The Heller Decision: Reaffirming the Second Amendment
Purpose: This paper aims to provide an analytic review of the background, context, and key decisions behind the Supreme Court’s ruling in the District of Columbia v. Heller case and explore the effects and impacts of their landmark decision and how it pertains to legal interpretations of the Second Amendment.
Issue: The Supreme Court of the United States of America agreed to review the Second Amendment violation claims involved in the District of Columbia v. Heller case and determined that not only does the Bill of Rights guarantee an individual right to keep and bear arms, but also ruled several laws negatively affecting an individual’s right to self-defense are unconstitutional.
Effects: As a direct result of the Court’s decision, a major gun control bill in the District of Columbia and later the city of Chicago were struck down as unconstitutional. The decision further launched an unprecedented wave of legal challenges to various gun laws on both a federal and state level.
Impact: While the lasting effect of the Heller decision’s legal tidal wave and defeated bans are questionable, the Court’s decision represents a decisive legal precedent declaring the Second Amendment a protector of an individual right of citizens to possess arms for recreational and defensive purposes on both a state and federal level.
Heller Decision Timeline
Lawyers Neily and Levy Build a Test Case - 2000: Clark Neily and Robert Levy, two lawyers with the Institute for Justice, come together to build a test case to establish a precedent ruling on the Second Amendment (First Decision).
Parker v. District of Columbia – 10 Feb 2003: Levy’s team selected six plaintiffs to file suit and challenge the handgun ban in the District of Columbia. Among them were Shelly Parker – a community activist frequently who suffered frequent threats and property damage – and Richard Heller – a private security guard licensed to carry a pistol in defense of federal employees, but not to protect his own home (Second Decision).
Parker Case faces Appeal, Wins – 9 Mar 2007: As Levy predicted, the initial Parker case was thrown out and appealed in federal court. Heller remained the sole plaintiff who suffered provable “injury” and won the appeal to strike down the law (Third Decision).
Supreme Court to Rule - 20 Nov 2007: Following the District’s unsuccessful appeal for a rehearing, the Supreme Court agreed to hear the case and offer an opinion in a move welcome by both the defendant and plaintiff.
Supreme Court to Declares Second Amendment Individual Right - 26 Jun 2008: In an influential 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court ruled that the District’s handgun ban and trigger lock laws violated an individual right to keep and bear arms granted by the Second Amendment. They further suggested that the Constitution protected the right to possess firearms in common use and guaranteed the right to possess arms for self-defense purposes...