District of Columbia v. Heller 554 U.S. 570 (2008)

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  • The District of Colombia enacted the Firearms Control Regulations Act of 1975 which imposed particular restrictions on what firearms could be owned by its citizens.
  • Specifically, it banned handguns and also required that lawfully owned rifles and shotguns be kept unloaded and disassembled or bound by a trigger lock.
  • Heller challenged the constitutionality of the Act, claiming it infringed the Second Amendment of the US Constitution.
  • The Second Amendment states: “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.


  • Did the Firearms Control Regulations Act of 1975 violate the Second Amendment rights of individuals who were not affiliated with any state-regulated militia, but who wanted to keep firearms for private use in their homes?


  • The majority opinion was written by Justice Antonin Scalia, with Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr. and Justices Anthony M. Kennedy, Clarence Thomas and Samuel A. Alito Jr joining the opinion.
  • The US Supreme Court held that the Second Amendment protects an individual right to possess a firearm unconnected with service in a militia, and to use that arm for traditionally lawful purposes, such as self-defense within the home.
  • The provisions of the Firearms Control Regulations Act of 1975 infringed an individual’s right to bear arms as otherwise protected by the Second Amendment.


The handgun ban and the trigger-lock requirement (as applied to self-defense) violate the Second Amendment. The District’s total ban on handgun possession in the home amounts to a prohibition on an entire class of “arms” that Americans overwhelmingly choose for the lawful purpose of self-defense. Under any of the standards of scrutiny the Court has applied to enumerated constitutional rights, this prohibition – in the place where the importance of the lawful defense of self, family, and property is most acute – would fail constitutional muster. Similarly, the requirement that any lawful firearm in the home be disassembled or bound by a trigger lock makes it impossible for citizens to use arms for the core lawful purpose of self-defense and is hence unconstitutional.

(Justice Scalia at page 65)

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