Skip to main content

DC Gun Ban is Unconstitutional

DC Gun Ban is Unconstitutional

Washington DC--In an historic ruling, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down Washington D.C.'s 32-year-old handgun ban as unconstitutional. The decision was 5 to 4 with Chief Justice John Roberts, and Justices Antonin Scalia, Samuel Alito, Anthony Kennedy, and Clarence Thomas ruling to overturn the ban. The dissenters were Justices John Paul Stevens, Stephen Breyer, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and David Souter.

In 1976, politicians in Washington D.C. responded to the 135 homicides that year by enacting laws that virtually banned the private possession of handguns, unless they were owned prior to when the law took effect. The law also required that rifles and shotguns in the home be kept unloaded and disassembled or outfitted with a trigger lock. Their reasoning behind the law was that banning handguns in the city would result in fewer killings. The ban did not have that effect.

In 2003, a challenge to the ban was filed on behalf of six District residents, but in a lower court ruling only one plaintiff, Dick A. Heller, an armed security guard, had the legal standing to sue over the ban. Heller sued the District after it rejected his application to keep a handgun in his home for protection.


The issue as it came before the Supreme Court was whether the Second Amendment protects an individual right to own guns, or if that right is tied to service in a state militia.


The Second Amendment reads, "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."

Writing the Opinion of the Court, Justice Antonin Scalia said that, "the absolute prohibition of handguns held and used for self-defense in the home," was not permitted in the Constitution.

In his dissent, Justice Stephen Breyer wrote, "In my view, there simply is no untouchable constitutional right guaranteed by the Second Amendment to keep loaded handguns in the house in crime-ridden urban areas."

Also overturned as part of the ruling was the requirement that long guns be stored disassembled or with trigger locks. The ruling does not immediately end all gun control regulation around the country, as Scalia said in the Court's Opinion, "There seems to us no doubt, on the basis of both text and history, that the Second Amendment conferred an individual right to keep and bear arms. Of course the right was not unlimited, just as the First Amendment's right of free speech was not... ."


Gun owners and history buffs should take the time to read this ruling District of Columbia vs. Heller . At 157 pages, the ruling is not something you'll breeze through over a cup of coffee, but it is very readable and easy to understand. Not only is it packed with interesting research on the history of this very important issue and of our country, but it is absolutely fascinating to read how the Justices reached their respective interpretations. For example, one of the great points of argument regarding the Second Amendment are its two clauses: the prefatory, "A well regulated militia...," and operative, "...the right of the people... ." These two parts have been the basis of many gun control arguments, pro and con. Does the phrase "militia" grant rights to the State, or does "the right of the people" designate an individual right?

In the Court's Opinion, Justice Scalia describes the clauses as a purpose and a command and ties them together as I believe the Founding Fathers would have us, "Logic demands that there be a link between the stated purpose and the command...Putting all of these textual elements together, we find that they guarantee the individual right to possess and carry weapons in case of confrontation."

Though the Court ruled in favor of gun owners, the dissent is important for us to understand. In stark contrast to the Court Opinion, Justice Stevens writes in the Dissent, " The preamble to the Second Amendment makes three important points. It identifies the preservation of the militia as the Amendment's purpose; it explains that the militia is necessary to the security of a free State; and it recognizes that the militia must be 'well regulated.'"


Clearly, District of Columbia v. Heller is not the end of the Second Amendment debate. If anything, it is only a new beginning.

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Recommended Articles

See More Recommendations

Popular Videos

Black Hills Evolution of Rifle Cartridge: .308 Win. 175 Gr. Match

Black Hills Evolution of Rifle Cartridge: .308 Win. 175 Gr. Match

David Fortier talks with Jeff Hoffman of Black Hills Ammunition about the evolution of the .308 Win. 175 Gr. Match bullet.

Mossberg Patriot Predator 6.5 PRC Rifle Review

Mossberg Patriot Predator 6.5 PRC Rifle Review

RifleShooter Magazine editor Scott Rupp breaks down all the features of the Mossberg Patriot Predator rifle chambered in 6.5 PRC.

Ruger Launches New American Rifle Predator in 6.5 Grendel

Ruger Launches New American Rifle Predator in 6.5 Grendel

OSG's Lynn Burkhead and Ruger's Matt WIlson kick off SHOT Show 2018 by taking a look at the Ruger Predator.

RS Sako Finnlight II

RS Sako Finnlight II

The new Sako Finnlight II sports an innovative stock and Cerakote metal paired with the terrific 85 action.

See More Popular Videos

Trending Articles

These three products from Horus Vision, a smartphone app, pocket weather meter and laser rangefinder, produce fast, easy firing solutions.3 Great Horus Vision Products Accessories

3 Great Horus Vision Products

David M. Fortier - August 21, 2020

These three products from Horus Vision, a smartphone app, pocket weather meter and laser...

The Christensen Arms lightweight Mesa Titanium Edition bolt-action hunting rifle is a peak performer.Christensen Arms Mesa Titanium Edition Rifle Review Reviews

Christensen Arms Mesa Titanium Edition Rifle Review

Brad Fitzpatrick - August 14, 2020

The Christensen Arms lightweight Mesa Titanium Edition bolt-action hunting rifle is a peak...

The road to the famous Remington 700 rifle was paved with classics like the models 725 and 30s.Before the Remington 700 Historical

Before the Remington 700

Payton Miller - August 20, 2020

The road to the famous Remington 700 rifle was paved with classics like the models 725 and 30s.

The .222 Rem. is not only a classic round. It also spawned an entire family of cartridges..222 Remington Rifle Cartridge – Family Portrait Ammo

.222 Remington Rifle Cartridge – Family Portrait

Layne Simpson - July 24, 2020

The .222 Rem. is not only a classic round. It also spawned an entire family of cartridges.

See More Trending Articles

More Politics

Call Your U.S Senators and Urge Them to
SUPPORT the Sportsmen's Act of 2012
Call the U.S. CapitolUrgent Sportsman Alert Politics

Urgent Sportsman Alert

J. Scott Rupp - June 14, 2012

Call Your U.S Senators and Urge Them to SUPPORT the Sportsmen's Act of 2012 Call the U.S....

This move from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit means California ammo restrictions are back in place.9th Circuit Issues Stay Against Ammo Injunction Politics

9th Circuit Issues Stay Against Ammo Injunction

J. Scott Rupp - April 24, 2020

This move from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit means California ammo...

Owners of well over 1,000 models of guns will be forced to turn them in to the government within two years.Canada Bans Huge Numbers of Rifles Industry

Canada Bans Huge Numbers of Rifles

J. Scott Rupp - May 04, 2020

Owners of well over 1,000 models of guns will be forced to turn them in to the government...

Perspective from the National Shooting Sports Foundation.NSSF: Mayors' Blame Game as Lawlessness Grows

NSSF: Mayors' Blame Game as Lawlessness Grows

Larry Keane - July 09, 2020

Perspective from the National Shooting Sports Foundation.

See More Politics

Magazine Cover

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Digital Now Included!

SUBSCRIBE NOW

Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services

PREVIEW THIS MONTH'S ISSUE Arrow

Buy Digital Single Issues

Don't miss an issue.
Buy single digital issue for your phone or tablet.

Buy Single Digital Issue on the RifleShooter App

Other Magazines

Special Interest Magazines

See All Special Interest Magazines

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Phone Icon

Get Digital Access.

All RifleShooter subscribers now have digital access to their magazine content. This means you have the option to read your magazine on most popular phones and tablets.

To get started, click the link below to visit mymagnow.com and learn how to access your digital magazine.

Get Digital Access

Not a Subscriber?
Subscribe Now