June 26th, 2008

Supreme Court Rules Second Amendment Confers Individual Right

Today, June 26, the U.S. Supreme Court issued its ruling in D.C. v. Heller. The High Court struck down the District of Columbia’s law banning all handguns, even in the home. In reaching this result, in a 5-4 ruling, the Supreme Court affirmed that the Second Amendment secures to all Americans (not just those serving in a militia), a right to “keep and bear arms”. This applies both to hunting and self-defense. This is an historic decision that springs from the very foundation of our Republic. The scope of the decision was broader than expected by some legal experts. We do expect some other gun laws to be challenged in the wake of D.C. v. Heller. On the other hand, the High Court did acknowledge that some firearms regulations are both necessary and legitimate, so don’t expect a wholesale dismantling of gun laws nationwide.

CLICK HERE for FULL S.CT. Opinion (.PDF file, 157 pages)
MIRROR LINK for Supreme Court Opinion
READ QUOTES from Majority Opinion

Justice Scalia wrote the 64-page majority opinion. Voting with him were Chief Justice Roberts, Justice Alito, Justice Kennedy, and Justice Thomas. That left Breyer, Ginsburg, Souter, and Stevens in the anti-Second Amendment camp. Justices Stevens and Breyer both wrote lengthy dissents. It is actually quite disturbing that four members of the court believe that the Bill of Rights’ Second Amendment does NOT protect American citizens’ right to use arms for self-defense. Stevens wrote: “there is no indication that the Framers of the Amendment intended to enshrine the common-law right of self-defense in the Constitution.”

Scalia’s Majority Opinion noted that, historically, the Second Amendment was recognized to confer an individual right:

“‘[T]he people,’ refers to all members of the political community, not an unspecified subset. We start therefore with a strong presumption that the Second Amendment right is exercised individually and belongs to all Americans.”

“The 19th-century cases that interpreted the Second Amendment universally support an individual right unconnected to militia service.”

“Every late-19th-century legal scholar that we have read interpreted the Second Amendment to secure an individual right unconnected with militia service.”

Scalia concluded that the Second Amendment must recognize individual rights: “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[.]”

“Undoubtedly some think that the Second Amendment is outmoded in a society where our standing army is the pride of our Nation, where well-trained police forces provide personal security, and where gun violence is a serious problem. That is perhaps debatable, but what is not debatable is that it is not the role of this Court to pronounce the Second Amendment extinct.”

Victory for Now — But What Looms Ahead?
It is time for gun-owners and shooting sports enthusiasts to celebrate. But keep in mind that it is possible that one or even two High Court Justices may retire during the term of the next President. If that President is a Democrat, one could expect an anti-Second Amendment judge to be appointed. So…the fight never ends.

Supreme Court DC v Heller

“Today’s decision by the U.S. Supreme Court is a major victory for all Americans,” said National Shooting Sports Foundation President Steve Sanetti. “The Heller decision reaffirms the wisdom of our founding fathers in creating the Bill of Rights to protect and preserve individual rights, the cornerstone of our democracy. Furthermore, this decision solidifies an historical fact… that governments have powers, not rights — rights are reserved exclusively for individuals.”

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