Today, Scalia offered the opinion of the court: DC’s ban on handguns (and disassembled/locked requirements for long guns) is unconstitutional, in a 5-4 decision. They did not incorporate the 2nd Amendment (explicitly, anyway). A few observations from the opinion – and remember, I’m not a lawyer:

  • The 2nd Amendment is an individual right.
  • The 2nd Amendment could be understood at the time to protect common usage of firearms in acts like hunting and self-defense (IOW, the first clause of the Amendment is not meant to limit the operative clause, but to explain it, at least partially).
  • The 2nd Amendment does not mean “unregulated” gun ownership.
  • Scalia is a giant dick. (Srsly. Read the opinion – he’s an ass.)

A few snippets of note. On the issue of regulation of what firearms are legal for personal ownership.

We therefore read Miller to say only that the Second Amendment does not protect those weapons not typically possessed by law-abiding citizens for lawful purposes, such as short-barreled shotguns.

IOW, if the gun has a legitimate legal usage (hunting, self-defense), then it cannot be banned.

Like most rights, the right secured by the Second Amendment is not unlimited. From Blackstone through the 19th-century cases, commentators and courts routinely explained that the right was not a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose. For example, the majority of the 19th-century courts to consider the question held that prohibitions on carrying concealed weapons were lawful under the Second Amendment or state analogues. Although we do not undertake an exhaustive historical analysis today of the full scope of the Second Amendment, nothing in our opinion should be taken to cast doubt on longstanding prohibitions on the possession of firearms by felons and the mentally ill, or laws forbidding the carrying of firearms in sensitive places such as schools and government buildings, or laws imposing conditions and qualifications on the commercial sale of arms.

Note that in the footnotes that list of regulatory reasons is explicitly not exhaustive.

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.

On the issue of licensing, Scalia basically says “we aren’t going to expressly consider that issue, and will just say it’s more-or-less OK until somebody challenges it explicitly”.

Scalia was joined by Roberts, Kennedy, Thomas, and Alito. Stevens, Souter, Ginsburg, and Breyer dissented. I haven’t yet read the dissent. Virtual “attaboy” to ScotusBlog for providing a copy of the opinion.