Will the USSC strike down the DC gun ban?

The USSC will soon be deciding the fate of the DC gun ban in a ruling that will be historic no matter the outcome:

WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court justices, hearing a historic argument on the meaning of the 2nd Amendment, signaled they are likely to strike down a handgun ban in the District of Columbia and rule that homeowners have a right to keep a gun for self-defense.

But if the oral arguments are any guide, the outcome will not be unanimous. Several justices said they believed the 2nd Amendment was intended to protect the state’s right to maintain a “well-regulated militia,” not to give gun rights to individuals.

Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, who is the swing vote in close cases, said he believed the 2nd Amendment did more than bolster the state militia. “In my view, there is a general right to bear arms” that goes beyond serving in the militia, Kennedy said.

Most Americans believe the 2nd Amendment protects the right of law-abiding persons to “keep and bear arms.” But the legal meaning of this provision remains in doubt. The high court has never invoked this right to strike down a gun law nor has it ruled that it protects a personal right to own a gun.

Justice Antonin Scalia, like Kennedy, described the 2nd Amendment as protecting individual guns. Justice Clarence Thomas is likely to join with them. And Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. said they believed the city council in Washington, D.C., went too far by prohibiting homeowners from having handguns.

“Why is that a reasonable regulation?” Roberts asked the lawyer defending the city’s law.

Walter Dellinger, arguing for the city, said the framers of the Constitution were concerned about protecting the right of the people to defend the state or the community. The 2nd Amendment creates “a right to participate in the common defense,” he said.

The amendment says: “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.”

Dellinger also argued that the phrase “bear arms” was a military term. He said the Washington law should be upheld because it allows homeowners to have a disassembled rifle or shotgun at home, even while it bans small handguns.

It was clear several justices agreed with this view.

Bob Leibowitz predicts a 6-3 ruling overturning the ban. SCOTUSblog has links galore on the case (District of Columbia v. Heller), as does Jonathan Adler at NRO’s Bench Memos. The legal eagles at The Volokh Conspiracy are weighing in with their opinions as well.

A decision isn’t expected until June.

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