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.

Recommended for You

Winchester Repeating Arms releases the new autoloading Wildcat 22 LR rimfire rifle. Rimfire

Winchester Releases Wildcat 22 LR Rimfire Rifle

Rifle Shooter Digital Staff - April 11, 2019

Winchester Repeating Arms releases the new autoloading Wildcat 22 LR rimfire rifle.

Announced in 1958, the .264 and .338 Winchester magnums hit the market in 1959 amid one of the biggest media blitzes the industry had seen. Both were introduced in “new” versions of Winchester's beloved Model 70. Ammo

.264 and .338 Magnum - Winchester Twins

Craig Boddington - May 24, 2019

Announced in 1958, the .264 and .338 Winchester magnums hit the market in 1959 amid one of the...

For decades, things were quiet on the .22 centerfire front. Starting in 2017, shooters were offered not one but two hot new centerfire .22 cartridges. First out of the gate was the .22 Nosler, followed by the Federal .224 Valkrie. Ammo

.22 Nosler vs .224 Valkyrie

Brad Fitzpatrick - May 02, 2019

For decades, things were quiet on the .22 centerfire front. Starting in 2017, shooters were...

See More Recommendations

Popular Videos

Tactical Solutions Introduces New X-Ring Takedown SBR Rifle

Tactical Solutions Introduces New X-Ring Takedown SBR Rifle

Keith Feeley of Tactical Solutions sat down with Michael Bane at SHOT Show 2018 to talk about the new X-Ring Takedown SBR .22LR rifle.

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 Stories

Want to get into the long-range game and not go broke? Check out the Mossberg MVP Precision Rifle. Reviews

Review: Mossberg MVP Precision Rifle

J. Scott Rupp - March 21, 2019

Want to get into the long-range game and not go broke? Check out the Mossberg MVP Precision...

SIG SAUER adds to its Elite Match ammo line with the 30-06 Springfield. Ammo

New 30-06 Springfield Elite Match Ammo from SIG SAUER

Rifleshooter Online Editors - April 03, 2019

SIG SAUER adds to its Elite Match ammo line with the 30-06 Springfield.

The Marlin Model 1895-.444 Marlin is a handy, powerful rifle capable of taking down elk, moose, hogs, black bear and deer. Lever-Action

Marlin Model 1895-.444 Marlin

J. Scott Rupp

The Marlin Model 1895-.444 Marlin is a handy, powerful rifle capable of taking down elk,...

See More Stories

More Politics

          The Governors Sportsmen's Caucus was launched at the National Governor's Association Politics

CSF Forms Bipartisan Caucus of Governors

September 24, 2010

The Governors Sportsmen's Caucus was launched at the National Governor's Association

          Gun owners pressure President-elect to hide gun control agenda.    By Scott E. Mayer   Politics

Obama Hides Anti-Gun Position

September 24, 2010

Gun owners pressure President-elect to hide gun control agenda. By Scott E. Mayer...

As a Westerner by birth and inclination, I have one major complaint with some of my fellow western Politics

Trashing the Rockies: Why Shooters Should Preserve Public Land

Joseph von Benedikt - July 23, 2014

As a Westerner by birth and inclination, I have one major complaint with some of my fellow...

See More Politics

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Temporary Price Reduction.

SUBSCRIBE NOW

Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services

PREVIEW THIS MONTH'S ISSUE

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