Heller and the Right to Carry. Gura challenges D.C.’s ban on carrying fireararms

February 21st, 2010

According to an article in the Washington Post, Alan Gura has filed suit in the District of Columbia to challenge the District’s total ban on carrying a firearm outside of one’s home. As you may recall, DC v. Heller only considered whether one could keep a firearm at home.

In sum, we hold that the District’s ban on handgun possession in the home violates the Second Amendment , as does its prohibition against rendering any lawful firearm in the home operable for the purpose of immediate self-defense. Assuming that Heller is not disqualified from the exercise of Second Amendment rights, the District must permit him to register his handgun and must issue him a license to carry it in the home.

But I don’t think Heller should be read to foreclose that the Second Amendment encompasses a right to carry arms. The history of the Second Amendment Scalia relies on speaks more to the right of self defense; not where it can be exercised. Over and over, Scalia kept referring to the core lawful purpose of the Second Amend, which is the right of self-defense.

As the quotations earlier in this opinion demonstrate, the inherent right of self-defense has been central to the Second Amendment right. The handgun ban amounts to a prohibition of an entire class of “arms” that is overwhelmingly chosen by American society for that lawful purpose. The prohibition extends, moreover, to the home, where the need for defense of self, family, and property is most acute. Under any of the standards of scrutiny that we have applied to enumerated constitutional rights,27 banning from the home “the most preferred firearm in the nation to ‘keep’ and use for protection of one’s home and family,” 478 F. 3d, at 400, would fail constitutional muster.

In Heller, a ban on carrying firearms in the home “fails constitutional muster.” But if another limitation, such as the ban on carrying outside the home, conflicts with “the inherent right of self-defense . . . central for the Second Amendment” right, than it would seem that this infringement on liberty may also unconstitutionally inhibit “the need for defense of self, family, and property.”

If a person in the District of Columbia has a right of self defense on the streets, then the protections of the Second Amendment, as described by Scalia, would seem to apply, even if the interest is not as great as at home.

I’ll blog a bit more about this in the future.