On November 20, the Supreme Court announced that it would hear the case of District of Columbia v. Heller. Finally, the Court will decide whether the Second Amendment secures to individual citizens the right to keep and bear their private firearms or whether it merely recongizes that an individual may use firearms for the collective purpose of participating in a state-sponsored militia.
This day has been a long time coming. The last time the Supreme Court directly addressed the meaning of the Second Amendment was almost 70 years ago in the case of U.S. v. Miller, which resulted in a controversial opinion that raised more questions than it answered. The case hinged on whether a short-barreled shotgun was the type of weapon used for military purposes and thus protected by the Second Amendment. The Court never heard evidence on this issue and before it could, Mr. Miller was killed and the case died with him.
As a board member and officer of NRA, I’ve been a vocal critic of gun bans and the D.C. gun ban in particular. It’s not just because such laws violate our Constitution but also because 25 years ago, before I became a gun owner, I was almost the victim of a home invasion. I learned first hand that the right of self-defense means nothing unless you also have the means of self-defense.
When this case challenging the D.C. gun ban was filed in 2003, it was called Parker v. District of Columbia. Shelly Parker lived in a high crime area of D.C. She and five other plaintiffs sued to overturn the D.C. law because it deprived them of their right to keep operable firearms in their homes for self-protection.
The D.C. law has been on the books since 1976 and makes it a serious crime to possess any handgun or a loaded, readily-usable shotgun or rifle even in your own home. A law that prevents a peaceable law-abiding person from possessing the one tool that she can use to defend herself at home against a criminal attack is just plain wrong.
Most people had never heard of the Parker case until last March when the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit struck down the 30-year old gun ban saying it violated the Second Amendment. That made the news.
The Parker case has since been renamed Heller – Shelly Parker was not allowed to proceed with her case but plaintiff Dick Heller was. Now, the Supreme Court will decide what right is meant by the “right to keep and bear arms”. Is it an individual right that each of us has to own and possess our private firearms, without regard to any military service? Or is it a collective right that exists only to allow us to serve in the National Guard or a state-sponsored militia?
Sandy Froman is the immediate past president of the National Rifle Association of America, only the second woman and the first Jewish American to hold that office in the 136-year history of the NRA. The views expressed are her own and not that of any organization.
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