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Supreme Court Strikes Down Washington's Gun Ban PDF Print E-mail
Written by Norton Gappy   
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled Thursday (June 26, 2008) that Washington D.C.'s sweeping ban on handguns violated the Second Amendment right to bear arms.

The justices voted 5-4 against the ban, with Justice Antonin Scalia writing the opinion for the majority. At issue in District of Columbia v. Heller was whether Washington's ban violated the right to "keep and bear arms" by preventing individuals as opposed to state militias from bearing arms.  See Legalnut's Poll where users voted on whether the Second Amendment confered an "invididual Right" or a "Collective Right" to keep and bear arms

Justice Scalia wrote:  "Undoubtedly some think that the Second Amendment is outmoded in a society where our standing army is the pride of our nation, where well-trained police forces provide personal security and where gun violence is a serious problem"..."That is perhaps debatable, but what is not debatable is that it is not the role of this court to pronounce the Second Amendment extinct." 

Scalia was joined by Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas, who are all considered conservative voices on the court. Justice Anthony Kennedy, often seen as a swing vote, also joined the majority.

District of Columbia representatives argued they had the responsibility to impose "reasonable" weapons restrictions to reduce violent crime.  

In March 2007, a federal appeals court overturned the ban, which keeps most private citizens from owning handguns and keeping them in their homes.

This was the first time a federal appeals court ruled a gun law unconstitutional on Second Amendment grounds.  In 1939 the Supreme Court examined the issue but stayed away from the broad constitutional question.

The Second Amendment says, "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's ban applied only to handguns. The city allowed possession of rifles and shotguns, and required that rifles and shotguns be kept in homes (unloaded and fitted with locks or disassembled).


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