District of Columbia v. Heller (2008) #2

Facts of the Case: The District of Columbia Code regulates guns. It is illegal to carry an unregistered firearm. Handguns cannot be registered, although the chief of police can issue one-year licenses. Owners of lawfully registered firearms must keep them unloaded and disassembled, or bound by a trigger lock. If the firearms are located in a place of business or for legal recreational activities, they can be functional and ready for use.

Dick Anthony Heller was a D.C. special police officer who was authorized to carry a handgun while on duty. He applied for a one-year license for a handgun. His application was denied. Heller sued the District of Columbia, seeking an injunction against the enforcement of the relevant parts of the Code. He argued that they violated his Second Amendment right to keep a functional firearm in his home without a license. The district court dismissed the complaint. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit reversed the decision. The Court said that the Second Amendment protects the right to keep firearms in the home for self-defense, a right that was violated by the District of Columbia’s requirement that firearms kept in the home be nonfunctional.

Question: Do the provisions of the District of Columbia Code that restrict the licensing of handguns and require licensed firearms kept in the home to be kept nonfunctional violate the Second Amendment?

Conclusion: The ban on registering handguns and the requirement to keep guns in the home disassembled or nonfunctional with a trigger lock violate the Second Amendment. The Court held that the first clause of the Second Amendment that discusses a “militia” does not limit the operative clause of the Amendment. Also, the term “militia” should not be restricted to those serving in the military, because at the time the term referred to all able-bodied men who were capable of being called to serve.

In his dissent, Justice John Paul Stevens wrote that the Second Amendment does not create an unlimited right to possess guns for self-defense. Instead, the Amendment protects the right to keep and bear arms for certain military purposes but does not prevent the legislature from regulating nonmilitary use and ownership of weapons. Justice Stevens argued that the Amendment specifically relates to state militias and not self-defense. This is particularly striking, given that similar state provisions from the same time do refer to both.

Source: District of Columbia v. Heller (2008) #2
"District of Columbia v. Heller." Oyez, https://www.oyez.org/cases/2007/07-290. Accessed 9 Jun. 2017.

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