Posts Tagged ‘Heller’

U.S. Supreme Court confirms individual right to own firearms

June 27, 2008

The U.S. Supreme Court issued their decision in the District of Columbia v Heller and in a 5 to 4 decision came down in favour of the individual right to own a firearm.

An article on Yahoo News reported:

In the majority opinion, Justice Antonin Scalia said the Second Amendment protected 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.

However, the reporter couldn’t resist putting a bit of negativity into the article, nothing which had any relevance to the decision.

The ruling came the day after a worker at a plastics plant in Henderson, Kentucky, used a handgun to shoot and kill five people inside the factory before killing himself, the latest in a series of deadly shooting sprees across the country.

The United States is estimated to have the world’s highest civilian gun ownership rate. Gun deaths average 80 a day in the United States, 34 of them homicides, according to Centers for Disease Control data.

But then it was ever thus.

Some cautions were noted over at the Volokh Conspiracy.

Although Justice Scalia’s majority opinion in Heller firmly establishes the Court’s recognition of an individual right to bear arms, it also lists a large number of “presumptively valid” firearms regulations, including “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 opinion also recognizes the validity of “the historical tradition of prohibiting the carrying of “‘dangerous and unusual weapons.'” Many of these exceptions to the right to bear arms could potentially be used to swallow up the rule. Most obviously, “laws imposing conditions and qualifications on the commercial sale of arms” could easily be drafted in ways that make the purchase of firearms prohibitively difficult or expensive for most ordinary citizens. For example, Justice Scalia emphasizes that the right to bear arms is historically rooted in the right to self-defense. State and local governments could potentially enact laws requiring would-be gun purchasers to provide extensive and specific evidence that they really do need a firearm for self-defense before allowing them to purchase guns.

Actually, there is a lot of commentary on the Heller Decision over at the Volokh Conspiracy that is worth the read.

Dave Kopel has initial comments here.

You can bet your boots that lawyers working for anti-gun administrations are already burning the midnight oil looking for ways to subvert this decision.

On the positive side U.S. gun owners have received a powerful statement of their rights of ownership, but they haven’t seen the end to the battle. The courts will be busy in years to come.