June 26, 2008
U.S. Supreme Court Issues Landmark Ruling Affirming an Individual Second Amendment Right to Own a Handgun
The Rutherford Institute
WASHINGTON, D.C. — In a 5-4 ruling, the U.S. Supreme Court in District of Columbia v. Heller has affirmed that the Second Amendment protects an individual right to possess a firearm unconnected with service in a militia, and to use that arm for traditional lawful purposes, such as self-defense within the home. The main issue before the Court was whether the Second Amendment protects an individual’s right to own guns or merely sets forth the collective right of states to maintain militias.

In their amicus brief to the Supreme Court, attorneys for The Rutherford Institute argued that the Framers of the Constitution intended that the Second Amendment right to possess arms apply to individuals as a guarantor against tyrannical government. Believing that the constitutional right to bear arms is one of the most basic freedoms our nation affords its citizens, Institute attorneys filed their brief in defense of Dick Heller’s right to own a handgun and to keep it at home. A copy of the Institute’s brief is here.

“With this decision, the Supreme Court has aligned itself with the intent of those who drafted our Constitution,” said John W. Whitehead, president of The Rutherford Institute. “The right of an individual to own a handgun is protected by our Bill of Rights. To decide otherwise would have undermined the rule of law.”

In 2003, six residents of Washington, D.C., including Dick Heller, filed a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of a 1976 ban on handguns that forbids the registration of any gun “originally designed to be fired by use of a single hand.” The law, allegedly aimed at preventing deaths and injuries resulting from handgun use, restricts residents from owning handguns, although it provides an exception for handguns owned by active and retired law enforcement officers. Concerned about high crime rates in his neighborhood and hoping to keep a handgun at home for self-defense, Dick Heller sought to challenge the ban. The district court dismissed the lawsuit. However, in a 2-1 ruling, a federal appeals court struck down the ban as incompatible with the Second Amendment, declaring 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 asking the U.S. Supreme Court to affirm the appeals court’s ruling and declare the District’s ban unconstitutional, Institute attorneys asserted: “The District of Columbia’s ban on handguns strikes at the very heart of the fundamental right of the individual—enshrined in the Second Amendment—to keep and bear arms. To argue or insinuate that the Second Amendment is only a collective right is a grave misreading of the Framers’ intentions, while subverting the very basis upon which our rights as a free people depends.” Declaring that “it is not the role of this Court to pronounce the Second Amendment extinct,” Justice Antonin Scalia wrote the Supreme Court’s majority opinion in Heller, a
 copy is available here:  U.S. Supreme Court in District of Columbia v. Heller has affirmed that the Second Amendment
The Rutherford Institute
The Rutherford Institute is a civil liberties organization that provides free legal services to people whose constitutional and human rights have been threatened or violated.