Thursday, June 26, 2008

The Supreme Court Gets It Right!

The Supreme Court announced its decision in reference to the case in which plaintiffs challenged the constitutionality of the Washington DC's gun ban. The District of Columbia appealed a lower court’s ruling last year affirming that the Second Amendment of the Constitution protects an individual right to keep and bear arms, and that the District’s bans on handguns, carrying firearms within the home, and possession of loaded or operable firearms for self-defense violate that right.

The case marks the first time a Second Amendment challenge to a firearm law has reached the Supreme Court since 1939.

From the Supreme Court's conclusion announced today:
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.

We are aware of the problem of handgun violence in this country, and we take seriously the concerns raised by the
many amici who believe that prohibition of handgun ownership is a solution. The Constitution leaves the District of Columbia a variety of tools for combating that problem, including some measures regulating handguns, see supra, at 54–55, and n. 26. But the enshrinement of constitutional rights necessarily takes certain policy choices off the table. These include the absolute prohibition of handguns held and used for self-defense in the home. 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. We affirm the judgment of the Court of Appeals.
Read the entire decision here.


Jim said...


Just as an FYI, The D.C. Appellate Court handed down it's decision in March 2007, not in March of this year (as your post seems to suggest).

And the Supreme Court announced its decision in the case today, not "its decision to take the case." The cert decision (i.e., the decision to take the case) was made last year as well.

Regarding substance: I haven't digested the entire case, but the biggest part is that the Court will review laws regulating gun use with some form of heightened scrutiny. This is the critical part of the case, because the government bears the affirmative burden of proving that every regulation is reasonable.

The Court could have declared the Second Amendment an individual right, but agreed to review laws under the highly deferential "rational relationship" test, which basically guarantees that challenged laws will be upheld.

Also, I suspect that Scalia's opinion will serve as a exemplifying example of textualist reasoning.

Finally: Note that the vote in the case was 5-4, a one-justice majority for the right.

Keep that in mind the next time someone tells you that it doesn't matter if McCain is elected president.

Jeff Meyers said...

Whoops. I made the corrections. Thanks!

And I agree about voting for McCain. As the proverb goes: hold your nose and vote Republican.

jennifer h said...

I was really pleased with the court's decision this week. The slim majority does make pragmatic voting for McCain seem like a good idea. I just don't know if I can make myself do it.

As an aside, my position on second amendment rights is what made my husband fall in love with me. Sort of funny for the non-hunters you know, huh?

JD Linton said...

If I could only persuade myself that McCain would increase the 5-4 majority, I would hold my nose. But everything I hear is that he won't. What will happen if McCain is elected is that he will be the standard by which all future Republicans are judged. We have already seen that with Bush now becoming the standard rather Reagan. Sorry, I can not see the standard diminished. Spare the rod, spoil the child.