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Gun Law in the Supreme Courtís Sights - The Right to Keep and Bear Arms PDF Print E-mail
Written by Norton Gappy   

Right now before the U.S. Supreme Court is the case of District of Columbia v. Heller, Docket No. 07-290.  The Court is being asked to decide whether Washington D.C.’s ban on handgun ownership violates the Constitution’s Second Amendment right to “keep and bear arms.”  The Court hasn't heard a pure Second Amendment case since 1939 when the Justices unanimously ruled that the Constitution did not bar Congress from requiring the registration of sawed-off shotguns (United States vs. Miller 307 U.S. 174 (U.S. SCt. 1939).

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At the heart of the Heller case currently in front of the Court is the interpretation of the following twenty-seven words:  “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.” 

James Madison was the primary author of the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.  There is widespread disagreement over the meaning and intention behind this Amendment.  Ask two different people to interpret this Amendment and you may get 3 or more different interpretations. 

The meaning of the Second Amendment depends on whom you talk to.  Washington D.C. and Chicago have imposed a sweeping ban on handgun ownership.  These states have interpreted the Amendment very narrowly and hold that the Amendment was originally intended to protect a “collective right” of the people to hold arms for the purpose of maintaining peace through state militias that could respond only in emergencies.  However, thirty-one other states interpret the Amendment more broadly and hold that the Amendment confers a on “the right of the people” a fundamental “individual right” to bear arms for purposes other than militia services. The likely outcome is that the Court will strike a moderate tone stating that there should be reasonable gun-control legislation. 

Take Legalnut's poll at the top right of the page and tell us whether you think the Second Amendment confers an individual right or a collective right to keep and bear arms. 

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