Court to Decide If Individuals Have Right to Bear Arms

The groundbreaking lawsuit challenging Washington DC's strict gun-control laws will go before the US Supreme Court this week. District of Columbia v. Heller, funded by a rich libertarian lawyer, is a shot in the dark for Second Amendment activists. The Supreme Court will have the extremely rare opportunity to rule on a provision of the Constitution that never has gone directly before the Supreme Court — the Second Amendment.


DC has the nation's strictest gun-control law, and effectively bans the private possession of handguns. The law states that rifles and shotguns must be kept unloaded and disassembled, or trigger locked, at home. DC argues that the law is a logical decision to make in a dangerous city, although the other party maintains that crime and homicide rates have not been reduced. To see how the Bush administration is making a case for the restrictions, read more.

The Constitutional question is whether the Second Amendment provides an individual right, or whether it only extends to militias as a collective right. In fact the Bush Administration has helped the district, arguing that while the Second Amendment conveys an individual right, such a right is subject to reasonable government restrictions. The government's official position has infuriated gun activists, including Dick Cheney. Check out some exerpts from the briefs filed with the court by interested parties.

We'll have to wait a while to get the court's decision on one of the most important cases in American history. The opinion should be released this summer. And here's an extra twist — liberals who favor expansive interpretations of other amendments, like those protecting the rights of criminal defendants, logically should embrace a broad reading of the Second Amendment, a blow to liberal gun control.

Do you think gun rights belong to the individual? If so, when do restrictions stop being reasonable?

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