November 21, 2007 - 10:00 pm
What might have been a relatively uneventful Supreme Court term now could prove one of the most interesting in recent years, as the justices on Tuesday announced they’ll hear a controversial Second Amendment case out of the District of Columbia.
It will be the first time in almost seven decades that the court has heard a gun rights case of this significance.
Earlier this year, a federal appeals court struck down Washington, D.C.’s ban on handgun ownership, ruling that the Second Amendment bestowed an individual right to bear arms. To the chagrin of gun control advocates, it was the second time in six years that a federal appeals court had reached such a conclusion.– in 2001, the 5th Circuit in New Orleans issued a similar ruling.
But the Louisiana case never made it to the high court.
The D.C. case originated when Dick Anthony Heller, a 65-year-old security guard, sued the District after it refused to allow him to keep a registered handgun in his home for protection.
Since 1976, the District has banned handgun possession, arguing the restriction is necessary to prevent violence. The irony of that position is apparently lost on the District’s bureaucrats and elected officials.
In the end, though, Mr. Heller won in federal court and the city appealed.
It’s no exaggeration to say that interest groups on both sides are at a loss to predict how the Supreme Court will handle this case — especially because it’s been so long since the justices have addressed this issue.
“We believe the Supreme Court will acknowledge that, while the use of guns can be regulated, a complete prohibition on all functional firearms is too extreme,” said Alan Gura, a lawyer challenged the ban. “It’s time to end this unconstitutional disaster. It’s time to restore a basic freedom to all Washington residents.”
But Paul Helmke, president of the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence, said the Supreme Court should “reverse a clearly erroneous decision and make it clear that the Constitution does not prevent communities from having the gun laws they believe are needed to protect public safety.”
The Supreme Court will likely hear arguments in March. While it’s probably too much to hope they issue a definitive ruling on the Second Amendment’s protection of individual rights, we can at least hope they tilt toward Mr. Gura’s position.