Thursday, June 26, 2008

Praise the Lord and Pass the Ammunition! Supreme Court Strikes Down D.C. Gun Ban

Today, in a 5-4 decision, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the Constitutional right to bear arms by striking down the Washington, D.C. gun ban. Justice Antonin Scalia delivered the opinion in the case of District of Columbia v. Heller. The majority opinion confirms that the Second Amendment protects "the individual right to possess and carry weapons in case of confrontation." Justices Breyer, Stevens, Souter and Ginsburg dissented.

The Court did not imply that all limits are invalid, stating: "Although we do not undertake an exhaustive historical analysis today of the full scope of the Second Amendment, nothing in our opinion should 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."

The case was started by Dick Heller, who was joined by six other D.C. residents who wanted to keep handguns in their private homes. The gun ban prohibited ownership of handguns that were not registered with the District before 1976. It also required that all guns already registered be disassembled, unloaded, or secured by a trigger lock. The District of Columbia Court of Appeal ruled the ban was unconstitutional; holding the right to own handguns was protected by the Second Amendment. The case was appealed to the Supreme Court, which heard oral argument in March. Thirty-one states submitted amicus briefs. Some federal courts have ruled that the Second Amendment did not create an individual right, but only applied to state militias. The last time the Court ruled on the Second Amendment right to bear arms was in 1939.

'Praise the Lord and pass the ammunition' is the best way to describe today’s decision. The right to self-defense is a liberty at the core of the American Revolution. It was ordinary people who defended life and liberty against organized tyranny. The King of Great Britain sought to disarm the colonists because he, like any criminal, knew that a disarmed people are a weak people who can easily be overcome. The Second Amendment stands as an impenetrable wall between tyranny and freedom.