As many are aware, the Nine on High (SCOTUS) have granted certiorari to review the case of District of Columbia vs. Heller, which challenges the District’s outright ban on handguns. Heller argues the District’s ban violates his Second Amendment right to bear arms. This will be the first time the Court addresses the scope and contours of the Second Amendment. Many are curious as to whether the Court will actually spell out the parameters of the Amendment, thereby applying it to the States, or if a narrower ground will be found for the decision. Both sides of the gun control debate are anxiously watching to see which way the Court will go. In this case, the Court will probably make a concrete decision and overturn the District’s ban.
The Second Amendment states – “A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a
Two points are important to the Court’s analysis of Heller. First, what does it mean for “the People to keep and bear arms”? The gun control lobby would have us believe this clause means the right of the States to outfit their militias (now National Guard) with weapons. Second, how would this right be “infringed”? A related question, and the greater issue, is whether the Court will extend the Amendment’s application to the States.
As to the first definition, the people’s right to “keep and bear arms” should be interpreted to mean every individual person possesses the right to own weapons and keep them at home. This phrase relates to a right of the “the People”. In other sections of the Constitution, “the People” has been interpreted to mean everyone, all of us, each individual in the
The second issue, pertaining to how the right could be “infringed” will be slightly more difficult for the Court to resolve. Heller is not the perfect test case because it arises within the
The trend in the States has moved toward more ownership. In the past 20 years, the number of States completely restricting gun ownership has decreased from 15 to 2 (
The change in State statutes will be reflected by the likely decision by the Court. Most likely, the conservative bloc (Roberts, Scalia, Alito, and Thomas) will vote to strike down DC’s prohibition and leave the regulation issue to the States. The liberal bloc (Ginsburg, Souter, Stevens, and Breyer) will probably vote to uphold DC’s law in an effort to stem the tide of gun ownership. While Kennedy is the “swing vote”, I suspect he will join the conservatives, and support the right of the States to regulate, but not prohibit, weapon ownership.