Mayor Adrian Fenty announced yesterday that the District will petition the Supreme Court to hear arguments about the overturning of the District's handgun ban by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. In a 2-1 ruling, that court found the handgun ban is unconstitutional, possibly setting the stage for the first Supreme Court ruling on the Founding Fathers' intended meaning of the Second Amendment since Miller v. The United States in 1939.
Miller has been viewed as providing the right to bear arms collectively to militias, rather than to individuals, while the circuit court's ruling in the D.C. case found the Second Amendment also applies to individuals.
The Cato Institute philosophically supported the suit by six D.C. residents to overturn the gun ban. Roger Pilon, Cato's vice president of legal affairs, says the Second Amendment should be viewed as an individual right. People also have a fundamental right to defend themselves, and the "right of self defense entails the right to the means of self defense," Pilon told Legal Times today.
Paul Helmke, president of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, says that precedents point to the logic of Miller and a collective reading of the Second Amendment. He says one must ignore the first 13 words of the amendment to claim it provides an individual right to bear arms. Given the current conservative bent of the Supreme Court, Helmke is still worried.
"We have been seeing a lot of 5-4 rulings as of late," he said.
Helmke, like other gun control advocates, also fears an adverse Supreme Court ruling in the D.C. case could trigger the overturning of many strict gun-control laws across the country. "If the court does overrule Miller, what will they say in regards to reasonable regulation?" Helmke asked. "The Second Amendment is the only one in the Bill of Rights to mention regulation.”