District of Columbia v. Heller, No. 07-290
On November 20, the Supreme Court agreed to hear a highly controversial case that, whichever way it is decided, is likely to produce a landmark ruling on the issue of gun control and the Second Amendment. D.C. v. Heller is the District of Columbia’s appeal from a 2-1 ruling of the D.C. Circuit invalidating D.C.’s ban on private handgun ownership. The D.C. Circuit majority (which included controversial Bush nominee Thomas Griffith) broke with most federal appellate courts that have considered this issue to hold that the Second Amendment confers on individual Americans a right to possess firearms, rather than a “collective right” stemming from the Amendment’s language pertaining to a “well regulated militia.”
The “individual rights” theory of the Second Amendment has been championed in recent years within the Bush Department of Justice, a change from the Department’s prior view accepting the “collective rights” theory. DOJ’s adoption of the “indvidual rights” theory was announced in November 2001 by then-Attorney General John Aschcroft in a memorandum to all U.S. Attorneys. It remains to be seen whether the Bush Administration will take a position in Heller as an amicus curiae.
The National Rifle Association apparently feels comfortable that the case will be decided by the Roberts Court in a manner favorable to the NRA’s views on gun ownership; according to The Washington Post, Wayne LaPierre, the Executive Vice President of the NRA, “is more confident of a postive outcome for his group with [Chief Justice John] Roberts and Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. on the court.”
The Court is expected to hear Heller in March, with a decision expected before the end of the Term in June.