Supreme Court Strikes Down Handgun Ban

DesertEagle The Supreme Court has upheld the opinion of the DC Circuit Court, in a 5-4 decision, ruling that DC’s ban on handguns is unconstitutional. Specifically, it is the opinion of the court that there is an individual right accorded by the 2nd amendment, not to be infringed upon by any act of the legislature. In addition, it is the opinion of the court that the ban on storing shotguns and rifles in a disassembled or trigger-locked state is also unconstitutional.

There will be a response from the city shortly.

You can read the Opinion written by Justice Scalia. The Dissenting Opinions are after the Majority Opinion, beginning on page 68 and 114. The big quote from syllabus is this one, which affirms that citizens have a constitutionally endowed right to own a firearm:

The Second Amendment protects an individual right to possess a firearm unconnected with service in a militia, and to use that arm for traditionally lawful purposes, such as self-defense within the home.

In addition, it is not a blanket right without exception:

The Court’s opinion should not be taken to cast doubt on longstanding prohibitions on the possession of firearms by felons and the mentally ill, or laws forbidding the carrying of fire-arms in sensitive places such as schools and government buildings, or laws imposing conditions and qualifications on the commercial sale of arms. Miller’s holding that the sorts of weapons protected are those “in common use at the time” finds support in the historical tradition of prohibiting the carrying of dangerous and unusual weapons.

So don’t go thinking you’ll be able to buy a tommy gun or a bazooka for use as part of some wacky and bizarre home defense plan. Do, however, pay close attention to the section on trigger locks and disassembly requirements, which were also ruled as unconstitutional:

The handgun ban and the trigger-lock requirement (as applied to self-defense) violate the Second Amendment. The District’s total ban on handgun possession in the home amounts to a prohibition on an entire class of “arms” that Americans overwhelmingly choose for the lawful purpose of self-defense…Similarly, the requirement that any lawful firearm in the home be disassembled or bound by a trigger lock makes it impossible for citizens to use arms for the core lawful purpose of self-defense and is hence unconstitutional.

There’s going to be a lot to think about in the next few days.

Desert Eagle .44 – originally uploaded by Barjack

24 Comments so far

  1. Max (mcook) on June 26th, 2008 @ 10:45 am

    Oh look! There goes our democracy, flushed right down the toilet!

  2. Tom Bridge (tbridge) on June 26th, 2008 @ 10:51 am

    Really, Max? I’d say our democracy was borne out of having that right before, why eliminate it because we were successful?

  3. Don (dc_don) on June 26th, 2008 @ 10:55 am

    I am somewhat conflicted about forcing a city to abandon a policy that’s so widely supported, BUT, I cannot support the legislating of rights by popular vote, whether it be who should be allowed to marry who or what they should be allowed to talk about. So if I’m going to hold that position how do I reconcile the protecting of the right to arm oneself?

  4. AG Nickles Speaks | Washington D.C. Metblogs (pingback) on June 26th, 2008 @ 10:58 am

    […] DC wire suggests that in the case that the trigger-lock/disassembly requirement be overturned (and it was), “Nickles said, the mayor’s office likely would propose new legislation to the D.C. […]

  5. Max (mcook) on June 26th, 2008 @ 11:00 am


    The 2nd Amendment was written at a very different time in our country, um, like 200 years ago. It’s outdated and should either be axed or rewritten in some way, but that will never, EVER happen because

    1) We Americuns love us some guns, both for killing people and for hunting.

    2) Too many politicians are in bed with organizations like the NRA.

    3) People will argue that criminals will get guns from the black market, and how will we protect ourselves? Ahem, maybe harsher penalties for being caught with a gun?

    4) The Constitution and its amendments are untouchable, thus in my opinion, our democracy is dead.

    If you look at countries who don’t allow guns (UK), they’re doing just fine without them and have much lower fatal crime rates.

  6. Tom Bridge (tbridge) on June 26th, 2008 @ 11:21 am

    I’d say give it a few years, Max, and see what the crime rates do and don’t do.

    If you think Democracy is dead because the Constitution and its Amendments are inviolate, I think you’re absolutely wrong. One look at Prohibition is all you need to see that’s not the case.

  7. Sean Bonner (seanbonner) on June 26th, 2008 @ 11:24 am

    "If you look at countries who don’t allow guns (UK), they’re doing just fine without them and have much lower fatal crime rates."

    Are you kidding? Violent crime in the UK has gone up across the board since they banned handguns.

    Regardless, if the 2nd amendment is outdated and should be rewritten, what about the 1st? Would you support a city move to ban any discussion of certain topics or any dissenting speech? Or what about a requirement that everyone in a city be of a certain religion?

  8. Don (dc_don) on June 26th, 2008 @ 11:25 am

    Well, there’s nothing in this opinion which would stop DC from imposing harsher penalties for being caught with a gun. There’s also nothing that keeps them from making being caught with a gun outside the home as immediate cause for permanent revocation of a license to have a gun. Pretty good motivation for people not to risk their license by lugging it around.

  9. younce on June 26th, 2008 @ 11:28 am


    You are right. As Americans, we love firearms. I personally own several for various purposes. A couple for sport shooting, one for home protection. And I responsibly use them. Today, I am celebrating this decision today.

    Our Constitution is not dead. In fact, I would say today shows that it is still very much alive. Every other amendment in the Bill of Rights has been judged to be an individual right. It is about time the 2nd was judged the same way.

    If you do not agree with the Second Amendment, then try to change it. If you don’t think Congress will start the amendment process, you can go through the states. Our Constitution directs us on how to change it.

    If it cannot be changed, it shows that enough of our citizenry believes the 2nd amendment should be the law of the land.

    As far as increasing the penalties for crimes committed with guns, I completely agree, let’s increase the penalties even more.

    However, I don’t want to have to end up dead for that person to go to prison. The police cannot be everywhere all the time. I have the right to protect myself. And I would rather be judged by 12 than carried by 6.

  10. bhrome on June 26th, 2008 @ 11:35 am

    Well, realize that U.S. statistics include manslaughter and other lesser charges, whereas the UK ones don’t. So the numbers are actually a lot closer than you think in regards to fatal crime rates with a handgun.

  11. Max (mcook) on June 26th, 2008 @ 11:57 am

    Regarding the UK

    There are amendments and there are amendments. Comparing freedom of speech to the right to bare arms is like comparing the right to spit on someone to the right to drop a piano on them.

    Prohibition was repealed in 1933, seventy five years ago, back in a time when corruption in politics didn’t run amuck to the extreme that it does today. The chances of our Constitution being amended in my lifetime is about 0.01% because there are too many special interest groups, too many politicians in bed with Big Business, and too many nut jobs living in the middle of the country who think that we should be living by the exact interpretation of the Bible. Wait, did I just go there?

    Come on people. We’re talking about guns, things that can kill innocent people in less than a blink of an eye. What it comes down to for me is this: If ALL guns were to be banned across the country, why would you need one?

    For sport? I’d like to blow shit up out in the desert with dynamite for "sport", but I’m not going to, and I think my life will still be complete and fulfilling without that "right"

    For protection? Pssst. No one else has guns. You don’t need one.

    For that militia that you’re in? Sounds like you have bigger issues.

  12. Don (dc_don) on June 26th, 2008 @ 12:02 pm

    Actually Max, unless you’re under the age of 15 the chances of the constitution being amended in your lifetime is 1.

  13. Tom Bridge (tbridge) on June 26th, 2008 @ 12:13 pm

    You have nothing to fear from a lawful citizen owning a firearm, Max.

  14. Sean Bonner (seanbonner) on June 26th, 2008 @ 12:18 pm


    Actually the reason the right to own guns was put in there was to make sure people could keep the right to free speech. The Bill of rights is one complete document, if any one of those is axed they all will fall apart.

    And really, are you suggesting "banning all guns" as a reasonable solution? You know, because criminals are so good ad following the law, and look at what success we’ve had with "banning all drugs." Cars kill more people in the blink of an eye. Pools kill more people every single year. No one else has guns? Then were does all that gun crime come from? Oh right, it comes from the criminals who don’t give a crap about the law but are delighted to know that thanks to it you are 100% unable to defend yourself.

  15. younce on June 26th, 2008 @ 12:19 pm

    Last time I checked, the Constitution did not rank the amendments in order or priority. The 2nd amendment is the law of the land. It is just as much of the law as the 1st, 5th, 23rd.

    Do you think if we actually banned all handguns, they would disappear. We tried that in DC, and there was plenty of gun violence in DC. That is because criminals don’t care about the laws. THEY ARE CRIMINALS.

    Your life may be complete without as you put it, "blow up shit." But I happen to enjoy target shooting and skeet shooting. Why do you have the right to tell me I cannot do those things.

    Again, I want a gun for protection because the criminals have one. Look at the crime stats. In areas where handguns are allowed and even more where concealed carry is allowed, crime is lower. Criminals are generally pretty dumb, but they know they don’t want to risk becoming a dead criminal by robbing an armed victim.

    Max, the simple matter is you don’t like guns. And you don’t seem to care what the law says. You just want them banned.

  16. Max (mcook) on June 26th, 2008 @ 12:23 pm

    I have even less to fear from a lawful citizen who doesn’t own a gun, which would be the case if unlawful citizens weren’t also allowed to own one.

    Or how about this? Let’s make it illegal to own bullets, not guns. If you want to beat me over the head with a gun when you "break into my home", that’s a risk I’m willing to take.

    I know it’s just my opinion, but I see the right to own a gun along the lines of the right to own a fighter jet. It sure would be fun to fly around at mach speed for "sport", but I wouldn’t want someone else launching sidewinder missiles at me.

  17. Tom Bridge (tbridge) on June 26th, 2008 @ 12:32 pm

    So, okay, let’s get some things straight here.

    This ruling makes guns in the home as self defense legal, as they ought to be.

    Doesn’t say that we give them out like candy, doesn’t say that they can be carried outside the home, just says that we can defend ourselves in our homes. You’re definitely overreacting, Max :)

    This isn’t going to become the OK Corral.

  18. Sean Bonner (seanbonner) on June 26th, 2008 @ 12:34 pm

    Max, do you have any suggestions on how to prevent unlawful citizens from owning guns? Because making them illegal only prevents lawful citizens from owning them and AS SEEN VERY CLEARLY IN DC gun crime and violence GOES UP when they are made illegal, not down. I have yet to see a single case in history where a law was put into place banning any kind of weapon and criminals who use those weapons to commit crimes said "oh hell, these are illegal now, better get rid of them."

    You don’t have to like or want to own a gun yourself, but you can not ignore the fact that they are there, so it makes more sense to look at that and see how to deal with it going forward then pretending you can just make them go away. Again I cite the "war on drugs" which hasn’t stopped people from doing/selling/owning drugs at all, no matter how illegal they make them.

  19. Sean Bonner (seanbonner) on June 26th, 2008 @ 12:36 pm

    Exactly Tom. I’ve owned guns for years, I’ve lived with people who have owned guns and in cities and states where people were free to carry guns in public. I’ve never once seen my house or those cities turn into bloodbaths when ordinarily peaceful law abiding citizens get annoyed or upset the way they do in non-gun-owning situations.

  20. Max (mcook) on June 26th, 2008 @ 12:39 pm


    "…the simple matter is you don’t like guns. And you don’t seem to care what the law says. You just want them banned."

    Not true. I think the law that says that you can own guns made sense at the time it was written, but believe that time has come and gone.

    I’m not telling you that you don’t have the right to go target and skeet shooting, because you do! But would your life come crumbling down upon you if you weren’t allowed to do so? What if there was a law, an amendment, that gave me the right to go golfing with a bazooka? If people were killing each other with bazookas, I’d happily stop golfing, turn in my bazooka, and take up tennis.


    "Cars kill more people in the blink of an eye. Pools kill more people every single year."

    Yeah, the crime rates are skyrocketing for people being drowned in a pool by someone trying to rob their house. If we take away their guns, I expect this statistic to go even higher, along with tying people to a railroad track and running them over with their cars.

    In other words, accidental deaths shouldn’t be compared to calculated, gun-related deaths.

    And yes, I have absolutely no problem with banning all guns. They’re completely unnecessary. Will it ever happen? No, and I realize that.

  21. younce on June 26th, 2008 @ 12:46 pm

    Do you honestly believe if we went with your latest idea of banning bullets, the criminals wouldn’t get them. They wouldn’t beat you over the head with their gun; they would still fire bullets at you and kill you.

    You have nothing to fear from almost every lawful citizen who owns a firearm. We go through background checks to be able to purchase and if you want to carry concealed, there is training and more background checks. You don’t need to go through any of that to buy off the black market.

    Your comparisons to fighter jets and using dynamite are hyperbole that has nothing to do with the actual issue.

    "I think the law that says that you can own guns made sense at the time it was written, but believe that time has come and gone."

    The 2nd amendment is not just a law. It is part of the supreme law of the land. You don’t like it? Fine, work to legally change it through the amendment process.

  22. Sean Bonner (seanbonner) on June 26th, 2008 @ 12:50 pm

    Max, if the right to own a gun only made sense at that time, what is saying the right to choose your own religion doesn’t have an expiration date as well? Maybe you know, because of terrorists and stuff, the right to speak your mind and have your own opinions has also come and gone?

    You say you know that banning all guns will never happen, so what is the goal of this argument? This is a post about something that actually happened in reality, so a followup discussion that is filled with things that everyone knows will never happen is rather confusing. I ask again, what would you suggest would be a good way to ban all guns and have them actually disappear? You haven’t answered that question, perhaps because you know as well as everyone else that there’s no way to do it. I happen to think we as humanity could save a lot of gas and costs and cut down on our carbon if instead of boarding jet plans when we needed to go somewhere distant we sprouted wings and flew there ourselves. I think that would be awesome and be good for everyone. I also know there’s no way it’ll ever happen, which is why I’m not online arguing in its favor.

  23. Max (mcook) on June 26th, 2008 @ 12:57 pm

    Younce, you obviously don’t get my sense of humor or understand sarcasm.

    I’m done here folks. I’m not overreacting, I don’t think we’re going to have a blood bath on our hands here in DC, and I don’t think it’s going to turn into the OK Corral. Honestly, DC officials have their heads so far up their asses that it really doesn’t matter what the law says.

    My story, and I’m stickin’ to it, is that I see no need for anyone to own a gun, whether they’re a "good guy" or a "bad guy". Whether they’re responsible or not. Whether they play by the rules or don’t.

    You. Don’t. Need. A. Gun.

  24. cruftbox on June 26th, 2008 @ 2:11 pm

    At the time it was written, the 2nd Amendment was written, two recent events were fresh in the minds of the writers.

    First, the British government had been confiscating weapons of the citizens as an aid to enforcing their rule.

    Second, the rebels/freedom fighters/revolutionaries needed to utilize military teams (militias) outside the formal standing armies common the time for national conflict. These militia fighters needed weapons at the ready.

    Overall, that means that citizens needed arms to defend against enemies, foreign and domestic.

    Even if home defense wasn’t a problem in the US, as long as the government has arms, the people should have arms.

    Some might counter that there is no way citizens could band together in conflict against the government, but the truth is that is EXACTLY what happened just over 200 years ago, when a group of white men, feed up with taxes and attacks on personal freedoms, took up arms against the preeminent military power of the time, Great Britain, defeated them in a war and kicked them off the continent.

    So, IMHO, as long as governments, mine or others, have arms, I should have some as well.

    If you haven’t read the Constitution and Declaration of Independence in a while, you should. It’s completely focused on limiting the power of government, limiting opportunities on the abuse of government power, and specifically delineating the rights of the individual as paramount in society.

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