District of Columbia v Heller [2008]

District of Columbia v Heller [2008] 554 US 570 is a landmark Supreme Court case clarifying that the Second Amendment protects an individual's right to possess firearms for lawful purposes unrelated to militia service, striking down the District of Columbia's handgun ban and requirements for keeping firearms inoperable.

The District of Columbia, which is a federal enclave within federal jurisdiction, had implemented strict gun control laws, including a ban on the possession of handguns by private citizens, as well as requirements for shotguns and rifles to be kept disassembled or with trigger locks in the home. Dick Heller, a licensed special police officer in D.C., wanted to keep a handgun at home for self-defence but was denied a permit to do so under the city's laws. Heller filed a lawsuit challenging the handgun ban.

The central question of the case was whether the Second Amendment protects an individual's right to own and possess firearms for private use, particularly for self-defence, as opposed to a right connected to service in a militia. The Second Amendment states, "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."

In a 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court ruled in favour of Dick Heller, recognising an individual right to bear arms for self-defence. Justice Antonin Scalia, who wrote the majority opinion, stated that the Second Amendment protects an individual's right to possess firearms unrelated to militia service. The Court held that the D.C. handgun ban and trigger-lock requirement violated the Second Amendment because they prevented law-abiding citizens from exercising their right to possess firearms for self-defence within their homes.

The Supreme Court's decision established that the Second Amendment protects an individual's right to keep and bear arms for lawful purposes, such as self-defence, and that this right is not unlimited. It did acknowledge that reasonable regulations on firearms are permissible, but it marked a significant shift in the interpretation of the Second Amendment.

While the Heller case confirmed an individual's right to own firearms, it did not address all aspects of gun control, leaving room for further legal and political debates about the scope and limitations of gun regulations in the United States. It also set the stage for subsequent cases, such as McDonald v City of Chicago [2010], which extended the legal implications of the Heller case to state and local governments.
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