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District of Columbia v. Heller Amicus Brief

Case Information: District of Columbia v. Heller, No. 07-290 (U.S. Supreme Court, submitted Jan. 11, 2008)

At issue: Challenging the District of Columbia’s gun permitting and safe storage laws. District of Columbia residents brought a challenge under the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution to District laws that: 1) prohibit the possession of most handguns in the District; and 2) require that all lawfully owned firearms be kept unloaded and disassembled or bound by a trigger lock or similar device. The District of Columbia District Court dismissed these challenges on the grounds that the Second Amendment protects an individual’s right to bear arms for service in the Militia, and that the term “Militia” in the Amendment refers to an organized military body, such as a National Guard unit. On appeal, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit reversed, striking down the District’s laws as violative of the Second Amendment and interpreting the Amendment to protect an individual right to keep and bear firearms unrelated to service in the militia. Parker v. District of Columbia, 478 F.3d 370 (D.C. Cir. 2007). The U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear the case.

Law Center’s Brief: Baltimore, Cleveland, Los Angeles, Milwaukee, New York City, Oakland, Philadelphia, Sacramento, San Francisco, Seattle, and Trenton joined the Law Center and the U.S. Conference of Mayors in filing this brief on behalf of the District of Columbia. The brief argues that the right to possess a firearm is not based on an individual right of self-defense, but rather related to service in a militia based on the prefatory language in the Amendment. On June 26, 2008, the U.S. Supreme Court held that there is an individual right under the Second Amendment to keep and bear arms unconnected to service in a militia, but the decision applies only to the federal government.  District of Columbia v. Heller, 128 S. Ct. 2783 (2008). For further information, see Understanding District of Columbia v. Heller .

 Read the full text of our amicus brief here.