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Heller v.

District of Columbia
Majority opinion by justice antonin scalia

2002: Robert Levy decides to submit a lawsuit that he personally would finance. to follow Thurgood Marshalls example, Levy searched for a diverse group to open the campaign.


The Individuals

Dick Heller - Special Detective in DC. Carried a gun in federal buildings but couldnt at home. Wanted to keep a gun to defend his home. George Lyon - Lawyer who held licenses for a shotgun and rifle and wanted one for a handgun. Gillian St. Lawrence - Owns licensed long guns for reenactments. Wanted to keep and use them and a hand gun for home defense purposes. Shelly Parker - Software designer who wanted a hand gun for protection after her life had been threatened multiple times by drug dealers breaking into her home.

The Individuals (Cont.)


Palmer Man who had brandished a pistol in self-defense against ruffians threatening his life in 1982. Lived near Union Station in DC, a high-crime rate area. Wanting a hand gun for home defense purposes.

Tracey Ambeau


The Firearms Control Regulations Act of 1975

Made it illegal to own: Handguns

Automatic Firearms High-Capacity Semi-Auto Guns Any Unregistered Firearm Also, firearms owned must be kept unloaded, disassembled, or bound by a trigger lock or similar device.


District Court dismissed the lawsuit.

The Appeals Court

Court for the D.C. Circuit reversed the dismissal. found that only Hellers case had grounds to be heard. Court deemed parts of the act unconstitutional. petitioned for the Supreme Court to hear case. The plaintiffs welcomed the chance.



Important Cases Cited

United States v. Emerson (2001)

2nd. Amendment guarantees individuals right to bear


United States v. Verdugo-Urquidez (1990)

The People as used in the 1st.,2nd.,4th.,9th.,and10th.

Amendments refer to any citizen

Muscarello v. United States (1998)

Defines Bear as "to carry... upon the person or in a pocket

for the purpose... of being armed and ready for offensive or defensive action....

Scalia views the case as a matter of interpretation. The Constitution was written to be understood by its votes, and with no hidden meanings. Starts out to strike down the dissenting Justices idea that the 2nd. Amendment only protects the right of the individual to bear arms in conjunction with a militia. Does this by setting out the prefatory and operative clauses of the Amendment.

Interpreting the Constitution

Prefatory Clause

Prefatory clause announces the Amendments purpose. a well-regulated militia is necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to bear arms must not be infringed. A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to petition for redress of grievances must not be



Operative Clause

Right of the People is used three times elsewhere (1st., 4th., 9th. Amendments) and always refers to the individual, not collective or corporate groups. People is used elsewhere and have before and always refer to the collective citizenry of America, not subsets.
Scalia cites United States v. Verdugo-



Keep and Bear Arms


in Originalism refers to:

Weapons of Offence, or armour of defense

(Samuel Jackson 1773 Dictionary)

Anything a man wears for his defense or

takes into his hands, or useth in wrath to cast at or strike another.

(Tim Cunninghams Legal Dictionary 1771)

No definition specifically states the arms must be in conjuncture with the military.


say that those arms protected only refer to arms used in the 18th century is invalid due to the 4th. Amendment protecting modern forms of communication. and Bear Arms Scalia defines as To retain in ones possession and To carry in ones hands or pockets.
(He cites Miscarello v. US)


He also finds nothing specifically referring to use in the military here.

Prefatory + Operative

finds that the preface fits with the operative clause in that, to protect the possibility of a militia, the right to keep and bear arms as described above protects the individuals right to firearms.

Justice Stevens Belief


bases his opinion on his idea that the history of the 2nd Amendment holds that it protects only the military right to arms. cites 2nd. Amendment drafts from Pennsylvania, New Hampshire, and Samuel Adams drafts all referred indefinitely to individual rights as well as two state constitutional provisions. courts decision is supported by




While the 2nd Amendment and its interpretations protects the rights to keep arms, it does not:
Give access to all arms. Give access to concealed weaponry. Give access to arms to all, including the mentally unstable or

Give permission to carry arms onto certain areas, such as

schools or government buildings.

It is found that it gives access only to those weapons in common use at the time.

Scalia finds that, Under any of the standards of scrutiny that we have applies to enumerated constitutional rights, banning from the home the most preferred firearm in the nation to keep and use for the protection of ones home and family would fail constitutional muster. He cites Nunn v. State, in which a weaker law banning Open Carry for pistols was overturned by the Georgia Supreme court, and Andrews v. State, where a ban on openly carrying a pistol anywhere was overturned by the Tennessee Supreme Court.


are the most popular weapon chosen by Americans for selfdefense in the home, and a complete prohibition if their use is invalid. states than making handguns in the home inoperable is unconstitutional as it removes a handguns basic purpose. the court rules that the District MUST allow Heller and any other qualified (neither a felon or mentally incapable) to register and acquire a permit to keep and carry a handgun in the home.