Category Archives: District of Columbia v. Heller

A Major Second Amendment Victory

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit has struck down the District of Columbia’s gun ban and done so while recognizing that the right to keep and bear arms guaranteed by the Second Amendment is an individual right:

Divided three-judge D.C. Circuit panel holds that the District of Columbia’s gun control laws violate individuals’ Second Amendment rights:

You can access today’s lengthy D.C. Circuit ruling at this link.

According to the majority opinion, “[T]he phrase ‘the right of the people,’ when read intratextually and in light of Supreme Court precedent, leads us to conclude that the right in question is individual.” The majority opinion sums up its holding on this point as follows:

To summarize, we conclude that the Second Amendment protects an individual right to keep and bear arms. That right existed prior to the formation of the new government under the Constitution and was premised on the private use of arms for activities such as hunting and self-defense, the latter being understood as resistance to either private lawlessness or the depredations of a tyrannical government (or a threat from abroad). In addition, the right to keep and bear arms had the important and salutary civic purpose of helping to preserve the citizen militia. The civic purpose was also a political expedient for the Federalists in the First Congress as it served, in part, to placate their Antifederalist opponents. The individual right facilitated militia service by ensuring that citizens would not be barred from keeping the arms they would need when called forth for militia duty. Despite the importance of the Second Amendment’s civic purpose, however, the activities it protects are not limited to militia service, nor is an individual’s enjoyment of the right contingent upon his or her continued or intermittent enrollment in the militia.

The importance of this opinion cannot be understated. Gun control advocates have consistently attempted to argue that the Second Amendment’s protection of the right to keep and bear arms was a “collective” right that applied, for example, to the right of individual states to form militas and control state National Guard units. This argument, of course, is completely inconsistent with the Founders view of the individual right to keep and bear arms, which is why this Court of Appeals decision is, as Jason Pye put it, very good news.

It looks like my fellow contributor Chris and I were thinking along the same lines at about the same time.

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