June 26th, 2008
10:26 AM ET
13 years ago

Justice rules city's handgun ban unconstitutional

[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/US/06/26/scotus.guns/art.court.afp.gi.jpg caption=" A gun ownership supporter holds a placard in March outside the Supreme Court in Washington."]WASHINGTON (CNN) - The Supreme Court on Thursday rejected a sweeping handgun ban in the nation's capital, saying it violates Americans' constitutional right to "keep and bear arms."

Thursday's sharply divided 5-4 ruling gives constitutional validation to citizens seeking the right to possess one of the most common types of firearms in their homes. The gun control issue has been politically divisive for years, and the monumental decision is expected to have broad social and legal implications, especially in an election year.

Watch: What does the ruling mean?

The majority of justices disagreed with arguments that the Washington, D.C. government has broad authority to enact what local officials called "reasonable" weapons restrictions in order to reduce violent crime.

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Filed under: Supreme Court
soundoff (230 Responses)
  1. Patrick Henry, Ft. Myers

    Now more than ever we have reason to distrust our government. The #1 protection from the tyranny of a government is the right of it's citizens to possess the necessary guns and ammunition to rebel and reclaim their liberty.

    That's why it's in the bill of rights–because our revolutionary beginnings suggested there may again some day be a need for the citizens to rise up–and reclaim their liberty/freedom from a government who did not listen to them nor represent them.

    Above all other liberties–we should always retain the right to remove an undesired government in power–even if it requires the use of force.

    June 26, 2008 11:56 am at 11:56 am |
  2. Tommy Hussein in St. Louis

    Anyone who is interested in this should read a "courts and civil liberties" textbook, like the one my wife had for a course she took as a political science major. I'm sorry that I don't have a more specific title handy, but if you read a book like this, that contains written opinions (both rulings and dissents) by justices throughout this country's history, you will see that how to interpret the Constitution is a very complicated legal question that rises far above our simplistic stereotypes of "conservative" and "liberal" justices and whether or not they are "legislating from the bench".

    June 26, 2008 11:59 am at 11:59 am |
  3. Il voter

    if this is your constitutional right to carry gun then it is constitutional rights of fello citizens that your guns dont go in wrong hands or in hands of kids.


    June 26, 2008 12:01 pm at 12:01 pm |
  4. Raymond Duke

    To the liberals who think that people having guns in a country is not right and should only be held by the police and the military. After spending twenty years in the militart and serving in a lot of foriegn countrys . I can tell you why there are not that many countrys that are true democracys like ours. They had laws that gave the guns to the police and only to the military. Guess what , they are no longer free.

    June 26, 2008 12:03 pm at 12:03 pm |
  5. Jan

    Still have not heard from Obama–he always waits until the decision so he can pander wherever he needs the votes. Glad to see McCain is a true patriot and respects my right to defend myself.

    June 26, 2008 12:05 pm at 12:05 pm |
  6. Greg Pottstown, Pa.

    Obama endorsed IL handgun ban. But now he says he is for the right to bear arms.

    June 26, 2008 12:08 pm at 12:08 pm |
  7. Marta-K

    Wow....scary thought....people in DC being able to carry guns. If you've been to DC, you know all the areas around the WH are ghettos for the most part. Bet the gangs think this news if great!
    Can't believe the Court has gone so far as to actually define the 2nd Amendment (they never have before). Will be interesting how this gets translated into WHO can own what KIND of guns (arm themselves). Does this mean they can carry AK-47's?)
    One important question that never gets asked when discussing the 2nd Amendment is WHY in this day and age of not needing to hunt for food or defending against civil war opponents one NEEDS a gun? Why do Americans feel a NEED to carry a gun?

    June 26, 2008 12:08 pm at 12:08 pm |
  8. McCain08

    Supreme Court has been busy !!

    The right decision, let americans chose what they want to do with their past-time.

    June 26, 2008 12:10 pm at 12:10 pm |
  9. RH

    Any legitimate right to own a firearm is driven by the citizenry's potential need to protect itself from government. I wholly support gun ownership to this end. What bothers me about gun rights judgments, or, to be more to the point, the reactions to them, is the propensity of gun rights proponents to rail about government keeping its hands off "my guns." Very rarely, if ever, do I read or hear of complaints about government coming to get "my 'gun.'" It seems to me that those who are so concerned about these issues are those who desire the legal right to own an outright arsenal, and that disturbs me deeply. I cannot imagine any legitimate reason to keep more than one firearm, or perhaps two of different type for different purposes, i.e. home defence versus hunting. In short, demonstrably responsible ownership of a firearm for demonstrably legitimate purposes should be a right of every citizen; any activity that falls beyond this definition should be dealt with severely.

    June 26, 2008 12:10 pm at 12:10 pm |
  10. Joe, Chicago

    Obama does support the right to bear arms as a Federal Law. Additionally, he also supports local governments (city, county) to be able to amend that right if that is the will of that specific location.

    I do not believe he would be in favor of this decision. This was covered in one of the last Primary debates.

    State and local governments do need to have a say. If Washington DC wants to outlaw guns, they should be able to do so. No one is going hunting for deer in the capital.

    June 26, 2008 12:10 pm at 12:10 pm |
  11. Joe Schmo

    Contrary, to some of the arguments here, the Constitution doesn't give a citizen the right to own a gun. I says the government can't infringe on the right to bear arms because of the necessity of a well-organized militia. A strict constructionist, like Scalia claims to be would have to admit that a plain reading of this does not make gun ownership an individual right, but rather as a collective right of a well-organized militia. An argument, that "bear arms" means the right to own a handgun (which is all the law prohibited, duly secured hunting rifles were still allowed) could be construed to mean any weapon. What makes a gun "arms" under this interpretation that would exclude biological or chemical weapons? Would a law banning possession of anthrax be overturned on the same reasoning?

    June 26, 2008 12:11 pm at 12:11 pm |
  12. Anon

    Guns are outlawed in a lot of western countries but it doesnt stop gang warfare. So no matter what the ones that want to use guns for disgusting purposes will get them without problem- legal or illegal

    June 26, 2008 12:11 pm at 12:11 pm |
  13. M.S. Indiana

    Andy J, NY, Funny thing you come up with there... The founding fathers made that law, because they were afraid of UK coming back and take over again...

    After having served in the military for 7 years i must say i don't see any reasons for civilians to carry handguns, they are made for one purpose, to kill, so if you wanna kill you should have a rifle or shotgun and go hunting.. Then again, why cant we have machine guns, automatic weapons, hand grenades or explosives, after all they are just weapons??

    joe DeSoto, MO.

    And why are we then trying to disarm proud citizens around in the world, why should they not be allowed to carry guns for their own safety ??,
    And what do we have a big military for then ??? and the biggest navy in the world... Thought those should be protecting us, just like the police force and FBI should be on our side..

    June 26, 2008 12:12 pm at 12:12 pm |
  14. Linda Owens

    I wish that Charlton Heston had lived to see this!

    June 26, 2008 12:14 pm at 12:14 pm |
  15. Joyce memphis, tn

    Like the old saying...If you outlaw guns, then only the outlaws would have guns. I'm a single female who own 2 guns for my protection. I'm glad the Supreme Court upheld that ruling. And for those who disagree with the ruling, what would you do if your life were threaten? Remember, the police isn't always around to protect you.

    June 26, 2008 12:14 pm at 12:14 pm |
  16. law biding citizen

    i think the cops are scared, they go around shooting people like mike bell 500 times, now we get to have fire power, come though my hood harrashing me, now i also think they should make sure they change the self-defense law, it seems to me everytime a cop shoots someone they get off, now we get some firepower and we should be able to shoot the cops if they come around disrepectin..................law biding citizen

    June 26, 2008 12:15 pm at 12:15 pm |
  17. Dave

    I just can't belive it was a close vote. we have the right to keep and bear arms as a form of protection not only from individuals who may try to harm us but also against a tyrannical government. case in point, Nazi Germany, where Hitler disarmed thecountry.

    June 26, 2008 12:16 pm at 12:16 pm |
  18. Chris from NY

    Owning a handgun is constitutional. All we are asking is for people to be reasonable by keeping guns away from those who have no meaningful use of it than just to kill people with it.

    June 26, 2008 12:18 pm at 12:18 pm |
  19. j in colorado

    If you think it's a good idea to take guns away from people, well, you are right there with Lenin, Mao, and Castro. . .

    June 26, 2008 12:21 pm at 12:21 pm |
  20. jr

    Absolutely the right decision.

    Now think about this in another mindset. It's several years down the road. Obama, is our president and has had the opportunity to appoint several liberal judges to the Supreme Court. Who thinks the decision would be the same?

    June 26, 2008 12:22 pm at 12:22 pm |
  21. Only logical

    It's only logical that the second ammendment applies to individuals just as the rest of the Bill of Rights do.

    And please, this right has NOTHING to do with hunting and everything to do with the protection of ones self, ones country and from the powers of a tryannical goverment.

    Without the 2nd, there is no way to protect your remaining rights.

    June 26, 2008 12:22 pm at 12:22 pm |
  22. dbrash

    I've owned a gun for several years. I have yet to kill my first person, however, nobody has broken into my house either. Leave me and my guns alone.

    June 26, 2008 12:23 pm at 12:23 pm |
  23. Glennis, PA

    It's a good decision. Criminals always find ways to get around gun laws and fly under the radar. Why punish the law abiding segment of the population for the transgressions of the criminal element? Changes to the criminal justice system that ensure appropriate punishment for criminals might be a better goal. It seems that government entities are always trying to take the easy way out by diverting responsibility to those to whom it shouldn't belong.

    June 26, 2008 12:23 pm at 12:23 pm |
  24. Kathryn Irby - Metairie, LA

    It IS unconstitutional!!!

    June 26, 2008 12:24 pm at 12:24 pm |
  25. Joe - Wilmington, DE

    Every other first-world democracy has very strictly enforced gun laws on the books in order to protect thier citizens. These laws work. As an example, Canada as a whole has fewer gun-related injuries/homicides per year than the small U.S. city of Wilmington, DE.

    Why doesn't data like this mean anything to us?

    Why isn't public safety put before someones "right" to own a firearm?

    June 26, 2008 12:27 pm at 12:27 pm |
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