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article imageSupreme Court Rules On Second Amendment 'Protects An Individual Right'

By Susan Duclos     Jun 26, 2008 in Politics
In a 157 page ruling the Supreme Court has issued on the highly controversial District of Columbia v. Heller, the court in a 5 to 4 ruling says the Second Amendment protects an individual right to have a gun in their home.
The PDF file of the 157 page ruling can be found here.
The Supreme Court's ruling strikes down the ban that District of Columbia has had imposed since 1976, which banned the people from owning a gun in their home and had the requirement of any gun owned, except businesses, had to kept unloaded and disassembled or have a trigger lock.
Guns still must be licensed and the Court left the bans on carrying a concealed weapon and the laws preventing felons or the mentally retarded from owning a gun. They also left in place existing laws which bar guns from schools and Government buildings.
I will be updating this as I go through the 157 page ruling.
[Update] Here is one specific quote from the Supreme Court opinion:
“Putting all of these textual elements together, we find that they guarantee the individual right to possess and carry weapons in case of confrontation.”
This is the first time the Supreme Court has conclusively interpreted the Second Amendment since it was ratified in 1791.
Justice Antonin Scalia wrote the majority in which he stated that the that an individual right to bear arms is affirmed by the historical narrative before and after the Second Amendment was adopted.
He continues to say that the Constitution does not permit "the absolute prohibition of handguns held and used for self-defense in the home".
[Update #2] You can read more about Dick Anthony Heller, who is at the center of this case, here.
He was the man that sued the District of Columbia because they wouldn't allow him to keep a handgun in his home.
[Update #3] Another clear quote from Justice Scalia, where he makes the point that, "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."
The four Justices that joined Scalia to make it a majority opinion are, Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Samuel Alito, Clarence Thomas and Anthony Kennedy.
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.
That quote which is the Second Amendment is the whole basis that the Court was charged with deciding the actual meaning of. Whether it allowed individuals to bear arms or whether it meant only a regulated militia, or Army as a group.
That question has now been answered without ambiguity.
[Update #4] McCain issued a statement on the Supreme Court ruling:
Today’s decision is a landmark victory for Second Amendment freedom in the United States. For this first time in the history of our Republic, the U.S. Supreme Court affirmed that the Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms was and is an individual right as intended by our Founding Fathers. I applaud this decision as well as the overturning of the District of Columbia’s ban on handguns and limitations on the ability to use firearms for self-defense.
“Unlike Senator Obama, who refused to join me in signing a bipartisan amicus brief, I was pleased to express my support and call for the ruling issued today. Today’s ruling in District of Columbia v. Heller makes clear that other municipalities like Chicago that have banned handguns have infringed on the constitutional rights of Americans. Unlike the elitist view that believes Americans cling to guns out of bitterness, today’s ruling recognizes that gun ownership is a fundamental right -- sacred, just as the right to free speech and assembly.
This ruling does not mark the end of our struggle against those who seek to limit the rights of law-abiding citizens. We must always remain vigilant in defense of our freedoms. But today, the Supreme Court ended forever the specious argument that the Second Amendment did not confer an individual right to keep and bear arms.
[Update #5] Page 60 to 61, the court specifically addresses handguns by stating:
It is enough to note, as we have observed, that the American people have considered the handgun to be the quintessential self-defense weapon. There are many reasons that a citizen may prefer a handgun for home defense: It is easier to store in a location that is readily accessible in an emergency; It cannot easily be redirected or wrestled away by an attacker; it is easier to use for those without the upperbody strength to lift and aim a long gun; it can be pointed at a burglar with one hand while the other hand dials the police. Whatever the reason, handguns are the most popular weapon chosen by Americans for self-defense in the home, and a complete prohibition of their use is invalid.
They go on to address Washington DC's law to keep handguns rendered inoperable.
[Update #6] On page 67 they deal with the issue of Heller himself and state categorically, "In sum, we hold that the District’s ban on handgun possession in the home violates the Second Amendment, as does its prohibition against rendering any lawful firearm in the home operable for the purpose of immediate self-defense. Assuming that Heller is not disqualified from the exercise of Second Amendment rights, the District must permit him to register his handgun and must issue him a license to carry it in the home."
As the opinion reads, they separate each individual argument, they also address the dissenting opinions in the main opinion, explaining why they take issue with those dissents and why they ruled as they did.
[Update #7] For balance since I showed John McCain's reaction to this Supreme Court ruling, here is Barack Obama's statement:
“I have always believed that the Second Amendment protects the right of individuals to bear arms, but I also identify with the need for crime-ravaged communities to save their children from the violence that plagues our streets through common-sense, effective safety measures. The Supreme Court has now endorsed that view, and while it ruled that the D.C. gun ban went too far, Justice Scalia himself acknowledged that this right is not absolute and subject to reasonable regulations enacted by local communities to keep their streets safe. Today’s ruling, the first clear statement on this issue in 127 years, will provide much-needed guidance to local jurisdictions across the country.
“As President, I will uphold the constitutional rights of law-abiding gun-owners, hunters, and sportsmen. I know that what works in Chicago may not work in Cheyenne. We can work together to enact common-sense laws, like closing the gun show loophole and improving our background check system, so that guns do not fall into the hands of terrorists or criminals. Today's decision reinforces that if we act responsibly, we can both protect the constitutional right to bear arms and keep our communities and our children safe.
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