2007: DC v. Heller
Does the District of Columbia’s ban on handguns violate the Second Amendment rights of individuals who are not members of state-regulated militias, but who wish to own firearms, including handguns?
DC v. Heller
Oral Arguments: March 18th, 2008
Question: Does the District of Columbia’s ban on handguns violate the Second Amendment rights of individuals who are not members of state-regulated militias, but who wish to own firearms, including handguns?
Background: This case began when Dick Heller, a DC resident, tried to register a handgun with the city of Washington DC, which has banned the registration and, by extension, the possession of handguns. The case asked if this prohibition against privately-owned handguns violates the Second Amendment, which states: “A well-regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”
Amicus Brief: The URJ and the CCAR joined with other religious, community, civic, and civil rights groups on amicus brief in support of the ban on handguns, coordinated by The Educational Fund to Stop Gun Violence. The brief argues that the Second Amendment should not be interpreted in a manner that leads to the preventable loss of life and should instead be interpreted as a limit on federal authority to interfere with gun possession by individuals when that would interfere with a state’s ability to form a militia—not a limit on state and local authority to regulate.
Decision: Justice Antonin Scalia authored the majority opinion, affirming the decision of the DC Circuit Court of Appeals and striking down the DC handgun ban on the grounds that it violated the Second Amendment. However, the Court did not abandon wholesale limitations on the Second Amendment. The decision stated, “[l]ike most rights, the Second Amendment is not unlimited. It is not a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose.” It also specifically upheld some gun safety laws that prohibit felons and the mentally ill from owning guns. Unfortunately, without clear guidelines on exactly how the Second Amendment should be applied, this decision opened the door to battles over regulations in every state and locality.
To read the RAC’s press release on the Heller decision, click here.
For the Reform Movement’s resolution on ending gun violence, click here.
For a complete listing of cases that the Supreme Court considered during this term, visit the SCOTUSBlog 2007 Case Index.