Supreme Court Second Amendment Case Essay

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District of Columbia v. Heller Case Brief

Case Facts: The District of Columbia Code prohibited carrying an unregistered firearm and banned the registration of handguns through its provisions. However, the provisions granted the chief of police the liberty to grant one-year licenses for handguns. Additionally, the Code required individuals owning legitimately registered firearms to keep them unloaded and disassembled or with locked trigger unless they were in business places or being utilized for legalized recreational activities.

A special police officer in Washington, D.C., Dick Anthony Heller, was permitted to carry a handgun while on duty. He applied for a one-year registration license from the city of Washington for a handgun he wanted to keep at home. Based on the provisions of the District of Columbia Code, Heller's application was rejected. Consequently, he sued the District of Columbia on the premise that the provisions of this Code violated the Second Amendment. Heller argued that the Second Amendment granted an individual the right to bear arms and the requirement for registration of handguns, prohibition on guns in the home without a registration certificate, and requiring trigger-locks for legitimate guns in the home violated the amendment. The lawsuit was dismissed by the district court but reversed by the District of Columbia Circuit on the premise that the Second Amendment protects individual's right to bear arms. The U.S. Supreme Court later granted certiorari (U.S. Supreme Court, 2007).

Issue: The issue in this case is whether the provisions of the District of Columbia Code violate the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. In essence, the question is this case is, "Do the provisions of District of Columbia Code violate the Second Amendment through restricting handguns licensure and requiring trigger-locks for firearms kept in the home?

Rule: The rule of law here is that the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution gives individuals the right to bear arms. The amendment protects against violation of this right on the basis that a well regulated is crucial towards ensuring the security of a free State.

Conclusion: In a 5-4 decision, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the decision of the federal appeals court and termed two provisions of the District of Columbia Code relating to gun laws unconstitutional. According to the majority opinion, the trigger-lock requirement for handguns in the home was found to be unconstitutional since it would make it impossible for citizens to utilize their firearms even for the legitimate purpose of self-defense.
Moreover, the Court found that the handgun ban was tantamount to a prohibition of a whole class of firearms chosen by citizens for the legal self-defense purpose. Therefore, this prohibition failed to meet standards that had previously been applied by the U.S. Supreme Court to enumerate constitutional rights (Rose, 2008).

Nonetheless, the U.S. Supreme Court did not deal with the issue of licensing requirement for handguns as stipulated in the District of Columbia Code because Heller had indicated that it would be acceptable as long as it's not implemented in an impulsive and arbitrary way. In this regard, the Court ruled that the District had to permit Heller to register his firearm and grant him a license to keep it in the home as long as he was not disqualified from exercising rights granted by the Second Amendment.

Analysis: The majority opinion in the Supreme Court's ruling was delivered by Justice Antonin Scalia who argued that interpretation of the Second Amendment is guided by the principle that U.S. Constitution was drafted and enacted in a manner to be understood by voters. Therefore, the Constitution was written in ordinary and normal terms that are different from technical meanings. On this basis, the Second Amendment is classified into two categories i.e. the prefatory clause and the operative clause. The term "militia" in the first segment of the Second Amendment is a prefatory clause that does not restrict the operative clause of this amendment. Furthermore, "militia" should not be limited to individuals serving in the military since it refers to all able-bodied men with the ability to be called into military service. Consequently, Justice Scalia stated that restricting the right to bear arms to individuals in a governed military force is to promote a state-sponsored force that the Second Amendment seeks to prevent. At the time of writing, the operative clause of this amendment meant that every individual is granted the right to bear and carry arms in case of confrontation. This essentially means that prohibiting handguns including an entire class of arms utilized for self-defense and prohibiting keeping functional guns in the home infringes the Second Amendment.

To arrive at this decision, the majority led by Justice Scalia carried out a….....

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Kopel, D. (2016, February 4). Kolbe v. Hogan: 4th Circuit Requires Strict Scrutiny for Maryland Ban on Magazines and Semiautomatics. The Washington Post. Retrieved February 6, 2017, from

Rose, V. (2008, October 17). Summary of D.C. v. Heller. Retrieved from Connecticut General Assembly website:

U.S. Supreme Court. (2007, October). District of Columbia et al. v. Heller. Retrieved from the United States Supreme Court website:

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