Working Paper No. 07-36:
D.C.'s Handgun Ban and the Constitutional Right to Arms: One Hard Question?

Author(s):

Nelson Lund

Date Posted: 2007

Availability:
Abstract (below) |

Abstract:

The District of Columbia forbids almost all civilians to possess handguns in their own homes. Rifles and shotguns are permitted, but they must be kept unloaded and either disassembled or secured with a trigger lock, making them useless for self defense. The D.C. Circuit recently held that this statute violates the Second Amendment.

One way to attack the D.C. Circuit decision is to argue that the Second Amendment protects the private possession of weapons only to the extent necessary to preserve in civilian hands a stock of weapons suitable for use while serving in the militia. Rifles and shotguns would be the most obviously useful weapons for militiamen to bring with them from home, and the D.C. statute permits civilians to possess rifles and shotguns, along with the ammunition these weapons require. Why does this not satisfy the Second Amendment?

This superficially plausible defense of the District's statute was not adequately refuted in Judge Silberman's opinion for the D.C. Circuit. This article demonstrates, largely but not exclusively on the basis of a careful linguistic analysis of the Second Amendment, that such a defense of the District's statute is untenable.