June 26, 2008 - Admin
Court Strikes Down Gun Ban
Answering a 127-year old constitutional question, the Supreme Court ruled on today that the Second Amendment protects an individual right to have a gun, at least in one’s home. The Court, splitting 5-4, struck down a District of Columbia ban on handgun possession. Although times have changed since 1791, Justice Antonin Scalia said for the majority, it is not the role of this Court to pronounce the Second Amendment extinct.
Justice Scalia’s opinion stressed that the Court was not casting doubt on long-standing bans on carrying a concealed gun or on gun possession by felons or the mentally retarded, on laws barring guns from schools or government buildings, and laws putting conditions on gun sales.
In District of Columbia v. Heller (07-290), the Court nullified two provisions of the city of Washington’s strict 1976 gun control law: a flat ban on possessing a gun in one’s home, and a requirement that any gun except one kept at a business must be unloaded and disassembled or have a trigger lock in place. The Court said it was not passing on a part of the law requiring that guns be licensed. It said that issuing a license to a handgun owner, so the weapon can be used at home, would be a sufficient remedy for the Second Amendment violation of denying any access to a handgun.
Justice Scalia’s recitation from the bench of the majority’s reasoning continued for 16 minutes. Justice John Paul Stevens followed, for seven minutes, summarizing the reasons for two dissenting opinions his and one written by Justice Stephen G. Breyer.
The decision was the final one of the Term and, after issuing it, the Court recessed for the summer, to return on Monday, Oct. 6.