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WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Supreme Court ruled Thursday that Americans have a right to own guns for self-defense and hunting, the justices' first major pronouncement on gun rights in U.S. history.

The court's 5-4 ruling struck down the District of Columbia's 32-year-old ban on handguns as incompatible with gun rights under the Second Amendment. The decision went further than even the Bush administration wanted, but probably leaves most firearms laws intact.

The court had not conclusively interpreted the Second Amendment since its ratification in 1791. The amendment reads: "A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed."

The basic issue for the justices was whether the amendment protects an individual's right to own guns no matter what, or whether that right is somehow tied to service in a state militia.

Writing for the majority, Justice Antonin Scalia said that an individual right to bear arms is supported by "the historical narrative" both before and after the Second Amendment was adopted.

The Constitution does not permit "the absolute prohibition of handguns held and used for self-defense in the home," Scalia said. The court also struck down Washington's requirement that firearms be equipped with trigger locks or kept disassembled, but left intact the licensing of guns.

In a dissent he summarized from the bench, Justice John Paul Stevens wrote that the majority "would have us believe that over 200 years ago, the Framers made a choice to limit the tools available to elected officials wishing to regulate civilian uses of weapons."

He said such evidence "is nowhere to be found."

Justice Stephen Breyer wrote a separate dissent in which he said, "In my view, there simply is no untouchable constitutional right guaranteed by the Second Amendment to keep loaded handguns in the house in crime-ridden urban areas."

Joining Scalia were Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Samuel Alito, Anthony Kennedy and Clarence Thomas. The other dissenters were Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and David Souter.

Gun rights supporters hailed the decision. "I consider this the opening salvo in a step-by-step process of providing relief for law-abiding Americans everywhere that have been deprived of this freedom," said Wayne LaPierre, executive vice president of the National Rifle Association.

The NRA will file lawsuits in San Francisco, Chicago and several of its suburbs challenging handgun restrictions there based on Thursday's outcome.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., a leading gun control advocate in Congress, criticized the ruling. "I believe the people of this great country will be less safe because of it," she said.

The capital's gun law was among the nation's strictest.

Dick Anthony Heller, 66, an armed security guard, sued the District after it rejected his application to keep a handgun at his home for protection in the same Capitol Hill neighborhood as the court.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia ruled in Heller's favor and struck down Washington's handgun ban, saying the Constitution guarantees Americans the right to own guns and that a total prohibition on handguns is not compatible with that right.

The issue caused a split within the Bush administration. Vice President Dick Cheney supported the appeals court ruling, but others in the administration feared it could lead to the undoing of other gun regulations, including a federal law restricting sales of machine guns. Other laws keep felons from buying guns and provide for an instant background check.

Scalia said nothing in Thursday's ruling should "cast doubt on long-standing prohibitions on the possession of firearms by felons or the mentally ill, or laws forbidding the carrying of firearms in sensitive places such as schools and government buildings."

In a concluding paragraph to the his 64-page opinion, Scalia said the justices in the majority "are aware of the problem of handgun violence in this country" and believe the Constitution "leaves the District of Columbia a variety of tools for combating that problem, including some measures regulating handguns."

The law adopted by Washington's city council in 1976 bars residents from owning handguns unless they had one before the law took effect. Shotguns and rifles may be kept in homes, if they are registered, kept unloaded and either disassembled or equipped with trigger locks.

Opponents of the law have said it prevents residents from defending themselves. The Washington government says no one would be prosecuted for a gun law violation in cases of self-defense.

The last Supreme Court ruling on the topic came in 1939 in U.S. v. Miller, which involved a sawed-off shotgun. Constitutional scholars disagree over what that case means but agree it did not squarely answer the question of individual versus collective rights.

Forty-four state constitutions contain some form of gun rights, which are not affected by the court's consideration of Washington's restrictions.

The case is District of Columbia v. Heller, 07-290.
 

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Pro Gun Advocate
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And the NRA has already filed several lawsuits, as has a local Illinois carry group.
 

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Harley Dude
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This is a big win for gun-owners. But..........it does not settle anything in DC, thats for sure. The liberal politicians still think they can hammer gun owners with registration laws and restrictions on long guns in the home. You cannot protect yourself if your guns have to be disassemble and locked up in your home. Its none of their business in my opinion what a homeowner does with his/her gun and registration is unconstitutional.

I hope the NRA and others keep the lawsuits coming in DC until Fenty crawls back under that rock where he came from. They sure come up with some idiots for that mayor job.
 

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Pro Gun Advocate
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sig232 said:
This is a big win for gun-owners. But..........it does not settle anything in DC, thats for sure. The liberal politicians still think they can hammer gun owners with registration laws and restrictions on long guns in the home. You cannot protect yourself if your guns have to be disassemble and locked up in your home. Its none of their business in my opinion what a homeowner does with his/her gun and registration is unconstitutional.

I hope the NRA and others keep the lawsuits coming in DC until Fenty crawls back under that rock where he came from. They sure come up with some idiots for that mayor job.
I think that the ruling prohibits the requirement for the gun to be locked up and dissassembled.

But the DC law still will not permit owing a semi-automatic handgun.

The District has several other laws about gun possession, and the Fenty administration began reviewing its options while awaiting the court's decision. In a move that could rile supporters of yesterday's ruling, Nickles said the District will continue to enforce a separate decades-old D.C. ban on the possession of most clip-loaded semiautomatic handguns, which are popular with gun enthusiasts.

That regulation, which outlaws machine guns and was not part of the Supreme Court case, defines a machine gun in broad terms, encompassing semiautomatic weapons that can shoot, or be converted to shoot, more than 12 rounds without reloading, officials said. Nickles said that law remains on the books and will be enforced.
Seems that (a) I've never seen a clip-loaded handgun, and (b) there are lots of semis available that carry less than 12 rounds.

Also this:

§ 22-4504. Carrying concealed weapons; possession of weapons during commission of crime of violence; penalty.

(a) No person shall carry within the District of Columbia either openly or concealed on or about their person, a pistol, without a license issued pursuant to District of Columbia law, or any deadly or dangerous weapon capable of being so concealed. Whoever violates this section shall be punished as provided in § 22-4515, except that:

(1) A person who violates this section by carrying a pistol, without a license issued pursuant to District of Columbia law, or any deadly or dangerous weapon, in a place other than the person's dwelling place, place of business, or on other land possessed by the person, shall be fined not more than $5,000 or imprisoned for not more than 5 years, or both; or

(2) If the violation of this section occurs after a person has been convicted in the District of Columbia of a violation of this section or of a felony, either in the District of Columbia or another jurisdiction, the person shall be fined not more than $10,000 or imprisoned for not more than 10 years, or both.

(b) No person shall within the District of Columbia possess a pistol, machine gun, shotgun, rifle, or any other firearm or imitation firearm while committing a crime of violence or dangerous crime as defined in § 22-4501. Upon conviction of a violation of this subsection, the person may be sentenced to imprisonment for a term not to exceed 15 years and shall be sentenced to imprisonment for a mandatory-minimum term of not less than 5 years and shall not be released on parole, or granted probation or suspension of sentence, prior to serving the mandatory-minimum sentence.
Sounds like another couple of court cases to me:
(1) Clip-loaded handguns definition is faulty;
(2) 12 rounds is easy enough to get comply with;
(3) They have a statute that makes provisions for requiring carry permits, so they had better issue some.
 

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Glock27Bill said:
And the NRA has already filed several lawsuits, as has a local Illinois carry group.
NRA/ILA says Wilmette, Ill., has already suspended enforcement of its handgun ban. Perhaps the other municipalities will see the light and choose not to waste their citizens' money in stupid lawsuits. Perhaps, also, the citizens will see any move to the contrary to be just what it is, i.e., a blatant attempt by their gov't to usurp their Second Amendment rights. One can only hope.
 

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Pro Gun Advocate
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Mayor Fenty, Tear Down This Wall.
 

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Harley Dude
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Glock27Bill said:
Mayor Fenty, Tear Down This Wall.
Ha! Ha! Love it! :lol: :lol:
 
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