District of Columbia law bans handgun possession by making it a crime to carry an pdf (hereinafter Weapon Use and Violent Crime) (statis- tics indicating
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1 (Slip Opinion) OCTOBER TERM, 2007 Syllabus NOTE: Where it is feasible, a syllabus (headnote) will be released, as is being done in connection with this case, at the time the opinion is issued. The syllabus constitutes no part of the opinion of the Court but has been prepared by the Reporter of Decisions for the convenience of the reader. See United States v. Detroit Timber & Lumber Co., 200 U. S. 321, 337. SUPREME COURT OF THE UNITED STATES Syllabus DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA ET AL. v. HELLER CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA CIRCUIT No. 07Œ290. Argued March 18, 2008ŠDecided June 26, 2008 District of Columbia law bans handgu n possession by making it a crime to carry an unregistered firearm and prohibiting the registration of handguns; provides separately that no person may carry an unli -censed handgun, but authorizes th e police chief to issue 1-year li -censes; and requires residents to keep lawfully owned firearms unloaded and disassembled or bound by a trigger lock or similar de -vice. Respondent Heller, a D. C. special policeman, applied to regis -ter a handgun he wished to keep at home, but the District refused. He filed this suit seeking, on Se cond Amendment grounds, to enjoin the city from enforcing the bar on handgun registration, the licensing requirement insofar as it prohibit s carrying an unlicensed firearm in the home, and the trigger-lock requir ement insofar as it prohibits the use of functional firearms in the home. The District Court dismissed the suit, but the D. C. Circuit reversed, holding that the Second Amendment protects an individual™s right to possess firearms and that the city™s total ban on handg uns, as well as its requirement that firearms in the home be kept nonfunctional even when necessary for self-defense, violated that right. Held: 1. 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. Pp. 2Œ53.(a) The Amendment™s prefatory clause announces a purpose, but does not limit or expand the scope of the second part, the operative clause. The operative clause™s te xt and history demonstrate that it connotes an individual right to keep and bear arms. Pp. 2Œ22. (b) The prefatory clause comports with the Court™s interpretation
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2 DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA v. HELLER Syllabus of the operative clause. The ﬁmiliti aﬂ comprised all males physically capable of acting in concert for th e common defense. The Antifederal-ists feared that the Federal Government would disarm the people in order to disable this citizens™ mili tia, enabling a politicized standing army or a select militia to rule. The response was to deny Congress power to abridge the ancient right of individuals to keep and bear arms, so that the ideal of a citize ns™ militia would be preserved. Pp. 22Œ28. (c) The Court™s interpretation is confirmed by analogous arms- bearing rights in state constituti ons that preceded and immediately followed the Second Amendment. Pp. 28Œ30. (d) The Second Amendment™s drafting history, while of dubious interpretive worth, reveals three state Second Amendment proposals that unequivocally referred to an individual right to bear arms. Pp. 30Œ32. (e) Interpretation of the Second Amendment by scholars, courts and legislators, from immediately after its ratification through the late 19th century also supports the Court™s conclusion. Pp. 32Œ47. (f) None of the Court™s precedents forecloses the Court™s interpre -tation. Neither United States v. Cruikshank , 92 U. S. 542, 553, nor Presser v. Illinois , 116 U. S. 252, 264Œ265, refutes the individual- rights interpretation. United States v. Miller , 307 U. S. 174, does not limit the right to keep and bear ar ms to militia purposes, but rather limits the type of weapon to which the right applies to those used by the militia, i.e., those in common use for lawful purposes. Pp. 47Œ54. 2. Like most rights, the Second Amendment right is not unlimited. It is not a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose: For example, con -cealed weapons prohibitions have been upheld under the Amendment or state analogues. The Court™s op inion should not be taken to castdoubt on longstanding prohibitions on the possession of firearms byfelons and the mentally ill, or laws forbidding the carrying of fire -arms in sensitive places such as schools and government buildings, or laws imposing conditions and qualific ations on the commercial sale of arms. Miller™s holding that the sorts of weapons protected are those ﬁin common use at the timeﬂ finds support in the historical tradition of prohibiting the carrying of dangerous and unusual weapons. Pp. 54Œ56. 3. The handgun ban and the trigger-lock requirement (as applied to self-defense) violate the Second Amen dment. The District™s total ban on handgun possession in the home amounts to a prohibition on an entire class of ﬁarmsﬂ that Amer icans overwhelmingly choose for the lawful purpose of self-defense. Under any of the standards of scru -tiny the Court has applied to enumerated constitutional rights, this
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3 Cite as: 554 U. S. ____ (2008) Syllabus prohibitionŠin the plac e where the importance of the lawful defense of self, family, and property is most acuteŠwould fail constitutional muster. Similarly, the requiremen t 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. Because Heller conceded at oral argument that the D. C. licensing law is perm issible if it is not enforced arbi -trarily and capriciously, the Court assumes that a license will satisfy his prayer for relief and does not a ddress the licensing requirement. Assuming he is not disqualified from exercising Second Amendment rights, the District must permit Heller to register his handgun and must issue him a license to carry it in the home. Pp. 56Œ64. 478 F. 3d 370, affirmed. SCALIA , J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which R OBERTS, C. J., and KENNEDY, T HOMAS, and ALITO, JJ., joined. STEVENS , J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which S OUTER, G INSBURG , and BREYER , JJ., joined. B REYER , J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which S TEVENS, SOUTER, and G INSBURG , JJ., joined.
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_________________ _________________ 1 Cite as: 554 U. S. ____ (2008) Opinion of the Court NOTICE: This opinion is subject to formal revision before publication in the preliminary print of the United States Reports. Readers are requested to notify the Reporter of Decisions, Supreme Court of the United States, Wash ington, D. C. 20543, of any typographical or other formal errors, in order that corrections may be made before the preliminary print goes to press. SUPREME COURT OF THE UNITED STATES No. 07Œ290 DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, ET AL., PETITIONERS v.DICK ANTHONY HELLER ON WRIT OF CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA CIRCUIT [June 26, 2008] JUSTICE SCALIA delivered the opinion of the Court. We consider whether a District of Columbia prohibition on the possession of usable handguns in the home violates the Second Amendment to the Constitution. I sion of handguns. It is a crime to carry an unregistered firearm, and the registration of handguns is prohibited. See D. C. Code §§7Œ2501.01(12), 7Œ2502.01(a), 7Œ 2502.02(a)(4) (2001). Wholly apart from that prohibition, no person may carry a handgun without a license, but the chief of police may issue licenses for 1-year periods. See §§22Œ4504(a), 22Œ4506. District of Columbia law also requires residents to keep their lawfully owned firearms, such as registered long guns, ﬁunloaded and disassembled or bound by a trigger lock or similar deviceﬂ unless they are located in a place of business or are being used for lawful recreational activities. See §7Œ2507.02. 1 ŠŠŠŠŠŠ 1There are minor exceptions to all of these prohibitions, none of which is relevant here.
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2 DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA v. HELLER Opinion of the Court Respondent Dick Heller is a D. C. special police officer authorized to carry a handgun while on duty at the Fe eral Judicial Center. He app cate for a handgun that he wished to keep at home, but the District refused. He thereafter filed a lawsuit in the Federal District Court for the District of Col ing, on Second Amendment grounds, to enjoin the cityfrom enforcing the bar on the registration of handguns, the licensing requirement insofar as it prohibits the carr ing of a firearm in the home without a license, and the trigger-lock requirement insofar as it prohibits the use of ﬁfunctional firearms within the home.ﬂ App. 59a. The District Court dismissed respondent™s complaint, see Parker v. District of Columbia , 311 F. Supp. 2d 103, 109 (2004). The Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, construing his complaint as seeking the right to render a firearm operable and carry it about his home in that condition only when necessary for self-defense, 2versed, see Parker v. District of Columbia , 478 F. 3d 370, 401 (2007). It held that the Second Amendment protects an individual right to possess fi rearms and that the city™stotal ban on handguns, as well as its requirement that firearms in the home be kept nonfunctional even when necessary for self-defense, violated that right. See id., at 395, 399Œ401. The Court of Appeals directed the District Court to enter summary judgment for respondent. We granted certiorari. 552 U. S. ___ (2007). II We turn first to the meaning of the Second Amendment. A The Second Amendment provides: ﬁA 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 ŠŠŠŠŠŠ 2That construction has not been challenged here.
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3 Cite as: 554 U. S. ____ (2008) Opinion of the Court infringed.ﬂ In interpreting this text, we are guided by the principle that ﬁ[t]he Constitution was written stood by the voters; its words and phrases were used intheir normal and ordinary as distinguished from technicalmeaning.ﬂ United States v. Sprague, 282 U. S. 716, 731 (1931); see also Gibbons v. Ogden , 9 Wheat. 1, 188 (1824). Normal meaning may of course include an idiomatic meaning, but it excludes secret or technical meanings that would not have been known to ordinary citizens in the founding generation.The two sides in this case have set out very differentinterpretations of the Amendment. day™s dissenting Justices believe that it protects only the right to possess and carry a firearm in connection with militia service. See Brief for Petitioners 11Œ12; post, at 1 (STEVENS, J., dissenting). Respondent argues that it protects an individual right to po nected with service in a militia, and to use that arm for traditionally lawful purposes, such as self-defense within the home. See Brief for Respondent 2Œ4. The Second Amendment is naturally divided into twoparts: its prefatory clause and its operative clause. The former does not limit the latter grammatically, but rather announces a purpose. phrased, ﬁBecause a well regulated Militia is necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keepand bear Arms shall not be infringed.ﬂ See J. Tiffany, A Treatise on Government and Constitutional Law §585, p. 394 (1867); Brief for Professors of Linguistics and lish as Amici Curiae 3 (hereinafter Linguists™ Brief).Although this structure of the Second Amendment is unique in our Constitution, ot her legal documents of the founding era, particularly indi vidual-rights provisions of state constitutions, commonly included a prefatory stat ment of purpose. See generally Volokh, The Commonplace Second Amendment, 73 N. Y. U. L. Rev. 793, 814Œ821
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5 Cite as: 554 U. S. ____ (2008) Opinion of the Court Commentaries on Written Laws and Their Interpretation §51, p. 49 (1882) (quoting Rex v. Marks, 3 East, 157, 165 (K. B. 1802)). Therefore, while we will begin our textual analysis with the operative clause, we will return to the prefatory clause to ens tive clause is consistent with the announced purpose.4 1. Operative Clause. a. ﬁRight of the People.ﬂ The first salient feature of the operative clause is that it codifies a ﬁright of the peo ple.ﬂ The unamended Constitution and the Bill of Rights use the phrase ﬁright of the peopleﬂ two other times, in the First Amendment™s Assembly-and-Petition Clause and inthe Fourth Amendment™s Search-and-Seizure Clause. The Ninth Amendment uses very similar terminology (ﬁThe enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shallnot be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the peopleﬂ). All three of these instances unambiguously refer to individual rights, not ﬁcollectiveﬂ rights, or rights that may be exercised only th rough participation in some corporate body. 5 ŠŠŠŠŠŠ 4 JUSTICE STEVENS criticizes us for discussing the prologue last. Post, at 8. But if a prologue can be used only to clarify an ambiguous oper tive provision, surely the first step must be to determine whether the operative provision is ambiguous. It might be argued, we suppose, that the prologue itself should be one of the factors that go into the determ nation of whether the operative provision is ambiguousŠbut that would cause the prologue to be used to produce ambiguity rather than just to resolve it. In any event, even if we considered the prologue along with the operative provision we would reach the same result we do today, since (as we explain) our interpretation of ﬁthe right of the people to keep and bear armsﬂ furt hers the purpose of an effective militia no less than (indeed, more than) the dissent™s interpretation. See infra, at 26Œ27. 5 JUSTICE STEVENS is of course correct, post, at 10, that the right to assemble cannot be exercised alone, but it is still an individual right, and not one conditioned upon member ship in some defined ﬁassembly,ﬂ as he contends the right to bear arms is conditioned upon membership
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6 DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA v. HELLER Opinion of the Court Three provisions of the Constitution refer to ﬁthe peopleﬂ in a context other than ﬁrightsﬂŠthe famous preamble (ﬁWe the peopleﬂ), §2 of pleﬂ will choose members of the House), and the Tenth Amendment (providing that those powers not given the Federal Government remain with ﬁthe Statesﬂ or ﬁthe peopleﬂ). Those provisions arguably refer to ﬁthe peopleﬂ acting collectivelyŠbut they deal with the exercise or reservation of powers, not righ ts. Nowhere else in the Constitution does a ﬁrightﬂ attributed to ﬁthe peopleﬂ refer to anything other than an individual right.6 What is more, in all six othetion that mention ﬁthe people,ﬂ the term unambiguously refers to all members of the political community, not an unspecified subset. As we said in United States v. Ver-dugo-Urquidez, 494 U. S. 259, 265 (1990): ﬁ‚[T]he people™ seems ployed in select parts of the Constitution. . . . [Its uses] sugges[t] that ‚the people™ protected by the ŠŠŠŠŠŠ in a defined militia. And J USTICE STEVENS is dead wrong to think that the right to petition is ﬁprimarily collective in nature.ﬂ Ibid. See McDonald v. Smith, 472 U. S. 479, 482Œ484 (1985) (describing histori cal origins of right to petition). 6If we look to other founding-era documents, we find that some state constitutions used the term ﬁthe peop leﬂ to refer to the people collec tively, in contrast to ﬁcitizen,ﬂ wh ich was used to invoke individual rights. See Heyman, Natural Rights and the Second Amendment, in The Second Amendment in Law and History 179, 193Œ195 (C. Bogus ed. 2000) (hereinafter Bogus). But that usage was not remotely un form. See, e.g. , N. C. Declaration of Rights §XIV (1776), in 5 The Federal and State Constitutions, Colonial Charters, and Other Organic Laws 2787, 2788 (F. Thorpe ed. 1909) (hereinafter Thorpe) (jury trial); Md. Declaration of Rights §XVIII (1776), in 3 id., at 1686, 1688 (vic nage requirement); Vt. Declaration of Rights ch. 1, §XI (1777), in 6 id., at 3737, 3741 (searches and seizures); Pa. Declaration of Rights §XII (1776), in 5 id., at 3081, 3083 (free speech). And, most importantly, it was clearly not the terminology used in the Federal Constitution, given the First, Fourth, an d Ninth Amendments.
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7 Cite as: 554 U. S. ____ (2008) Opinion of the Court Fourth Amendment, and by the First and Second Amendments, and to whom rights and powers are served in the Ninth and Tenth Amendments, refers to nity or nection with this country to be considered part of that community.ﬂ This contrasts markedly with the phrase ﬁthe militiaﬂ in the prefatory clause. tiaﬂ in colonial America consisted of a subs pleﬂŠthose who were male, able bodied, and within a certain age range. Reading the Second Amendment as protecting only the right to ﬁkeep and bear Armsﬂ in an organized militia therefore fits poorly with the operative clause™s description of the holder of that right as ﬁthe people.ﬂWe start therefore with a strong presumption that the Second Amendment right is exercised individually and belongs to all Americans. b. ﬁKeep and bear Arms.ﬂ We move now from the holder of the rightŠﬁthe peopleﬂŠto the substance of the right: ﬁto keep and bear Arms.ﬂ Before addressing the verbs ﬁkeepﬂ and ﬁbear,ﬂ we inter pret their object: ﬁArms.ﬂ Th e 18th-century meaning is no different from the meaning today. The 1773 edition of Samuel Johnson™s dictionary defined ﬁarmsﬂ as ﬁweapons of offence, or armour of defence.ﬂ 1 Dictionary of the English Language 107 (4th ed.) (hereinafter Johnson). Timothy Cunningham™s important 1771 legal dictionarydefined ﬁarmsﬂ as ﬁany thing that a man wears for his defence, or takes into his hands, or useth in wrath to cast at or strike another.ﬂ 1 A New and Complete Law Di tionary (1771); see also N. Webster, American Dictionary of the English Language (1828) (reprinted 198 ter Webster) (similar).
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8 DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA v. HELLER Opinion of the Court The term was applied, then as now, to weapons that were not specifically designed for military use and werenot employed in a military capacity. For inst ningham™s legal dictionary gave as an example of usage: ﬁServants and labourers shall use bows and arrows on Sundays, &c. and not bear other arms.ﬂ See also, e.g., An Act for the trial of Negroes, 1797 Del. Laws ch. XLIII, §6, p. 104, in 1 First Laws of the State of Delaware 102, 104 (J. Cushing ed. 1981 (pt. 1)); see generally State v. Duke , 42 Tex. 455, 458 (1874) (citing decisions of state courts construing ﬁarmsﬂ). Although one founding-era thesaurus limited ﬁarmsﬂ (as opposed to ﬁweaponsﬂ) to ﬁinstrumentsof offence generally made use of in war,ﬂ even that source stated that all firearms constituted ﬁarms.ﬂ 1 J. Trusler, The Distinction Between Words Esteemed Synonymous in the English Language 37 (1794) (emphasis added). Some have lous, that only those arms in existence in the 18th century are protected by the Second Amendment. We do not terpret constitutional rights that way. Just as the First Amendment protects modern forms of communications, e.g., Reno v. American Civil Liberties Union , 521 U. S. 844, 849 (1997), and the Fourth Amendment applies to modern forms of search, e.g., Kyllo v. United States , 533 U. S. 27, 35Œ36 (2001), 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.We turn to the phrases ﬁkeep armsﬂ and ﬁbear arms.ﬂ Johnson defined ﬁkeepﬂ as, most relevantly, ﬁ[t]o retain; not to lose,ﬂ and ﬁ[t]o have in custody.ﬂ Johnson 1095. Webster defined it as ﬁ[t]o hold; to retain in one™s power or possession.ﬂ No party has apprised us of an idiomatic meaning of ﬁkeep Arms.ﬂ T hus, the most natural reading of ﬁkeep Armsﬂ in the Second Amendment is to ﬁhave weapons.ﬂ
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