The following excerpt is borrowed from the NRA Institute for Legislative Action.

Read the full text of this ruling, including the topic's below, at the .

District of Columbia v. Heller

Highlights of the Supreme Court’s Decision

On June 26, 2008, the Supreme Court affirmed, in a 5-4 decision, the ruling of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit in Parker v. District of Columbia (re-cast as District of Columbia v. Heller before the Supreme Court), that the Second Amendment protects a pre-existing, private, individually-held right, to keep arms and to bear arms, without regard to a person’s relationship to a militia. The Court held that the Second Amendment does not (as the District argued) protect a right to possess arms only while in service in a militia or (as others have argued) a "state’s right" to maintain a militia. (No dissenting justice endorsed the "state’s right" theory, putting an end to it once and for all, one can only hope.)

The decision struck down the District’s bans on handguns and on having any gun in operable condition as violations of the Second Amendment, and prohibited the District from denying plaintiff Dick Heller a permit to carry a firearm within his home on "arbitrary and capricious" grounds. Highlights of the majority opinion, written by Justice Antonin Scalia and joined by Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Samuel Alito, Anthony Kennedy, and Clarence Thomas, follow:

On the Meaning of "the Right of the People"

T]he operative clause [of the Second Amendment] codifies a ‘right of the people.’ The unamended Constitution and the Bill of Rights use the phrase ‘right of the people’ two other times, in the First Amendment’s Assembly-and-Petition Clause and in the Fourth Amendment’s Search-and-Seizure Clause. The Ninth Amendment uses very similar terminology . . . . All three of these instances unambiguously refer to individual rights, not ‘collective’ rights, or rights that may be exercised only through participation in some corporate body. Nowhere else in the Constitution does a ‘right’ attributed to ‘the people’ refer to anything other than an individual right. . . . In all six other provisions of the Constitution that mention ‘the people,’ the term unambiguously refers to all members of the political community, not an unspecified subset. . . . Justice Stevens is dead wrong to think that the right to petition is ‘primarily collective in nature.’"

On the Meaning of "Arms"

". . . . Just as the First Amendment protects modern forms of communications and the Fourth Amendment applies to modern forms of search, the Second Amendment extends, prima facie, to all instruments that constitute bearable arms, even those that were not in existence at the time of the founding."

On the Meaning of "Keep Arms"

"[Samuel Johnson’s 18th century dictionary] defined ‘keep’ as, most relevantly, ‘[t]o retain; not to lose,’ and ‘[t]o have in custody.’ Webster defined it as ‘[t]o hold; to retain in one’s power or possession.’ No party has apprised us of an idiomatic meaning of ‘keep Arms.’ Thus, the most natural reading of ‘keep Arms’ in the Second Amendment is to ‘have weapons’ . . . . [T]here is no evidence whatsoever to support a military reading of ‘keep arms.’

On the Meaning of "Bear Arms"

"At the time of the founding, as now, to ‘bear’ meant to ‘carry.’ When used with ‘arms,’ however, the term has a meaning that refers to carrying for a particular purpose-confrontation. . . . Although the phrase implies that the carrying of the weapon is for the purpose of ‘offensive or defensive action,’ it in no way connotes participation in a structured military organization. From our review of founding-era sources, we conclude that this natural meaning was also the meaning that ‘bear arms’ had in the 18th century. In numerous instances, ‘bear arms’ was unambiguously used to refer to the carrying of weapons outside of an organized militia. The most prominent examples are those most relevant to the Second Amendment: Nine state constitutional provisions written in the 18th century or the first two decades of the 19th, which enshrined a right of citizens to ‘bear arms in defense of themselves and the state’ or ‘bear arms in defense of himself and the state.’ It is clear from those formulations that ‘bear arms’ did not refer only to carrying a weapon in an organized military unit. . . .

"[T]he meaning of ‘bear arms’ that petitioners and Justice Stevens propose is not even the (sometimes) idiomatic meaning. Rather, they manufacture a hybrid definition, whereby ‘bear arms’ connotes the actual carrying of arms (and therefore is not really an idiom) but only in the service of an organized militia. No dictionary has ever adopted that definition, and we have been apprised of no source that indicates that it carried that meaning at the time of the founding. . . .

On the Meaning of the Amendment’s "Keep and Bear" Clause in its Entirety

"Putting all of these textual elements together, we find that they guarantee the individual right to possess and carry weapons in case of confrontation. This meaning is strongly confirmed by the historical background of the Second Amendment. We look to this because it has always been widely understood that the Second Amendment, like the First and Fourth Amendments, codified a pre-existing right. The very text of the Second Amendment implicitly recognizes the pre-existence of the right and declares only that it ‘shall not be infringed.’ As we said in United States v. Cruikshank , ‘[t]his is not a right granted by the Constitution. Neither is it in any manner dependent upon that instrument for its existence. The Second Amendment declares that it shall not be infringed.’

On the Relationship between the "Militia" and "Keep and Bear" Clauses

"Does the preface fit with an operative clause that creates an individual right to keep and bear arms? It fits perfectly, once one knows the history that the founding generation knew and that we have described above. That history showed that the way tyrants had eliminated a militia consisting of all the able-bodied men was not by banning the militia but simply by taking away the people’s arms, enabling a select militia or standing army to suppress political opponents. This is what had occurred in England that prompted codification of the right to have arms in the English Bill of Rights. It is therefore entirely sensible that the Second Amendment’s prefatory clause announces the purpose for which the right was codified: to prevent elimination of the militia. The prefatory clause does not suggest that preserving the militia was the only reason Americans valued the ancient right; most undoubtedly thought it even more important for self-defense and hunting. But the threat that the new Federal Government would destroy the citizens’ militia by taking away their arms was the reason that right-unlike some other English rights-was codified in a written Constitution. Justice Breyer’s assertion that individual self-defense is merely a ‘subsidiary interest’ of the right to keep and bear arms is profoundly mistaken. . . .

Read the remaining full text of this ruling, including the topic's below, at the .

On the Meaning of "Well Regulated Militia"

On the Meaning of "Security of a Free State"

On the Court’s Decision in United States v. Miller (1939)

On Arms the Second Amendment Protects

On Restrictions Permissible Under the Second Amendment

On D.C.’s Gun Bans

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