District of Columbia v. Heller

554 U.S. 570, 128 S. Ct. 2783 (2008)



Like most rights, the right secured by the Second Amendment is not unlimited. From Blackstone through the 19th-century cases, commentators and courts routinely explained that the right was not a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose. For example, the majority of the 19th-century courts to consider the question held that prohibitions on carrying concealed weapons were lawful under the Second Amendment or state analogues. Although the United States Supreme Court does not undertake an exhaustive historical analysis of the full scope of the Second Amendment, nothing in its Heller opinion should be taken to cast doubt on long-standing 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. The Supreme Court identifies these presumptively lawful regulatory measures only as examples; the list does not purport to be exhaustive.


A special policeman filed an action against the District when it refused his application to register a handgun. The Court held that the District's ban on handgun possession in the home and its prohibition against rendering any lawful firearm in the home operable for the purposes of immediate self-defense violated the Second Amendment. The case was appealed to the Supreme Court of the United States.


Does a ban on operable guns for immediate self-defense violate the Second Amendment?




The Court held that the District must permit the policeman to register his handgun and issue him a license to carry it in his home. The Court held that the Second Amendment protected an individual right to possess a firearm unconnected with service in a militia and to use that firearm for traditionally lawful purposes, such as self-defense within the home. The Court determined that the Second Amendment's prefatory clause announced a purpose but did not limit or expand the scope of the operative clause. The operative clause's text and history demonstrated that it connoted an individual right to keep and bear arms, and the Court's reading of the operative clause was consistent with the announced purpose of the prefatory clause. None of the Court's precedents foreclosed its conclusions. The Court held that the Second Amendment right was not unlimited, and it noted that its opinion should not be taken to cast doubt on certain long-standing prohibitions related to firearms.

Click here to view the full text case and earn your Daily Research Points.