February 4th, 2008 by Alan Gura
Washington, D.C.—Today, attorneys challenging Washington, D.C’s 31-year-old gun prohibition laws filed their written arguments in the U.S. Supreme Court. Washington, D.C. bans the possession of handguns outright, and further forbids rifles and shotguns from ever being operable in private homes for use in self-defense. The case, District of Columbia v. Heller, is named for Dick Anthony Heller, a private security guard who carries a gun at work, but cannot keep one at home to defend himself and his wife. “I’m fighting for the constitutional right of law-abiding individuals who live in dangerous communities to have a firearm to protect themselves and their families from rampant violent crime,” said Heller.
In March, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit declared D.C.’s gun prohibition laws to be unconstitutional. The city, with encouragement from the attorneys challenging the gun ban, asked the Supreme Court to review that decision. The Court agreed in November and set oral argument for 10 a.m. on Tuesday, March 18. A final decision is expected by June 30, 2008.
This historic brief marks the first-ever substantive merits argument filed in the Supreme Court on behalf of Second Amendment rights. In the only previous Supreme Court case addressing the Second Amendment, United States v. Miller (1939), the individuals claiming their rights were not represented by counsel and entered no appearance before the Court. This time, Second Amendment rights are being vigorously defended.
“The Second Amendment secures for Americans an individual right to defend themselves and their loved ones, at home, with ordinary firearms,” declared lead counsel Alan Gura of Gura & Possessky, P.L.L.C., who will argue the case before the Supreme Court. “The evidence of this simple truth is overwhelming, whether one looks at the Second Amendment’s text, structure, or history. When a fundamental right is at stake, the Supreme Court should rigorously scrutinize government regulations. And when a city tries to completely ban the exercise of a fundamental right, as Washington, D.C. has, the courts must step in and declare the law unconstitutional. If the D.C. ban is upheld, then every gun law, no matter how invasive, will be rubber-stamped by the courts and the Second Amendment will mean nothing,” added Gura.
“Residents of Washington, D.C. are not second-class citizens,” explained Clark Neily, co-counsel to the respondent and a Washington, D.C.-area public interest lawyer who specializes in constitutional litigation. “They enjoy the same right to defend themselves with ordinary firearms of their choice – including handguns – as the citizens of any other state, none of which bans handguns or functional long guns the way Washington, D.C. does.”
Robert Levy, a senior fellow in constitutional studies at the Cato Institute and also co-counsel to the respondent, stated, “The right to protect oneself in one’s home is among the most fundamental of all rights. The Second Amendment unambiguously states the ‘the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.’ It is time for the Supreme Court to recognize what the vast majority of Americans already recognize - namely, that the Constitution protects their right to keep commonly used firearms in their homes for lawful purposes.”
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