WASHINGTON -- Mayor Adrian Fenty announced today that he will ask the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn a decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit striking down on Second Amendment grounds Washington, D.C.'s firearms ban. The Supreme Court has never definitively ruled on the Second Amendment, making the constitutionality of gun ownership among the most important unresolved questions in all of constitutional law.
The Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution states "A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed." Courts and legal scholars are sharply divided over the meaning of that language and whether it protects an individual right to keep and bear arms or merely a "collective" right of the states to arm their own citizen militias. If the Supreme Court agrees to review this case, Parker v. District of Columbia, it will be the first time the Court has considered the meaning of the Second Amendment in nearly 70 years. In the only prior case, U.S. v. Miller (1939), the Court did not provide a definitive interpretation of the Second Amendment.
"This case is enormously important, not only to the Parker plaintiffs and other D.C. residents, but to persons nationwide who care about the Constitution and the right to bear arms," said plaintiff's co-counsel and Cato Institute senior fellow Robert Levy.
Parker was brought by six Washington, D.C. residents who wish to have guns in their homes for self protection. District laws, however, impose a total ban on the possession of functional firearms within the home. (Residents may register shotguns and rifles, but they must be kept unloaded and either disassembled or trigger-locked—and there is no exception for self-defense.)
"As a practical matter, gun laws like those in the District of Columbia are abysmal failures wherever they are in place, in the United States as well as abroad," said Roger Pilon, vice president for legal affairs at the Cato Institute. "They disarm law-abiding citizens while criminals ignore them with impunity. It is thus no accident that Washington is often called the murder capitol of the nation."
Concludes Pilon: "With Mayor Fenty's decision today, the Supreme Court will have an opportunity at last to decide whether the Second Amendment protects an individual right to keep and bear arms, or instead protects only the right of members of the militia to keep and bear arms, as gun-control advocates argue."
While the Supreme Court only accepts a small percentage of the appeals it receives each year, leading court-watchers consider the Parker case a strong candidate for Supreme Court review.