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A Follow-Up: Analyzing the DC v Heller Case

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A Follow-Up: Analyzing the DC v Heller Case


After Trump announced his bump stock ban, Second Amendment activists were absolutely irate and spearheaded multiple lawsuits in federal court. Many popular conservative social media accounts have criticized Donald Trump for such a terrible decision, which is rather shocking considering how fond the Instagram personalities have been of the 45th.

I’ve received backlash myself on my support for bump stock decision, and the majority of the criticism is supposedly backed up by the famous Supreme Court case District of Columbia vs Heller.

For those who are unfamiliar with the case, I will delve into its many complexities, but in general, the purpose of this article is to reaffirm the true intent of DC v Heller and the common misconceptions surrounding it.


In the early 2000s, a pair of constitutional scholars gathered six defendants to use in a lawsuit against the District of Columbia’s handgun ban, which stated that citizens could not possess a handgun in the home.

The most notable of these defendants was Officer Dick Heller, who couldn’t possess his own handgun even though he was licensed to a firearm in government buildings. The lawsuit was dismissed by a district court, however, reversed by the Court of Appeals.

The Court of Appeals took the time to strike down multiple provisions of the Firearms Control Regulations Act as unconstitutional (trigger locks and disassembly requirements) and also ruled that the only valid case in the lawsuit was none other than Officer Heller. The lawsuit then petitioned Supreme Court to have its case heard, and surprisingly the plaintiffs encouraged this course of action as well. DC v Heller was finally heard in 2008, and it was deemed to be a landmark court case considering the Supreme Court never interpreted the Second Amendment in a court case before.

The Supreme Court voted in favor of Heller, essentially overturning DC’s handgun ban. To put it in broader terms, the Supreme Court decided that the Second Amendment does not only apply to the militia-related activity, but also the everyday common use of a firearm (i.e. self-defense).

The way this is interpreted…

The main proponents of the Second Amendment typically cite the first clause in late Justice Antonin Scalia’s majority statement: “The Second Amendment protects an individual right to possess a firearm unconnected with service in a militia, and to use that arm for traditionally lawful purposes, such as self-defense within the home.”

Scalia does state that as long as a person is not using a firearm for illegal activity, it is permitted, and in his third clause mentions that “the handgun ban and the trigger-lock requirement (as applied to self-defense) violate the Second Amendment.

The District’s total ban on handgun possession in the home amounts to a prohibition on an entire class of “arms” that Americans overwhelmingly choose for the lawful purpose of self-defense. Under any of the standards of scrutiny, the Court has applied to enumerated constitutional rights, this prohibition – in the place where the importance of the lawful defense of self, family, and property is most acute – would fail constitutional muster. Similarly, the requirement that any lawful firearm in the home is disassembled or bound by a trigger lock makes it impossible for citizens to use arms for the core lawful purpose of self-defense and is hence unconstitutional.”

What’s missing…

While these arguments are certainly feasible, DC v Heller does not, I repeat, does not ban gun control. The actual case only states that handgun bans, trigger locks, and disassembly requirements are unconstitutional because they quite literally restrict one’s ability to defend themselves.

Bump stocks, in fact, do not enhance self-defense or lawful usage of firearms, and in most cases bump stocks actually reduce accuracy. Stephen Paddock, the Las Vegas shooter, did not need accuracy because he was aiming at a crowd, not a single person. Furthermore, Antonin Scalia states in his second clause (which in unsurprisingly skipped over frequently): “Like most rights, the Second Amendment right is not unlimited. It is not a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose: For example, concealed weapons prohibitions have been upheld under the Amendment or state analogues.

The Court’s opinion should not be taken to cast doubt on longstanding prohibitions on the possession of firearms by felons and the mentally ill, or laws forbidding the carrying of firearms in sensitive places such as schools and government buildings, or laws imposing conditions and qualifications on the commercial sale of arms. Miller’s holding that the sorts of weapons protected are those “in common use at the time” finds support in the historical tradition of prohibiting the carrying of dangerous and unusual weapons.”

If a bump stock were to make a weapon dangerous, especially when it allows mass shooters to spray bullets over a large crowd, Antonin Scalia implies that the ban is certainly constitutional.

Noah Giglietti is a lead contributor to The Daily Lead.


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