The United States government is an official website that usually ends in .gov or .mil. Before sharing any sensitive information, it is important to make sure that you are on a federal government website. In a 5-4 decision that highlighted the divide between conservatives and liberals, the Supreme Court upheld the ruling of the appellate court. Justice Scalia, who wrote on behalf of the majority and was joined by Chief Justice Roberts, Justices Kennedy, Thomas, and Alito, concluded that the Second Amendment grants citizens the individual right to own a firearm that is not related to military service and to use it for traditionally lawful purposes such as self-defense at home.
At the same time, the Second Amendment “elevates, above all other interests, the right of responsible, law-abiding citizens to use weapons in defense of home and home.” The dissenting opinion was written by Justices Stevens, Breyer, Souter, and Ginsberg who argued that the rights contemplated in the Second Amendment only relate to military service. They presented evidence that contemporary state constitutions specifically identified the possession of weapons for self-defense as lawful but such a provision was not included in the Second Amendment. The dissenters further concluded that even if the Second Amendment were interpreted to establish a right to self-defense, the high crime rates and extensive data linking handguns to deaths and injuries from firearms in urban areas are sufficient to give the state a legitimate interest in banning guns. In response to this decision, three Illinois municipalities that had previously prohibited firearms have taken steps to overturn their bans.
In California, the San Francisco Housing Authority (SFHA) reached an out-of-court settlement with the National Rifle Association (NRA) that allowed residents of SFHA apartment buildings to own firearms.
The Impact of Heller on Gun Safety LawsThe decision in Heller has opened up the possibility for all types of gun safety laws to be challenged in federal court. Prior to Heller, it was standard practice for judges to force a defendant to surrender a firearm as a condition of obtaining provisional release. Some criminal defense attorneys may now use Heller to argue against the constitutionality of the federal “felons in possession” law which prohibits most convicted felons from possessing weapons or ammunition.
Regardless of what regulations survive Heller's analysis and whether or not the Second Amendment applies to states, it is clear that this decision affects our ability to rely solely on strict firearms restrictions as a means of addressing gun violence. This highlights the need for a combination of gun regulation and increased resources for law enforcement with preventive intervention strategies aimed at high-risk populations and communities.
ConclusionThe limited attention paid by the Supreme Court to the Second Amendment over the past 110 years means that this issue has not been addressed in this context. Consequently, it is unclear whether Heller's analysis extends to states.
There are already ongoing cases where courts will now adjust their approach and raise the threshold that governments must overcome to defend their gun safety laws.