District of Columbia vs. Heller

2nd Amendment Rights

Basic Facts

The District of Columbia prohibits the possession of handguns. The chief of police has the power to issue 1-year licences so that the resident can carry a handgun. Even then the residents need to keep the guns unloaded and dissembled or bound by a trigger. Dick Heller applied for a registration for a handgun to keep at home and the district denied him this.

Constitutional Issue

Heller claimed that this complete ban violated the 2nd amendment right to keep and bear arms.


The second amendment protects the right of individuals to carry arms though they may not be a part of the militia, for self defense purposes, and this is essential in order to maintain a free state.

Overview and impact of DC v. Heller

Tom Fitton on Glenn Beck - DC vs Heller

Historic Significance

The Heller decision marked a major victory for gun rights activists and a significant turn in Second Amendment law. In 2008 Supreme Court ruling overturned DC ban on handguns. However, the Heller decision applied only to DC; it is now unclear what standard should apply to state laws.

Significance Today

The Supreme Court stated that the Second Amendment should not be understood as conferring a “right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose.” For example felons and the mentally ill cannot possess firearms. This is applicable now as they provide guidelines as to what is and isn't protected under the second amendment.

Future Significance

The Court did not address the significant issue of whether the Second Amendment restricts state and local governments. In addition, Heller provides examples of what may be lawful, but does not address how lower courts should evaluate challenges to firearms laws that are not among those examples. Because of this lower courts have struggled with precisely how they should scrutinize fire arm laws.