DC Gun Ban is Unconstitutional

Washington DC--In an historic ruling, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down Washington D.C.'s 32-year-old handgun ban as unconstitutional. The decision was 5 to 4 with Chief Justice John Roberts, and Justices Antonin Scalia, Samuel Alito, Anthony Kennedy, and Clarence Thomas ruling to overturn the ban. The dissenters were Justices John Paul Stevens, Stephen Breyer, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and David Souter.

In 1976, politicians in Washington D.C. responded to the 135 homicides that year by enacting laws that virtually banned the private possession of handguns, unless they were owned prior to when the law took effect. The law also required that rifles and shotguns in the home be kept unloaded and disassembled or outfitted with a trigger lock. Their reasoning behind the law was that banning handguns in the city would result in fewer killings. The ban did not have that effect.

In 2003, a challenge to the ban was filed on behalf of six District residents, but in a lower court ruling only one plaintiff, Dick A. Heller, an armed security guard, had the legal standing to sue over the ban. Heller sued the District after it rejected his application to keep a handgun in his home for protection.

The issue as it came before the Supreme Court was whether the Second Amendment protects an individual right to own guns, or if that right is tied to service in a state militia.

The Second Amendment reads, "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."

Writing the Opinion of the Court, Justice Antonin Scalia said that, "the absolute prohibition of handguns held and used for self-defense in the home," was not permitted in the Constitution.

In his dissent, Justice Stephen Breyer wrote, "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."

Also overturned as part of the ruling was the requirement that long guns be stored disassembled or with trigger locks. The ruling does not immediately end all gun control regulation around the country, as Scalia said in the Court's Opinion, "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... ."

Gun owners and history buffs should take the time to read this ruling District of Columbia vs. Heller . At 157 pages, the ruling is not something you'll breeze through over a cup of coffee, but it is very readable and easy to understand. Not only is it packed with interesting research on the history of this very important issue and of our country, but it is absolutely fascinating to read how the Justices reached their respective interpretations. For example, one of the great points of argument regarding the Second Amendment are its two clauses: the prefatory, "A well regulated militia...," and operative, "...the right of the people... ." These two parts have been the basis of many gun control arguments, pro and con. Does the phrase "militia" grant rights to the State, or does "the right of the people" designate an individual right?

In the Court's Opinion, Justice Scalia describes the clauses as a purpose and a command and ties them together as I believe the Founding Fathers would have us, "Logic demands that there be a link between the stated purpose and the command...Putting all of these textual elements together, we find that they guarantee the individual right to possess and carry weapons in case of confrontation."

Though the Court ruled in favor of gun owners, the dissent is important for us to understand. In stark contrast to the Court Opinion, Justice Stevens writes in the Dissent, " The preamble to the Second Amendment makes three important points. It identifies the preservation of the militia as the Amendment's purpose; it explains that the militia is necessary to the security of a free State; and it recognizes that the militia must be 'well regulated.'"

Clearly, District of Columbia v. Heller is not the end of the Second Amendment debate. If anything, it is only a new beginning.

Recommended for You


Review: Crimson Trace CTL-3420 4-20X 50mm

Joel J. Hutchcroft - April 29, 2019

Crimson Trace enters the riflescope business with the Crimson Trace CTL-3420 4-20X 50mm.


Yugoslavian M24/47 Mauser-Pattern Rifle

Joseph von Benedikt - May 13, 2019

These cheap postwar variants offer perhaps the best value on the vintage-Mauser market.


Introducing the Smith & Wesson M&P Shield

Joseph von Benedikt - April 12, 2012

  Smith & Wesson has just announced its new Shield handgun. It's an addition to the

See More Recommendations

Popular Videos

The Glock 21

Frank and Tony from Gallery of Guns spice up the Glock test using their non-dominant hands.

Moving and Shooting

Most gunfights are fluid and it's likely that you will need to move. Here are some precise methods for moving and shooting.

Hornady 6MM Creedmoor

Tom Beckstrand and Neal Emery of Hornady highlight the 6MM Creedmoor ammo.

See more Popular Videos

Trending Stories


Review: Bushnell FORGE 4.5-27X 50mm

Sam Wolfenberger - May 01, 2019

The new Bushnell FORGE riflescope is “the only choice for long-range hunting enthusiasts.”


Harvey Donaldson: Pioneer Benchrester

Joel J. Hutchcroft - May 07, 2019

Harvey A. Donaldson may be best known for his .219 Donaldson Wasp wildcat cartridge, but...


Revolver vs. Semiautomatic Pistol: A Ballistic Oddity

Allan Jones - May 15, 2019

How can a shorter-barreled revolver have higher velocities than a longer-barreled...

See More Stories

More 2nd Amendment

2nd Amendment

DC Gun Ban is Unconstitutional

Scott E. Mayer - September 24, 2010

By Scott E. Mayer Washington DC--In an historic ruling, the U.S. Supreme...

2nd Amendment

Brady Sues Over National Parks

September 24, 2010

Environmental review on carrying guns leads to lawsuit? By Press Release

2nd Amendment

My View...

September 24, 2010

NRA Board of Directors Election By Jim Bequette George K. KollitidesAt no time...

See More 2nd Amendment

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Temporary Price Reduction


Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services


GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.