewhere, which were not at issue in this case. In particular, the plaintiffs in this narrow challenge had not attacked D.C.’s firearm registration law and its peculiar law banning (as “machine guns”) semi-automatic firearms for which a magazine of 12 or more rounds exists somewhere in the world, so the Court did not rule on those provisions one way or the other. 

No doubt, the presumptive Democratic nominee for president, Sen. Barack Obama (Ill.), who has repeatedly expressed support for the ability of local governments to restrict guns at will, may claim that the Heller decision gives him a “green light for gun control.”  (For more on Obama’s back-pedaling, see below.)  And gun control groups have claimed to take heart from the Court’s comments suggesting certain types of restrictions could still be constitutional, such as “laws prohibiting the carrying of firearms in sensitive places such as schools and government buildings, or laws imposing conditions and qualifications on the commercial sale of firearms. We also recognize . . . the historical tradition of prohibiting the carrying of ‘dangerous and unusual weapons.’” 

However, those groups should take little comfort in the opinion as a whole, which thoroughly rejects all “collective right” interpretations of the Second Amendment, and recognizes the Second Amendment protects a right that existed before the Constitution itself and that encompasses protection of individual self-defense. 

The majority opinion, written by Justice Antonin Scalia, was joined by Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Samuel Alito, Anthony Kennedy, and Clarence Thomas. Dissenting opinions by Justices John Paul Stevens and Stephen Breyer were joined by each other and by Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and David Souter. 

 

The majority opinion analyzes the significant words and phrases of the prefatory and operative clauses of the Second Amendment, and the clauses and the amendment in their entirety.  Among the key passages:

·        “‘Right of the people’ . . . . unambiguously refer[s] to individual rights, not ‘collective’ rights, or rights that may be exercised only through participation in some corporate body.”

·        “‘Arms’ means today what it meant in the 18th century: ‘all instruments that constitute bearable arms, even those that were not in existence at the time of the founding.’”

·        “The most natural reading of ‘keep Arms’ in the Second Amendment is to ‘have weapons’ . . . . [T]here is no evidence whatsoever to support a military reading of ‘keep arms.’”

·        “‘[B]ear arms’ refers to carrying for a particular purpose: confrontation,’” but “in no way connotes participation in a structured military organization.”

 

Anti-gunners have also wasted much space claiming the Court’s decision in U.S. v. Miller protects only a militiaman’s right. But Heller noted, “Had the [Miller] Court believed that the Second Amendment protects only those serving in the militia, it would have been odd to examine the character of the weapon [a short-barreled shotgun] rather than simply note that the two crooks were not militiamen.” 

Focusing on D.C.’s bans, the opinion said, “[T]he inherent right of self-defense has been central to the Second Amendment right. The handgun ban amounts to a prohibition of an entire class of “arms” that is overwhelmingly chosen by American society for that lawful purpose. The prohibition extends, moreover, to the home, where the need for defense of self, family, and property is most acute. Under any of the standards of scrutiny that we have applied to enumerated constitutional rights, banning from the home ‘the most preferred firearm in the nation to ‘keep’ and use for protection of one’s home and family,’ would fail constitutional muster. . . . It is no answer to say, as petitioners do, that it is permissible to ban the possession of handguns so long as the possession of other firearms (i.e., long guns) is allowed. It is enough to note, as we have observed, that the American people have considered the handgun to be the quintessential self-defense weapon. There are many reasons that a citizen may prefer a handgun for home defense. . . .Whatever the reason, handguns are the most popular weapon chosen by Americans for self-defense in the home, and a complete prohibition of their use is invalid.” 

The opinion continued, “[T]he District’s requirement that firearms in the home be rendered and kept inoperable at all times . . . makes it impossible for citizens to use them for the core lawful purpose of self-defense and is hence unconstitutional. . . . In sum, we hold that the District’s ban on handgun possession in the home violates the Second Amendment, as does its prohibition against rendering any lawful firearm in the home operable for the purpose of immediate self-defense. Assuming that Heller is not disqualified from the exercise of Second Amendment rights, the District must permit him to register his handgun and must issue him a license to carry it in the home. . . .[T]he enshrinement of constitutional rights necessarily takes certain policy choices off the table. These include the absolute prohibition of handguns held and used for self-defense in the home.” 

For more highlights, and links to the full opinions and the briefs in the case, go to http://www.nraila.org/heller

TRENDING NOW
NRA Wins Lawsuit in Washington State, Prevents I-1639 From Appearing on Ballot

News  

Friday, August 17, 2018

NRA Wins Lawsuit in Washington State, Prevents I-1639 From Appearing on Ballot

The Thurston County Superior Court today ruled in favor of the National Rifle Association and ordered a writ of mandamus to prevent I-1639 from appearing on the ballot. The judge agreed the signature sheets did ...

No NRA Members Need Apply

News  

Friday, August 17, 2018

No NRA Members Need Apply

Like most people, we understand that educational institutions and staff tend to lean left. The degree and intensity of the bend varies across universities, but a leftward orientation is actually expected today. We’re aware that ...

Canada: Montreal to Endorse Nationwide Handgun Ban, Police Content with Current Laws

News  

Gun Laws  

Friday, August 17, 2018

Canada: Montreal to Endorse Nationwide Handgun Ban, Police Content with Current Laws

Politicians from the largest city in the Canadian gun control stronghold of Quebec plan to put their weight behind a raft of severe gun restrictions next week. According to a report from Radio Canada International, the Montreal City ...

Fake Blues: The Media’s Worst Enemy Isn’t the President, It’s Themselves

News  

Friday, August 17, 2018

Fake Blues: The Media’s Worst Enemy Isn’t the President, It’s Themselves

On Thursday, over 300 media outlets joined in a coordinated effort to push back against President Donald Trump. That will hardly come as a shock to many Americans, as it seems mainstream news organizations have done little ...

Shopify Targets Law-Abiding Firearm Businesses

Gun Laws  

News  

Friday, August 17, 2018

Shopify Targets Law-Abiding Firearm Businesses

This week, Canadian e-commerce host Shopify changed their company’s firearm policy with disastrous effects for law-abiding U.S. gun businesses that use their e-commerce services. Shopify’s abrupt overnight decision to block the sale of specific firearms ...

Outrage of the Week: Shopify Targets America's Guns

News  

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Outrage of the Week: Shopify Targets America's Guns

Hundreds of firearms retailers may have to close soon because a powerful Canadian tech company, Shopify, recently decided it was anti-gun and issued an ultimatum: Do business our way or not at all.

King County Unveils “Common Sense” Action Plan: Ban “Semi-automatic, High Velocity Weapons”

News  

Friday, August 10, 2018

King County Unveils “Common Sense” Action Plan: Ban “Semi-automatic, High Velocity Weapons”

In a July 23rd op-ed, Joe McDermott, the Council Chair of King County, Washington, introduced a multi-prong “King County Gun Safety Action Plan” aimed at reducing gun violence.

Saturday, August 18, 2018

ALERT! Florida Democrats Did an Awesome Election Favor for Republicans

The anti-Second Amendment, Democrat politicians who demanded that the Legislature vote on calling a Special Session to repeal Florida's Stand Your Ground self-defense law either unwittingly or intentionally provided a great service to Republican incumbent ...

Divided Appeals Panel Upholds California Ban on Post-2013 Pistols

News  

Friday, August 10, 2018

Divided Appeals Panel Upholds California Ban on Post-2013 Pistols

Imagine if California, to combat what the legislature considered the serious problem of manmade global warming, required all new vehicles sold by car dealers in the state to run on grass clippings, rather than fossil ...

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.