District of Columbia v. Heller (2008)

The Facts

In Washington, D.C., security guard Dick Heller was allowed to carry a handgun when protecting the lives of government officials at work, but he was not allowed to use that same gun to protect his own life at home because of the District’s nearly unprecedented handgun ban. Dick sued, arguing that the Second Amendment protected his right to keep a handgun in his home for the purposes of self-defense.

The Decision

The U.S. Supreme Court held that the District’s handgun ban violated the Second Amendment. Hewing closely to the text and history of the Second Amendment, the Court determined that the Second Amendment was not designed to protect a “collective” right to bear arms for the purposes of forming a militia. Instead, it was designed to protect an individual right to possess firearms independent of military service. The Court concluded that none of the gun control rationales that the District articulated could justify an outright ban on “the most popular weapon chosen by Americans for self-defense in the home.” The Court refused to defer to the Legislature, rejecting the proposition that any constitutional right could be “subjected to a freestanding ‘interest-balancing’ approach” and stating that it would not “decide on a case-by-case basis whether the right is really worth insisting upon.”

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