Heller, a police officer in the District of Columbia, sued the District claiming that several D.C. laws violated his right to bear arms under the Second Amendment of the United States Constitution. The D.C. laws in question generally bar the registration of handguns, prohibit carrying a pistol without a license even in the home, and require that all lawfully owned firearms be kept unloaded and disassembled or bound by a trigger lock or similar device. Heller claimed a right under the Second Amendment to possess “functional firearms” that could be “readily accessible to be used effectively when necessary” for self-defense in the home.
The district court dismissed the case on the grounds that the Second Amendment protects an individual’s right only to “bear arms for service in the Militia,” which means an organized military body such as a National Guard unit. The Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit reversed. First, it held that the Second Amendment broadly protects an individual right to bear arms, including the right to keep firearms such as handguns in the home. Second, it held that the D.C. laws were unconsitutional because they amount to a complete prohibition on the use of handguns for lawful self-defense in the home.
Whether the Second Amendment forbids the District of Columbia from banning private possession of handguns while allowing possession of rifles and shotguns.