A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the People to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.
The Supreme Court has ruled in favor of respondent Dick Anthony Heller in District of Columbia v. Heller, finding that the rights protected by the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution are individual rights. In other words, the Constitution protects your right to keep and bear arms, not that of some nebulous or non-existent militia, from federal encroachment.
The opinion was written by Justice Scalia, joined by Chief Justice Roberts, and Justices Kennedy, Thomas, and Alito. Justice Breyer dissented, joined by Stevens (with a separate dissent), Souter, and Ginsburg. It's a 5-4 opinion, on an ideological split, with the usual suspects lining up where we'd expect them to be.
Congratulations are in order to respondent Dick Heller and his attorney, Alan Gura, who whatever one thinks of the outcome, has beaten the government and a former solicitor general of the United States in a career-defining civil liberties case. Quite an achievement for both.
It's too early to say what the Court has decided on the important questions of scrutiny level (practically speaking, the extent to which the federal government can legislate on arms possession) and incorporation of the right into the guaranties of due process and privileges and immunities due to citizens (which it isn't called upon to decide here, but on which it may provide hints to guide future cases involving state laws), but I'll try to address that as I have an opportunity to read the decision.
Scotusblog is providing live web coverage of all of today's decisions, and as always will have good analysis and commentary on the Court's holding. I'm sure that the Volokh and Instapundit blogs will also have good interpretations of Heller. If you want to know about what the case means, stick to the law blogs rather than big media, who if past performance is a guide will focus on human interest, scaremongering, and election analysis over the extent of the legal right, which is what's most important here.
Update: I've made a copy of the full opinion, majority and both dissents, available for download (in .pdf format) by clicking here: scalia-heller
Update 2: It's a slam dunk for the respondents, but those who stay up at night worrying about particle accelerator hand-cannons in our schools can take comfort in this passage from the syllabus:
Like most rights, the Second Amendment right is not unlimited. It is not a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose: For example, concealed weapons prohibitions have been upheld under the Amendment or state analogues. The Court’s opinion should not be taken to cast doubt on longstanding prohibitions on the possession of firearms by felons and the mentally ill, or laws forbidding the carrying of firearms in sensitive places such as schools and government buildings, or laws imposing conditions and qualifications on the commercial sale of arms.
Still reading it. More to come.
Last 5 posts by Patrick Non-White
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