Thursday, June 26, 2008

Don't Cancel Your Subscription to Guns and Ammo Just Yet: Supreme Court Overturns D.C. Ban on Handguns

A break from your normally scheduled land use blogging...this just in...U.S. Supreme Court issues opinion on the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution regarding the right to bear arms.

The Second Amendment provides: "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."

Many have interpreted the Second Amendment to be a "collective right." In other words, what the founding fathers really meant was that militias should carry arms, not necessarily individuals. Under that understanding of the Second Amendment, courts were not as likely to overturn strict regulation of firearms owned by individuals.

However, in today's 5 to 4 opinion in District of Columbia v. Heller, the Supreme Court held that the Second Amendment protects an "individual right" to possess a firearm, unconnected with service in the militia, and to use that arm for traditionally lawful purposes, such as self-defense within the home. The holding invalidates the D.C. handgun ban.

Justice Stevens wrote the dissent, with whom Justices Souter, Ginsburg, and Breyer joined. In short, Stevens is of the opinion that the Second Amendment should not be interpreted to limit the authority of Congress to regulate the use or possession of firearms for purely civilian purposes. In his analysis, the text of the Second Amendment and historical context support the notion that the right to bear arms is connected to a "well regulated" militia.

Speculation on the effect of the opinion on existing and future firearms regulation is already spreading across the country as pundits on either side of the issue attempt to divine the meaning and application of the 64 page opinion (over 100 pages counting the dissent).

Now back to your regularly scheduled land use law blogging...

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