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The Second Amendment: An Individual Right

Recorded on February 7, 2008

Location: The Heritage Foundation's Allison Auditorium

On March 18, the Supreme Court of the United States will hear the District of Columbia's appeal in District of Columbia v. Heller, a case that struck down DC's almost complete ban on the effective use of handguns, rifles, and shotguns for self defense in private homes. This marks the first time since 1939 that the Supreme Court will rule on a Second Amendment challenge to a firearm law. The Court's decision will have broad ramifications because it likely will decide, once and for all, whether the Second Amendment protects the individual rights of all Americans to keep guns in their homes or only protects an organized militia's right to possess guns that Congress authorizes.

Like the rest of the Bill of Rights, the Second Amendment was proposed to the States by the Congress in 1789. On several occasions, the Congress enacted statutes which explicitly declared its understanding of the Second Amendment as guaranteeing fundamental, individual rights. The Congress has a long history of protecting the right of the people to keep and bear arms and has a fundamental interest in protecting the constitutional rights of the American people.