Should the U.S. Supreme Court decide to consider an appeal from Washington, D.C., to reinstate the city’s 31-year-old handgun ban, it’s hard to imagine justices hearing a more constitutionally important case next term.
The high court hasn’t had much to say about the Second Amendment over the past 70 years. Way back in 1939, a unanimous court told two men the amendment did not give them a right to own sawed-off shotguns. But that ruling, in U.S. v. Miller, didn’t clarify that the Second Amendment guarantees individuals the right own guns. Gun-control advocates insist that the amendment details only a collective right for states to form militias.
“That’s still very much an open issue,” Chief Justice John Roberts said during his 2005 confirmation hearing.
Not to the District of Columbia. In 1976, city officials enacted the most-stringent gun ban in the country on the grounds that it would reduce crime and save lives. The law made handguns illegal in the nation’s capital, and registered shotguns and rifles had to be kept unloaded and disassembled or fitted with trigger locks. All of these restrictions made it exceedingly difficult for law-abiding residents to defend their homes and themselves in the face of an unexpected intruder; murder and other violent crime persisted in Washington.
Security guard Dick Anthony Heller challenged the law after his application to keep a handgun at home was rejected. In March of this year, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals District of Columbia Circuit held that Washington’s handgun ban was unconstitutional because the Second Amendment guarantees an individual right to own and bear a handgun.
If the Supreme Court strongly agrees, its ruling could strike down overly-restrictive gun-control laws across the country.
The court could announce today whether it will hear the case. We urge justices to do so — and to uphold the appellate court ruling in favor of a definitive, individual, constitutional right to bear arms.