Supreme Court Will Hear D.C. Handgun Ban Case

Buckeye Firearms Association announces participation in case; filing brief in support of Mr. Heller

The Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) has agreed to hear a case that will decide whether the District of Columbia can ban handguns - a move that could produce the most in-depth examination of the constitutional right to "keep and bear arms" in nearly 70 years.

In a brief, one sentence order, the Court agreed to decide the following issue:

    Whether the following provisions, D.C. Code §§ 7-2502.02(a)(4), 22-4504(a), and 7-2507.02, violate the Second Amendment rights of individuals who are not affiliated with any state-regulated militia, but who wish to keep handguns and other firearms for private use in their homes?

Of additional interest, the SCOTUS apparently did not agree to hear Shelly Parker's attempt to remain a party in the case, meaning Mr. Heller is the only party remaining. It had been hoped that the SCOTUS would allow all of the original parties to make their arguments.

The government of Washington, D.C., is asking the court to uphold its 31-year ban on handgun ownership in the face of a federal appeals court ruling that struck down the ban as incompatible with the Second Amendment.

Buckeye Firearms Association is pleased to announce that we will be participating in the case by filing a brief in support of Mr. Heller.

Based upon prior experience and likely briefing schedules, the case would likely be argued in March and decided immediately prior to recess in approximately July of 2008.

DOWNLOAD the Buckeye Firearms Association press release in .pdf format

Buckeye Firearms Association Legislative Chair Ken Hanson Esq. has offered the following examination of the Supreme Court's decision to review the D.C. Gun Ban case. Please keep in mind that the announced decision is basically one sentence, and it is hard, verging on folly, to read into the decision much insight.

The Heller Decision - Some Initial Analysis

The following really amounts to nothing more than educated guessing at this point, and simply represents one person's musings.

The Supreme Court limited the case to the following issue:

    Whether the following provisions, D.C. Code §§ 7-2502.02(a)(4), 22-4504(a), and 7-2507.02, violate the Second Amendment rights of individuals who are not affiliated with any state-regulated militia, but who wish to keep handguns and other firearms for private use in their homes?

This is completely reading tea leaves, but the particular issue that they limited this case to is one sentence packed with four important points:

1. "...violate the Second Amendment Right of individuals..."

2. "...who are not affiliated with any state-regulated militia..."

3. "...handguns and other firearms..."

4. "...for private use in their homes."

1. It appears the court has already indicated the Second Amendment is an individual right, and will rule as such. This has always been my reading of the prior Miller decision. The collective rights view will be summarily dismissed and the court doesn't want a bunch of time spent on whether the Second Amendment is an individual right versus a collective right. Being highly educated men and women, if they wanted a generalist brief on whether the Second Amendment was a collective right or an individual right, they would have asked for it. Words such as "Is the Second Amendment an individual right or a collective right of the states?" would have been used. Instead, they asked for whether the dc gun ban violates "the Second Amendment Right of individuals." That portion of Second Amendment argument appears to have been decided in favor of the individual rights view.

2. Lord, here we go again with the Militia. Their Order seems to be worded as the court not wanting to waste time arguing about who is or isn't in a militia, which necessarily means they don't view this issue as controlling. By saying they want the argument limited to people who are not affiliated with a militia, they indicate the being in the militia or not is immaterial. This case will not be decided under some obscure section of law defining militia membership, the Court seems to want to resolve the issue independent of the militia being material to the right or not. i.e. they don't want to revisit the issue if the definition of the militia changes, militia statues are withdrawn or something similar.

3. It appears that the Court wants to talk about firearms in general. This is important, because DC has been trying to say "we can ban handguns so long as we let you own rifles or shotguns." This appears to me to indicate that they aren't going to get into a Miller-type of analysis, a firearm is a firearm for the purposes of this Second Amendment decision.

4. This is the most problematic point as far as getting a broad pro-gun decision, but honestly it is one that the Plaintiffs asked for and welcome. This ruling will be restricted to use of a firearm in your own home. This is probably the cleanest, easiest route home for gun proponents. We aren't going to have to talk about guns in schools, guns in bars or whatever other sort of horror show the Bradys want to dream up while trying to determine whether or not this is a right and what it protects. The threshold issue will be determined (is it a right or isn't it) in the cleanest environment possible. Homes have always enjoyed the strongest presumption of protection and privacy, and this is the most secure environment to get the right established. My GUESS is that there is a majority of justices who are willing to rule for pro-gun advocates, perhaps even a unanimous group, but only if it is strictly limited to inside the home for the first round decision. The hardcore group of pro-gun justices want the camels nose in the tent as strong as possible, so the compromise that was made was that this case would be limited to just a nice, clean issue of in your own home, which they can all agree upon.

Related Media:

From the Hannah Report:

    Ohio Group to Join Washington, D.C. Case in U.S. Supreme Court

    The Buckeye Firearms Association announced that they will be participating in the Washington, D.C. Gun Ban case which the U.S. Supreme Court decided to accept.

    The Court limited the case to the following issue:

    "Whether the following provisions, D.C. Code 7-2502.02(a), 22-4505(a), and 7-2507.02, violate the Second Amendment
    rights of individuals who are not affiliated with any state-regulated militia, but who wish to keep handguns and other
    firearms for private use in their homes?"

    The justices will review a decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit which ruled in March that Washington
    can't ban all handgun possession in the home. While the appeals court decision pertained to Washington, D.C., the final
    opinion may have nationwide impact.

    The Ohio association will be filing a brief in support of Mr. Heller, one of the D.C. residents who originally filed the case.
    The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence chose not to join the city in asking the Court to hear the case. Also, the
    National Rifle Association didn't take a position on whether the Court should get involved.


    The main issue before the justices is whether the Second Amendment of the Constitution protects an individual's right to own guns or instead merely sets forth the collective right of states to maintain militias. The former interpretation would permit fewer restrictions on gun ownership.

    Gun-control advocates say the Second amendment was intended to insure that states could maintain militias, a response to 18th century fears of an all-powerful national government. Gun rights proponents contend the amendment gives individuals the right to keep guns for private uses, including self-defense.

    Alan Gura, a lawyer for the D.C. residents who challenged the ban, said he was pleased that the justices were considering the case.

    "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," Gura said. "It's time to end this unconstitutional disaster. It's time to restore a basic freedom to all Washington residents."

    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 last Supreme Court ruling on the topic came in 1939 in U.S. v. Miller, which involved a sawed-off shotgun. That decision supported the collective rights view, but did not squarely answer the question in the view of many constitutional scholars. Chief Justice John Roberts said at his confirmation hearing that the correct reading of the Second Amendment was "still very much an open issue."

    The Second Amendment reads: "A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed."

    Washington banned handguns in 1976, saying it was designed to reduce violent crime in the nation's capital.

    ...Opponents say the ban plainly has not worked because guns still are readily available, through legal and illegal means. Although the city's homicide rate has declined dramatically since peaking in the early 1990s, Washington still ranks among the nation's highest murder cities, with 169 killings in 2006.

Second Amendment Foundation Excited About Supreme Court Review of Heller Case

    For the first time
    in United States history, the Supreme Court will hear a case that should,
    once and for all, decide the meaning of the Second Amendment to the Bill of
    Rights, and the Second Amendment Foundation could not be happier.

    "We are confident that the high court will rule that the Second
    Amendment affirms and protects an individual civil right to keep and bear
    arms," said SAF founder Alan M. Gottlieb. "Previous Supreme Court rulings
    dating back more than a century have consistently referred to the Second
    Amendment as protective of an individual right, but the case of District of
    Columbia v. Heller focuses on that issue, and we expect the court to settle
    the issue once and for all."

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