– In a landmark opinion by Scalia, the Court held that the right to keep and bear arms, recognized in the Second Amendment, is an individual right of all Americans unconnected with service in a militia. Americans may use arms like handguns for traditionally lawful purposes, especially self-defense within the home.
– Six District of Columbia residents originally brought suit challenging the gun ban that virtually forbids the ownership of any handgun and outlaws the functional storage or use of any long gun within the District for self defense. The High Court heard the remaining claim of a D.C. special policeman (Dick Heller) who wanted a license to keep a handgun at home.
– Today, the High Court ordered the District to grant Dick Heller’s license to keep his gun at his home.
– Naturally, the Court also held that the right is not without its limits, and suggested that laws forbidding felons and the mentally ill from possessing guns, imposing certain licensing conditions, and limiting possession in such sensitive places as schools and government buildings may be permissible.
– The Court also held that the District’s trigger-lock requirement for long guns (as it applies in D.C. and prevents ready self-defense) and its total ban on handguns were unconstitutional. The District’s ban on an entire class of arms that Americans overwhelmingly choose for the lawful purpose of self defense cannot stand.
– The Court explained why handguns were judged superior to long guns as a weapon of choice for self defense, but essentially said it was the judgment of American people that mattered most.
– The Court held that those provisions would fail any of the traditional tests applied to fundamental rights, rejecting a freewheeling “interest balancing” test favored by Breyer and leaving for future cases the question of what precise test will apply to other restrictions.
– Stevens and Breyer each dissented, joined by Souter and Ginsburg. All the opinions total almost 150 pages.
*This piece was originally written for The Heritage Foundation.
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