The case of District of Columbia v. Heller involves the respondent Dick Anthony Heller, a D. C. special police officer at the Federal Judicial Center. Heller applied for a registration certificate for a handgun that he wants to keep at his house. However, the District of Columbia does not allow the possession of handguns. It is considered a crime to carry an unregistered firearm, as well as the registration of handguns itself is prohibited. Apart from the prohibition, the chief of police may issue licenses for one-year periods.
According to the law of the District of Columbia, those residents who have lawfully owned firearms should unload and disassemble or bound by a trigger or another similar device while it is kept at their homes. Dick Heller filed a lawsuit in the Federal District Court for the District of Columbia. His arguments are based on the Second Amendment that provides: “A well regulated Militia, being a necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.
” In this sense, Heller wants to charge the city for implementing the ban on the registration of handguns and the licensing requirements that prohibit carrying of a firearm in the home without license, as well as the trigger-lock prerequisite because it disallows the use of “functional firearms within the home” (United States Supreme Court, 2007). Justice Scalia, a part of the majority that decided upon the case, emphasized historical material in order to justify his decision that the right to keep and bear arms belongs to individuals.
He argued that the term “people” which is used in the Second Amendment also pertains to the same “people” that is stated in the First and Fourth Amendment of the Constitution. He further supported his argument by saying that: “the Constitution was written to be understood by the voters; its words and phrases were used in their normal and ordinary as distinguished from technical meaning. Normal meaning may of course include an idiomatic meaning, but it excludes secret or technical meanings. Using this as a basis, the Court ruled that a total ban on operative handguns at home is unconstitutional.
This is due to their interpretation that the ban on handguns may go against the self-defense purpose of the Second Amendment. Furthermore, since having a gun is recognized as “common use at the time,” its ownership is protected (United States Supreme Court, 2007). On the other hand, the dissenting opinion of Justice Stevens asserted that the court’s decision was “a strained and unpersuasive reading” that disregards the longstanding precedent, and that the ruling had “bestowed a dramatic upheaval in the law” (United States Supreme Court, 2007).
Stevens disagreement to the Court ruling is based on four important points. First, the founders of the Constitution would have explicitly express that the Second Amendment was intended for individual rights. Second, the preamble in the Second Amendment about the “militia” and the phrase “to keep and bear arms” concludes that it only deals with militia service. Third, the lower court’s interpretation of the “collective right” in the Miller decision can only be overturned in times of great peril.
Fourth, the Court did not regard gun-control laws as unconstitutional (United States Supreme Court, 2007). Both Justice Scalia and Justice Stevens have their respective statutory construction or interpretation of the Second Amendment in order to defend their respective findings. However, the approach of Justice Scalia has more weight as compared with the dissenting of Justice Stevens. This is due to the fact that Justice Scalia was able to clearly point out the importance behind the majority’s decision.
The interpretation of Justice Scalia did not merely depend on the stiff interpretation of the prefatory and operative clause, but takes into consideration its idiomatic meaning. The argument of Justice Scalia that the Second Amendment is an individual right is a sound argument because the term “people” is also similarly used in the First and Fourth Amendments, which deal with individual rights. Moreover, the concern of the Second Amendment for self-defense is clearly applicable with the intention of Heller since he is a police officer.
It is in the nature of his job that he is more susceptible to danger and even his family can be at risk. He needs a handgun at home for self-defense and in order to protect his family especially, since the firearm that he uses during work hours is prohibited to be used at non-work related locations. In this sense, the intent of Heller to have a handgun at home is justified and coincides with the right stipulated in the Second Amendment.