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Counsel for Plaintiffs, Alan Gura, Clark Neily, Robert Levy 
Reaction to Heller ruling
June 26, 2008




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Statement from Lawyers Representing D.C. Residents Challenging Gun Prohibition


June 26, 2008


Alan Gura (202) 508-1055
Clark Neily (202) 425-7499
Robert Levy (240) 604-5000; (828) 670-1611

Supreme Court Strikes Down Washington D.C.’s Gun Ban, Vindicates Second Amendment Right to Keep and Bear Arms

Washington, D.C.—In a blockbuster ruling today, the Supreme Court struck down Washington, D.C.’s thirty-year-old ban on the home possession of functional firearms, including handguns. The Court explained, “There seems to us no doubt, on the basis of both text and history, that the Second Amendment conferred an individual right to keep and bear arms.” The Court continued, “[T]he enshrinement of constitutional rights necessarily takes certain policy choices off the table. These include the absolute prohibition of handguns held and used for self-defense in the home.”

Plaintiff Dick Anthony Heller, an armed private security guard who lives and works in Washington, D.C. but is prohibited from bringing his weapon home at night said, “Today’s decision means that law-abiding citizens in Washington, D.C. finally have a right to defend themselves against violent criminals in their own homes. The Second Amendment says that the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed. After thirty years of ignoring that right, the District will finally have to respect it.”

Virtually alone among Bill of Rights, the Second Amendment had never been clearly interpreted by the Supreme Court before today. The only previous Supreme Court case directly addressing the Second Amendment, United States v. Miller (1939)—though consistent with an individual rights view of the Second Amendment—led some to believe mistakenly that the right to keep and bear arms was not held by individuals. Today’s decision squarely rejected that premise, explaining that “Miller stands only for the proposition that the Second Amendment right, whatever its nature, extends only to certain types of weapons. . . . It is particularly wrongheaded to read Miller for more than what it said, because the case did not even purport to be a thorough examination of the Second Amendment.”

“Americans enjoy an individual right to keep and bear arms,” said Alan Gura, lead counsel for the Heller plaintiffs. “Because private gun ownership is enshrined in our Bill of Rights, politicians cannot ban or regulate guns out of existence. The Supreme Court fulfilled its duty to protect individual liberty by striking down the city’s unconstitutional laws.”

Co-counsel Robert Levy added, “Besides being blatantly unconstitutional, the District’s gun ban has been totally ineffective. Today’s ruling sends a clear message that the District may not attempt to solve its crime problems by violating the rights of law-abiding citizens to keep functional firearms, including handguns, in their homes for lawful self defense.”

Clark Neily, who also represented the Heller plaintiffs, concluded, “This case has always been about more than the right to own guns. It’s a case about liberty and the government’s obligation to respect constitutional rights that it might prefer to ignore. Today’s ruling is a tremendous victory for freedom and the rule of law in America.”

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