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Justices draw opinions on the range of the Second Amendment (District of Columbia v. Heller)

Quimbee: DC v. Heller

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Washington, D.C. passed a statute that effectively barred residents, other than police officers and security guards, from owning handguns. The act also required anyone possessing firearms to have a license and keep the weapons unloaded and disassembled or fitted with a trigger lock at all times.

When Dick Heller, a special police officer, was denied a license to keep a handgun in his home after his working hours, he sued the District of Columbia for violating his Second Amendment rights.

In 2008, the U.S. Supreme Court in a 5-4 decision ultimately struck down the law. Justice Antonin G. Scalia analyzed the text of the amendment and concluded that its protections extended to possession of firearms unconnected with service in the militia. Justice John Paul Stevens dissented to assert that neither the text nor the legislative history of the Second Amendment indicated an intention to guarantee the right to bear arms outside the militia. Meanwhile, Justice Stephen Breyer argued that the right to bear arms was subject to reasonable restrictions, which he believed the D.C. statute to be.

Heller was the first Supreme Court case to explore the Second Amendment since the 1930s, and it set the stage for the amendment to be formally incorporated against the states just two years later.


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