Answering a 127-year old constitutional question, the Supreme Court ruled on Thursday that the Second Amendment protects an individual right to have a gun, at least in one’s home. The Court, splitting 5-4, struck down a District of Columbia ban on handgun possession.
Justice Antonin Scalia’s opinion for the majority stressed that the Court was not casting doubt on long-standing bans on gun possession by felons or the mentally retarded, or laws barring guns from schools or government buildings, or laws putting conditions on gun sales.
In District of Columbia v. Heller (07-290), the Court nullified two provisions of the city of Washington’s strict 1976 gun control law: a flat ban on possessing a gun in one’s home, and a requirement that any gun – except one kept at a business – must be unloaded and disassembled or have a trigger lock in place. The Court said it was not passing on a part of the law requiring that guns be licensed.