Monday, Dec. 13, 2010

District of Columbia v. Heller

It had been 70 years since the Supreme Court had last tackled the central conundrum of the Second Amendment: Does the right to bear arms apply only to militias? This 2008 case specifically challenged Washington, D.C., gun-control legislation that generally prohibited carrying a pistol without a license and also required that all firearms be kept unloaded. In a split decision, the often conservative-leaning Roberts court concluded that the Second Amendment does protect an individual's right to possess a firearm unconnected with service in a militia. It was possibly the most important government statement regarding guns in the U.S. since the Second Amendment was ratified in 1791.

Date Decided: June 26, 2008

Chief Justice Presiding: John G. Roberts

Vote Split: 5-4.

Dissenting justice John Paul Stevens wrote that the constitutional right to "keep and bear arms" refers to state militia service only. Dissenting justice Stephen Breyer wrote that, while the Second Amendment refers to individual rights of self-defense, it does not grant the right to keep loaded handguns in homes.