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District of Columbia v. Heller (2008) #2

Facts of The Case: Provisions of the District of Columbia Code made it illegal to carry an unregistered firearm and prohibited the registration of handguns, though the chief of police could issue one-year licenses for handguns. The Code also required owners of lawfully registered firearms to keep them unloaded and disassembled or bound by a trigger lock, unless the firearms were located in a place of business or being used for legal recreational activities.

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 but his application was denied. Heller sued the District of Columbia. He sought an injunction against the enforcement of the relevant parts of the Code and 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 and held that the Second Amendment protects the right to keep firearms in the home for the purpose of self-defense, and the District of Columbia’s requirement that firearms kept in the home be nonfunctional violated that right.

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 references a “militia” is a prefatory clause that does not limit the operative clause of the Amendment. Additionally, the term “militia” should not be confined 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 such service.

In his dissent, Justice John Paul Stevens wrote that the Second Amendment does not create an unlimited right to possess guns for self-defense purposes. Instead, the most natural reading of the Amendment is that it protects the right to keep and bear arms for certain military purposes but does not curtail the legislature’s power to regulate nonmilitary use and ownership of weapons. Justice Stevens argued that the Amendment states its purpose specifically in relation to state militias and does not address the right to use firearms in self-defense, which is particularly striking in light of similar state provisions from the same time that do so.


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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