By Paul Duggan
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, June 26, 2008
With its term coming to an end, the U.S. Supreme Court this morning is expected to issue its ruling on the District's handgun-ownership ban in a case that could result in a landmark interpretation of the Second Amendment.
In District of Columbia v. Heller, the city is challenging an appellate ruling that its 32-year-old handgun ban is unconstitutional. Advocates on both sides of the gun control debate have been bracing for the decision since the case was argued in March.
The ruling could settle a decades-old debate over whether the Second Amendment gives individuals the right to own firearms or only confers a collective right for states to form armed militias.
The District's gun control law, passed in 1976, is among the nation's toughest. It prohibits handgun ownership by anyone in the city who did not own one before the law was enacted.
Residents who owned handguns before the ban took effect were required to keep their weapons in their homes. Ownership of registered rifles and shotguns has been permitted, but those guns also must be kept in homes. And all legal firearms must be kept unloaded and either disassembled or fitted with trigger locks.
The challenge to the ban was filed on behalf of six District residents. The lawsuit failed in U.S. District Court, but the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit last year reversed the lower court's ruling. Only Dick A. Heller, a security guard, remains a plaintiff. The appeals court ruled that the others did not have legal standing to sue over the ban.