• The Heritage Network
    • Resize:
    • A
    • A
    • A
  • Donate
  • Supreme Court Ruling Affirms Individual Right to Bear Arms

    In a landmark opinion by Justice Antonin Scalia, the U.S. Supreme Court held that the right to keep and bear arms, recognized in the Second Amendment, is an individual right of all Americans unconnected with service in a militia. (Read the decision.)

    Americans may use arms like handguns for traditionally lawful purposes, such as self-defense within the home. Six District of Columbia residents originally brought suit challenging the gun ban that virtually forbids the ownership of any handgun and outlaws the functional storage or use of any long gun within the District.

    The Supreme Court heard the remaining claim of a D.C. special policeman who wanted a license to keep a handgun at home. The court ordered the District to grant his request. Naturally, the court also held that the right is not without its limits, and suggested that laws forbidding felons and the mentally ill from possessing guns, imposing certain licensing conditions, and limiting possession in such sensitive places as schools and government buildings may be permissible.

    Finally, the court held that the District’s trigger-lock requirement for long guns (as it applies in D.C. and prevents ready self-defense) and total ban on handguns were unconstitutional. The District’s ban on an entire class of arms that Americans overwhelmingly choose for the lawful purpose of self defense cannot stand. The court held that those provisions would fail any of the traditional tests applied to fundamental rights, rejecting a freewheeling “interest balancing” test favored by Breyer and leaving for future cases the question of what precise test will apply to other restrictions.

    Justices John Paul Stevens and Stephen Breyer each dissented, joined by David Souter and Ruth Bader Ginsburg. All the opinions total almost 150 pages.

    On a side note, congratulations to Alan Gura, Bob Levy and Clark Neily for their years of hard work on this landmark victory. Congratulations are also in order for all the other individuals and groups who filed briefs, helped in moots, and otherwise assisted in this case.

    UPDATE — 3:11 p.m.: My colleague Andrew Grossman has written a piece for Human Events about today’s ruling.

    Posted in Legal [slideshow_deploy]

    6 Responses to Supreme Court Ruling Affirms Individual Right to Bear Arms

    1. Lee McGee, New Iberi says:

      Thanks much. Great job guys. Every American owes you a debt of gratitude, whether they realize it or not.

      I have used the following quote more times than I can count when writing letters to editors:

      "Foolish liberals who are trying to read the 2nd Amendment out of the Constitution by claiming it's not an individual right or that it's too much of a public safety hazard don't see the danger in the big picture. They're courting disaster by encouraging others to use the same means to eliminate portions of the Constitution they don't like." – Alan Dershowitz

      It's as true today as it was when Mr. Dershowitz said it.

    2. Mac the Knife, Atar says:

      Let's pause and reflect how frighteningly close we were to losing the 2nd ammendment. Four, count them, *FOUR* USSC Justices don't think the Constitution granted invididual citizens the right to firearm ownership.

      We have a long haul and many pieces of legislation to be challenged. We've been on the defensive for far too long. Time to attack, attack, attack.

      This important victory can be turned into a tide of victories if conservatives remain fervent and on message.

      Funding for conservative legal teams and watchdogs becomes increasingly important if we are to repeal the gobs of unconstitutional legislation across this great country.

      Conservatives across this country can serve a valuable example of leadership to the rest of the RINO's and GOP, by and large, which may lead to testicular germination.

      Remember, the right to life and the defense, thereof, is a God given right, a natural right which superceedes the constitution, bestowed upon man by the supreme authority, Almighty God.

      Praise the Lord and Pass the Ammo!

    3. Bob, Harrisburg says:

      It's about time this happened. Now we need to pass a bill supporting the "bearing of arms" from state to state. When are you and your family more vulnerable then when you are in an unfamilar place? Everyone of us should be able to exercise our RIGHT of self preservation no matter where in this country we might be.

    4. Karl, Texarkana says:

      It is terminology such as "service in a militia" that got us into trouble in the first place. "Militia" does not mean "military," and no one "serves" in the militia. At the time of the Framers, "militia" meant every able bodied male between the ages of 16 and 45. Men meeting these criteria did not "serve" in the militia; they were (are) the militia! Since the Constitution does not provide for a standing army (Congress may raise and support an army, not support a standing army. Appropriations for an army are limited to two years; there is no similar limitation on naval appropriations – see Article I, Section 8.), it is necessary for the militia to be "well regulated", i.e., prepared. It helps, therefore, if the militia is always armed and knows one end of a firearm from the other, hence we have the Second Amendment to ensure that the militia is ready to protect the "security of a free State" when "call(ed) forth" by Congress (ibid).

    5. Dennis Sidwell, Sout says:

      When the Supreme Court ruled that abortion was a constitutional right because of privacy it became the law of the land. When the Supreme Court ruled that gun ownership is an individual right that became the law of the land. The message to the anti-gun ownership is get over it. The law of the land is gun ownership by individuals is the law of the land.

      If you don't like the ruling, then submit a constitutional amendment to reverse the 2nd amendment and thus the constitution will be modified. We are a country of laws. We are a country of laws. We are a country of laws.

      Thank you.

    6. Robert Davis, Bear R says:

      The supreme court ruling affirms individual right to bear arms and the 2nd amend being incorparated to the 14th amend is also a protection of our rights. Tyranny government (Obama elect Sotomayor and other of his choosing needs to be tried for treason, traitors against american citizens, and against america. State soverighty, state rights is coming to stop the tyrant government, in due time and the right time. We are the americans to do the job right. Put america back on it's foot hold to it's destiny of righteous government.

    Comments are subject to approval and moderation. We remind everyone that The Heritage Foundation promotes a civil society where ideas and debate flourish. Please be respectful of each other and the subjects of any criticism. While we may not always agree on policy, we should all agree that being appropriately informed is everyone's intention visiting this site. Profanity, lewdness, personal attacks, and other forms of incivility will not be tolerated. Please keep your thoughts brief and avoid ALL CAPS. While we respect your first amendment rights, we are obligated to our readers to maintain these standards. Thanks for joining the conversation.

    Big Government Is NOT the Answer

    Your tax dollars are being spent on programs that we really don't need.

    I Agree I Disagree ×

    Get Heritage In Your Inbox — FREE!

    Heritage Foundation e-mails keep you updated on the ongoing policy battles in Washington and around the country.