US Supreme Court rules DC gun ban unconstitutional

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Thursday, June 26, 2008

The United States Supreme Court

The US Supreme Court ruled Thursday in a 5-4 decision that a Washington, D.C. ban of personal firearms possession is unconstitutional. In a majority opinion written by Antonin Scalia, the court found that "[t]he 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."

Justice John Paul Stevens delivered a dissenting opinion that acknowledged an individual right protected by the Second Amendment, but disagreed about the "scope" of that amendment, writing, "[w]hether it also protects the right to possess and use guns for nonmilitary purposes like hunting and personal self-defense is the question presented by this case."

The case, District of Columbia v. Heller, stemmed from a lawsuit brought by special police officer Dick Heller against the Washington, D.C. city government after it refused to issue a permit for him to keep a handgun in his home for personal protection. The District of Columbia had based this refusal on the Firearms Control Regulations Act of 1975.

The Supreme Court decision upheld a 2007 ruling by the D.C. federal appellate court that had nullified gun possession restrictions and trigger lock requirements in the 1975 law.

D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty expressed disappointment in the outcome of this case, but stated that he will order the district's police department to provide a means for citizens to register handguns within 21 days. "It is important to respect the court's authority and to act quickly," Fenty said.