Heller Affirmed!

No. 07–290. Argued March 18, 2008—Decided June 26, 2008

District of Columbia law bans handgun possession by making it a crime to carry an unregistered firearm and prohibiting the registration of handguns; provides separately that no person may carry an unlicensed handgun, but authorizes the police chief to issue 1-year licenses; and requires residents to keep lawfully owned firearms unloaded and dissembled or bound by a trigger lock or similar device.

Respondent Heller, a D. C. special policeman, applied to register a handgun he wished to keep at home, but the District refused. He filed this suit seeking, on Second Amendment grounds, to enjoin the city from enforcing the bar on handgun registration, the licensing requirement insofar as it prohibits carrying an unlicensed firearm in the home, and the trigger-lock requirement insofar as it prohibits the use of functional firearms in the home. The District Court dismissed the suit, but the D. C. Circuit reversed, holding that the Second Amendment protects an individual’s right to possess firearms and that the city’s total ban on handguns, as well as its requirement that firearms in the home be kept nonfunctional even when necessary for self-defense, violated that right.


1. The Second Amendment protects an individual right to possess a firearm unconnected with service in a militia, and to use that arm for traditionally lawful purposes, such as self-defense within the home. Pp. 2–53.

(a) The Amendment’s prefatory clause announces a purpose, but does not limit or expand the scope of the second part, the operative clause. The operative clause’s text and history demonstrate that it connotes an individual right to keep and bear arms. Pp. 2–22.

(b) The prefatory clause comports with the Court’s interpretation of the operative clause. The “militia” comprised all males physically capable of acting in concert for the common defense. The Antifederalists feared that the Federal Government would disarm the people in order to disable this citizens’ militia, enabling a politicized standing army or a select militia to rule. The response was to deny Congress power to abridge the ancient right of individuals to keep and bear arms, so that the ideal of a citizens’ militia would be preserved. Pp. 22–28.

(c) The Court’s interpretation is confirmed by analogous armsbearing rights in state constitutions that preceded and immediately followed the Second Amendment. Pp. 28–30.

(d) The Second Amendment’s drafting history, while of dubious interpretive worth, reveals three state Second Amendment proposals that unequivocally referred to an individual right to bear arms. Pp. 30–32.

(e) Interpretation of the Second Amendment by scholars, courts and legislators, from immediately after its ratification through the late 19th century also supports the Court’s conclusion. Pp. 32–47.

(f) None of the Court’s precedents forecloses the Court’s interpretation. Neither United States v. Cruikshank, 92 U. S. 542, 553, nor Presser v. Illinois, 116 U. S. 252, 264–265, refutes the individual rights interpretation. United States v. Miller, 307 U. S. 174, does not limit the right to keep and bear arms to militia purposes, but rather limits the type of weapon to which the right applies to those used by the militia, i.e., those in common use for lawful purposes. Pp. 47–54.

2. Like most rights, the Second Amendment right is not unlimited. It is not a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose: For example, concealed weapons prohibitions have been upheld under the Amendmentor state analogues. The Court’s opinion should not be taken to cast doubt on longstanding prohibitions on the possession of firearms by felons and the mentally ill, or laws forbidding the carrying of firearms in sensitive places such as schools and government buildings, or laws imposing conditions and qualifications on the commercial sale of arms. Miller’s holding that the sorts of weapons protected are those “in common use at the time” finds support in the historical tradition of prohibiting the carrying of dangerous and unusual weapons. Pp. 54–56.

3. The handgun ban and the trigger-lock requirement (as applied to self-defense) violate the Second Amendment. The District’s total ban on handgun possession in the home amounts to a prohibition on an entire class of “arms” that Americans overwhelmingly choose for the lawful purpose of self-defense. Under any of the standards of scrutiny the Court has applied to enumerated constitutional rights, this prohibition—in the place where the importance of the lawful defense of self, family, and property is most acute—would fail constitutional muster. Similarly, the requirement that any lawful firearm in the home be disassembled or bound by a trigger lock makes it impossible for citizens to use arms for the core lawful purpose of self-defense and is hence unconstitutional. Because Heller conceded at oral argument that the D. C. licensing law is permissible if it is not enforced arbitrarily and capriciously, the Court assumes that a license will satisfy his prayer for relief and does not address the licensing requirement. Assuming he is not disqualified from exercising Second Amendment rights, the District must permit Heller to register his handgun and must issue him a license to carry it in the home. Pp. 56–64.
478 F. 3d 370, affirmed.

SCALIA, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which ROBERTS,
C. J., and KENNEDY, THOMAS, and ALITO, JJ., joined. STEVENS, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which SOUTER, GINSBURG, and BREYER, JJ.,
joined. BREYER, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which STEVENS,
SOUTER, and GINSBURG, JJ., joined.

Read the opinions (pdf file) here:

Looks like I don’t have to uphold my oath to defend the constitution THIS week. It is frightening to see how close the Supreme Court decision was to banning the right of self-defense in the dissenting view:

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.

Spoken like a true liberal who has never had to live in a crime-ridden urban area! So, how are they supposed to protect their families from the thugs that break in intent on rape, robbery, and perhaps murder? Give them a stern talking to? Tell them they’re going to call the police and the thugs will really be in big trouble then? Inform them that they’ll go on a sex offender list? Set bear traps at the entrances (oh, wait, that’s illegal, too).

The dissenting opinion read to me like a textbook blend of elitism and nanny statism. After all, why is it that dwellers in the crime-ridden urban areas cannot be trusted to have a handgun inside their house? Is it because they are intellectually less well suited to make the decision to protect themselves than somebody in the suburbs? Sounds rather condescending to me. “There, there, poverty stricken person. Don’t you bother worrying about self-protection, big brother will be there to vigorously prosecute your violator/murderer; that is, if he’s ever caught.”

The argument “but what about the safety of the children?” is specious. What about parental responsibility?

This should have been a unanimous decision. That four justices voted to abrogate the constitution is very troubling.

9 Responses

  1. WOO-HOOO!!!!!


    IT’S MORNING IN AMERICA!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    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.

    Unlike the untouchable Constitutional right to suck the brains out of your almost-born child?

    Has she even read the document in question?

  2. Apparently not.

  3. I should also note that it is the “liberal” faction that would like to take away the right of self protection for the dwellers* in “crime-ridden urban areas”.

    *I believe that would be liberal for “minorities”.

  4. Good point.

    Well, liberals don’t want minority children to grow up in two-family households, they don’t want to take drugs out of their neighbourhoods, and they don’t want them to have school choice so they can get a decent education and go to college.

    Why on earth would they care if one of them got shot? It’s not really inconsistent with the general pattern….

  5. […] that no person may carry an unlicensed handgun, but authorizes the police chief to issue 1-year lichttps://nukegingrich.wordpress.com/2008/06/26/heller-affirmed/Firearms Industry Hails Victory in Supreme Court Second Amendment Case PR Newswire via Yahoo! News […]

  6. Four of the justices voted to abolish a constitutional right. I am not at all happy with that idea and, indeed, I need to start looking for a militia.

  7. I’m of the same mind, Swamps and Theo, in a rational court, this would have been a 9-0 decision. It’s frightening that there are so many ideologues of the left, actively pursuing their agenda, country be damned.
    As to the bans on gun ownership in public housing, extremely high crime areas, there is also the proposed bans on types of guns for those residents, who traditionally have little money. That is the alleged “Saturday Night Special,” which in real world speak is an inexpensive, usually low quality, handgun, which could be the only difference between a resident being able to defend themselves and their family.
    No, the left in this country doesn’t care about it’s citizens, and only pays lip service to it’s own constituents for votes, nothing more.
    Still, this a victory, and should be celebrated as such, as it sends shivers down the gelatinous substance that used to be a spine for the opponents of gun ownership. Lawsuits should be getting filed in Chicago and California, PDQ.
    I should note, though, that I am concerned about many questions that this decision did not address.

  8. Yes, it should. I’m unhappy that so many people that are sworn to uphold the constitution are working against the constitution.

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