Dick Anthony Heller was a D.C. police officer who was approved to carry a handgun while on duty. He applied for a one-year license for a handgun he wished to have at home, but his application was denied. Heller sued the District of Columbia. The Code contained provisions that required owners of lawfully registered firearms to keep them unloaded and disassembled or bound by a trigger lock or other similar device unless the firearms were located in a place of business or being used for legal recreational activities. He sought an injunction against the enforcement of the relevant parts of District of Columbia Code and argued that they violated his Second Amendment right to have a firearm in his home without a license.
The district court dismissed the complaint. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit reversed and held that the Second Amendment protects the right to keep firearms in a home for self-defense, and the District of Columbia’s requirement that firearms kept in the home be disassembled violated that right.
Do the provisions of the District of Columbia Code that restrict the licensing of handguns and require licensed firearms kept in the home to be kept disassembled and nonfunctioning violate the Second Amendment?
Justice Antonin Scalia delivered the opinion for the 5-4 majority Ruling the ban on registering handguns and the requirement to keep guns in the home disassembled or nonfunctional with a trigger lock mechanism violate the Second Amendment. The Court held that the first clause of the Second Amendment that references a “militia” does not limit the operative clause of the Amendment. Additionally, the term “militia” should not be limited to those serving in the military, because at the time the term referred to all able-bodied men who were capable of being called to service. Because the text of the Amendment should be read in plain speech, meaning it would have had at the time it was written, the operative clause should be read to “guarantee an individual right to possess and carry weapons in case of confrontation.” This reading is also in line with legal writing of the time. Therefore, banning handguns, an entire class of firearms that is commonly used for protection purposes, and prohibiting firearms from being kept functional in the home, the area traditionally in need of protection, violates the Second Amendment.
This decision made it clear that the second amendment applies to the general population and not just the armed forces. This made it clear that the individual has the constructional right to ownership of a firearm. In this case specifically this refers to handguns, that are commonly carried and kept in the home for self-defense. It also states that its unconstitutional to make an individual keep his firearm in a inoperable state while at home. Another consequence of this case was changing handgun licenses to “may issue” “to shall issue”. The decision that these laws were unconstitutional removed many barriers to a firearm self-defense making it clear that the second amendment wasn’t just meant for granting the military firearms. The founding fathers wouldn’t have designed the amendment that way because it would then recreate the regime that they had just gained independence from.
In Conclusion, the court determined that the laws concerning keeping firearms at home unassembled and the difficulty to keep a handgun unconstitutional. They also clarified that the second amendment included firearms for self defense and made it a right to own a handgun for self-protection.