Syllabus: District of Columbia et al v. Heller

United States Supreme Court Docket No. 07–290

June 26, 2008

Primary Holding

Private citizens have the right under the Second Amendment to possess ordinary types of weapon and use them for lawful, historically-established situations such as self-defense in a home, even when there is no relationship to a local militia.

District of Columbia law bans handgun possession by making it a crime to carry an unregistered firearm and prohibiting the registration of handguns; provides separately that no person may carry an unlicensed handgun, but authorizes the police chief to issue 1-year licenses; and requires residents to keep lawfully owned firearms unloaded and dissembled or bound by a trigger lock or similar device. Respondent Heller, a D. C. special policeman, applied to register a handgun he wished to keep at home, but the District refused. He filed this suit seeking, on Second Amendment grounds, to enjoin the city from enforcing the bar on handgun registration, the licensing requirement insofar as it prohibits carrying an unlicensed firearm in the home, and the trigger-lock requirement insofar as it prohibits the use of functional firearms in the home. The District Court dismissed the suit, but the D. C. Circuit reversed, holding that the Second Amendment protects an individual’s right to possess firearms and that the city’s total ban on handguns, as well as its requirement that firearms in the home be kept nonfunctional even when necessary for self-defense, violated that right.


Justice Scalia delivered the opinion of the Court, in which Chief Justice Roberts, Justice Kennedy, Justice Thomas, and Justice Alito joined.