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March 18, 2008
Supreme Court to take up Gun Rights
The most important 2nd Amendment case to make it to the Supreme Court in many years will be heard today as the Justices will be forced to address at least some gun control and gun rights issues:
DOES THE Constitution's Second Amendment give individuals the right to bear arms or is that right reserved exclusively for members of a "well-regulated militia"? That is the question the US Supreme Court will consider today in the case of District of Columbia v. Heller, a Second Amendment challenge to the District of Columbia's ban on all functional firearms. The case is enormously important as it will almost certainly define individual rights under the 2nd Amendment. At least that's the opinion of many court watchers. Others aren't so sure, citing the Roberts' court's reluctance to issue sweeping decisons on any issue, settling instead to resolve more narrow points of law.
I helped bring this case to court on behalf of six Washington, D.C., residents who want to keep functional firearms in their homes to defend themselves and their families should the need arise. But Washington's law bans all handguns not registered before 1976 and requires that lawfully owned shotguns and rifles in the home be kept unloaded and either disassembled or bound by a trigger lock at all times. There is no exception for self-defense. Washington, often known as the "murder capital of the nation," cannot defend its citizens and will not allow them to defend themselves.
This case requires, at a minimum, two findings from the Supreme Court: First, the Second Amendment secures an individual right to keep and bear arms - not a right limited to people engaged in state militia service. Second, the district's ban on all functional firearms violates that individual right and is, therefore, unconstitutional.
However it comes out, the case will be discussed for years as a bellweather for one of our most cherished and controversial constitutional rights.