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Jacquelyn Martin/AP
Dick Heller

Supreme Court Rules Gun Ownership Justifiable for Self-Defense

June 26, 2008 05:38 PM
by Anne Szustek
With a 5-4 vote, the high court declared a D.C. ban on handguns unconstitutional under the Second Amendment—the first time it’s defined the text since its 1791 drafting.

30-Second Summary

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Federal guard Dick Heller of Washington, D.C., carried a gun on the job but was not allowed to register his gun for home use. This prompted him to protested three gun control laws in the district, along with a group of other plaintiffs. The U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments on the case in March regarding whether the right to bear arms applies to all individuals or is contingent on membership in a state-run militia.

At the time, Justice Anthony Kennedy, often a swing voter, pointed out that those living in “wilderness” areas often have a greater need to possess firearms.

Thursday’s ruling ends the capital city’s 32-year-ban on handguns.

Justice Antonin Scalia wrote for the majority Thursday that the right of individuals to possess firearms is backed by “the historical narrative” of the country.

Justice John Paul Stevens wrote the dissent, arguing that the framers of the constitution “made a choice to limit the tools available to elected officials wishing to regulate civilian uses of weapons.”

The high court broached the topic of gun rights in U.S. v. Miller in 1939. That ruling did not directly define the scope of the Second Amendment, though gun control advocates often cite it.

The decision will leave most states’ and cities’ current gun control laws in tact, writes SCOTUS blog. But some gun control proponents remain unconvinced. Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley, for one, called the ruling a “very frightening decision.”

Headline Link: ‘U.S. Supreme Court says Constitution gives Americans Gun Rights’

Background: District of Columbia v. Heller

Historical Context: The Second Amendment; U.S. v. Miller (1939)

Opinion & Analysis: Proceeding with precedent

Reference: Web Guide to the U.S. Supreme Court, Heller ruling, Bill of Rights

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