Supreme Court to Hear D.C. Gun Ban Case

Case could affect Second Amendment and gun control laws across the nation.

ByABC News
November 20, 2007, 1:12 PM

Nov. 20, 2007 — -- In a decision that could affect gun control laws across the nation, the Supreme Court has agreed to consider whether the Second Amendment protects an individual's right to carry a gun.

It has been 70 years since the high court has focused on the meaning of the words "right to keep and bear arms" in the Second Amendment and the case is sure to ignite cultural battles across the country.

The Supreme Court agreed to step in because the issue has caused a deep split in the lower courts. While a majority of courts have said that the right to bear arms refers in connection to service in a state militia, two federal courts have said the amendment protects an individual's right to keep a gun.

One of those courts, the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, went as far as striking down a decades-long ban on the private ownership of handguns in the District of Columbia. It is this case the court has agreed to consider.

D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty brought the case to the Supreme Court in an effort to save the district's gun ban -- one of the strictest in the nation -- that went into effect in 1976. Fenty argues, "Whatever right the Second Amendment guarantees, it does not require the district to stand by while its citizens die."

The mayor is concerned that if the gun ban is overturned, there will be even more handguns available in the streets. "The District of Columbia has too many handguns," Fenty said.

In court papers his lawyers argue, "Handguns are the weapon most likely to be used in a street crime. Although only a third of the nation's firearms are handguns, they are responsible for far more killings, woundings and crimes than all other types of firearms combined."

The law banned residents from owning a handgun unless they already had a permit.

D.C. residents like Shelly Parker sued the city saying she had a constitutional right to protect herself. Parker said she wants a gun because "it acts as a deterrent to the criminals to me."