For the first time in 70 years, the Court heard a case regarding the central meaning of the Second Amendment and its relation to gun control laws. After the District of Columbia passed legislation barring the registration of handguns, requiring licenses for all pistols, and mandating that all legal firearms must be kept unloaded and disassembled or trigger locked, a group of private gun-owners brought suit claiming the laws violated their Second Amendment right to bear arms. The federal trial court in Washington D.C. refused to grant the plaintiffs relief, holding that the Second Amendment applies only to militias, such as the National Guard, and not to private gun ownership. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit disagreed, voting two to one that the Second Amendment does in fact protect private gun owners such as plaintiffs. Petitioners agree with the trial court's decision that the Second Amendment applies only to militias, and further argue that (a) the Second Amendment should not apply to D.C. because it is a federal enclave rather than a state, and (b) that the D.C. legislation merely regulates, rather than prohibits, gun ownership. Respondents, although disagreeing on the merits, have also urged the Court to review the case in order to clearly define the relationship between federal gun control laws and the Second Amendment.
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A significant second amendment case
This item contains the oral arguments before the Supreme Court (and later the abbreviated opinions given by certain justices from the bench) in the case that found that the second amendment guarantees an individual right to keep arms in the home for self-defense. The competing ideas and interpretations of the second amendment are well developed in the oral arguments. Most of the justices ask questions and the colloquies with the lawyers show the interpretive difficulties the justices faced. At the end, Justice Scalia orally gives an abbreviated version of the court's decision from the bench, and then Justice Stevens gives an abbreviated version of his dissent. I found this very illuminating and recommend it to lawyers and laypersons alike.