ACRU

Opening Shots

National Review Online

March 29, 2007 7:00 AM

The striking down of the D.C. gun ban may be the beginning of a larger battle.

By Jennifer Rubin

It’s not every day a federal circuit court rocks the political, legal, and academic worlds. But on March 9, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit did just that, ruling in the biggest gun-control case in nearly 70 years and perhaps placing a Supreme Court case smack in the middle of the 2008 presidential race. Senior Judge Laurence Silberman wrote for a 2-1 majority in Parker v. District of Columbia, “The Second Amendment protects an individual right to keep and bear arms.” The court rejected the District of Columbia’s argument that the Second Amendment does not protect individual gun ownership rights but merely protects states’ rights to form armed militias, and the court invalidated the District’s ban on handgun ownership and registration (except for guns registered prior to 1977), its prohibition on carrying pistols in the home without a license, and its requirement that all guns, including rifles and shotguns, be unloaded and either disassembled or bound by a trigger lock.

At issue is the meaning of the oddly constructed text: “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.” As Stuart Taylor explained in National Journal, since the Supreme Court last ruled on the Second Amendment in 1939, most courts and legal scholars have held: “The amendment’s first clause means that its sole purpose was to guarantee each state a collective right to have self-armed private citizens available as a military force-in-waiting (militia) to fight off federal encroachments; therefore, the second clause protects no individual right; state militias long ago became defunct; so the Second Amendment is an inoperative historical anachronism.” The D.C. Circuit Court essentially replied: “Wrong.” Having found an individual right of gun ownership for the plaintiffs, the court then struck down the ban as an obliteration of that right.

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