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The Supreme Court in November decided to take its first hard look at the meaning of the Second Amendment in nearly 70 years. Only slightly less extraordinary was the way in which the case arrived on the high court’s porch. In March, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, in Parker v. District of Columbia, struck down parts of Washington, D.C.’s gun control law as a violation of residents’ Second Amendment right to bear arms. It marked the first time an appeals court had found a law unconstitutional based on this controversial, comma-pocked portion of the Bill of Rights: “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.” Miserable grammarians, the Framers were. The provisions at issue, among the strictest in the nation, barred newly registered handguns, banned carrying pistols inside a person’s home, and required that licensed firearms be kept locked or disassembled. The D.C. Circuit opinion, authored by Senior Judge Lawrence Silberman, was a strong argument for the view that the Second Amendment protects an individual right to bear arms, rather than the militia or group right that the Supreme Court recognized in 1939 in United States v. Miller. The case at hand was carefully planned. In 2006, the Cato Institute’s Robert Levy, a wealthy libertarian lawyer who has never owned a gun, hunted for a balanced group of plaintiffs that cut across racial, age, gender, and economic lines. He settled on three men and three women � four white and two black � but five were bounced from the case in March, when the D.C. Circuit found they lacked standing because they had never tried to register a gun. Dick Heller, the remaining plaintiff, had tried to register a pistol he purchased while living elsewhere. In March, Alan Gura of Gura & Possessky, who has handled the case from the start with Levy’s help, will face off against veteran Alan Morrison, the former Public Citizen lawyer who is now special counsel to the District’s interim attorney general. The case will likely be decided by June � just in time for the presidential candidates, whoever they might be, to campaign on the ever-contentious issues of gun rights and the role of the Supreme Court.
Joe Palazzolo can be contacted at [email protected]. Tony Mauro can be contacted at [email protected].

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