A federal appeals court in the District of Columbia expands the rights of gun owners in the nation's capital, seeking to clarify the meaning of the Second Amendment. The court has overturned a Washington, D.C., law that severely restricted ownership of handguns.
Americans have been arguing about the following sentence in the Bill of Rights for decades:
"A well-regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed."
The appeals court ruling is likely to bring the debate over the Second Amendment front and center once again. And the case could be headed for the Supreme Court.
Washington, D.C., has always had some of the nation's toughest gun laws. Most residents can't own a handgun unless it was registered with the city before 1976. And even those fitting that stipulation must keep the weapon locked up and unloaded.
But two of three judges on the appellate court said those restrictions were unconstitutional. And then they went further. It's not just a matter of local laws, they wrote, it's the Second Amendment: individuals, they said, have the right to own guns.
Now the District of Columbia's government must decide whether it will ask that a full panel of judges on the appellate court reconsider the case. Or they can appeal directly to the Supreme Court. If the high court takes the divisive case, oral arguments could come as early as next year — just in time for the presidential election.