ILNews

Indiana has voice in Second Amendment case

Michael W. Hoskins
January 1, 2008
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For the first time in 70 years, the U.S. Supreme Court is testing the scope of the Second Amendment and could decide what "the right to keep and bear arms" means for the 21st century.

Justices will consider the question Tuesday morning in District of Columbia v. Heller, 07-290, which involves a citizen's challenge to a Washington, D.C., law banning him from keeping a handgun in his home.

At issue is to what extent the gun rights amendment to the Constitution applies to private gun possession in a modern American city. The last time the court directly tested the Second Amendment's scope was almost seven decades ago in U.S. v. Miller, 307 U.S. 174 (1939), but courts and legal scholars debate whether it actually decided anything in that earlier ruling.

In this case, the respondent Heller is a security guard who challenged the law after police refused to issue a license allowing him to keep a handgun in his home for protection. The city's 1976 law only allows disassembled or locked rifles and shotguns, and all handguns are illegal; Heller says that violates the Second Amendment.

Last year, a federal District Court struck down the local ban after finding 2-1 that it violated what the court said was an individual right to firearms.

"Once it is determined that handguns are 'Arms' referred to in the Second Amendment, it is not open to the District to ban them," the D.C. Circuit ruled, becoming the first time any federal appeals court has relied upon the "individual right" theory to strike down a gun control law. "We conclude that the Second Amendment protects an individual right to keep and bear arms."

Now, the city wants the nation's highest court to overturn that ruling.

In agreeing to take the Heller case, justices in November rejected questions from both sides and wrote its own question: "Whether the following provisions (of the three Washington, D.C., gun law sections) violate the Second Amendment rights of individuals who are not affiliated with any state-regulated militia, but who wish to keep handguns and other firearms for private use in their homes."

Sixty-seven amici briefs have been filed in the case, with 47 in support of Heller's Second Amendment right and 20 wanting a reversal to scale back the scope. Indiana Attorney General Steve Carter is one of 31 state attorneys general signing on to an amicus brief in support of the individual right, arguing that the Second Amendment applies to the rights of individuals, not states. The case doesn't present facts that would warrant deciding which government regulations are permissible, the states contend.

Another brief from Congress recognizes 250 House of Representative members and 55 Senators who support Heller, including five of nine Indiana representatives but no Hoosier senators. Those included are: Representatives Dan Burton, Steve Buyer, Joe Donnelly, Michael Pence, and Mark Souder.

All merit briefs can be viewed online here.

Arguments on Tuesday are scheduled to last 75 minutes, and will be rebroadcast on C-SPAN shortly after the conclusion.
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  1. The practitioners and judges who hail E-filing as the Saviour of the West need to contain their respective excitements. E-filing is federal court requires the practitioner to cram his motion practice into pigeonholes created by IT people. Compound motions or those seeking alternative relief are effectively barred, unless the practitioner wants to receive a tart note from some functionary admonishing about the "problem". E-filing is just another method by which courts and judges transfer their burden to practitioners, who are the really the only powerless components of the system. Of COURSE it is easier for the court to require all of its imput to conform to certain formats, but this imposition does NOT improve the quality of the practice of law and does NOT improve the ability of the practitioner to advocate for his client or to fashion pleadings that exactly conform to his client's best interests. And we should be very wary of the disingenuous pablum about the costs. The courts will find a way to stick it to the practitioner. Lake County is a VERY good example of this rapaciousness. Any one who does not believe this is invited to review the various special fees that system imposes upon practitioners- as practitioners- and upon each case ON TOP of the court costs normal in every case manually filed. Jurisprudence according to Aldous Huxley.

  2. Any attorneys who practice in federal court should be able to say the same as I can ... efiling is great. I have been doing it in fed court since it started way back. Pacer has its drawbacks, but the ability to hit an e-docket and pull up anything and everything onscreen is a huge plus for a litigator, eps the sole practitioner, who lacks a filing clerk and the paralegal support of large firms. Were I an Indiana attorney I would welcome this great step forward.

  3. Can we get full disclosure on lobbyist's payments to legislatures such as Mr Buck? AS long as there are idiots that are disrespectful of neighbors and intent on shooting fireworks every night, some kind of regulations are needed.

  4. I am the mother of the child in this case. My silence on the matter was due to the fact that I filed, both in Illinois and Indiana, child support cases. I even filed supporting documentation with the Indiana family law court. Not sure whether this information was provided to the court of appeals or not. Wish the case was done before moving to Indiana, because no matter what, there is NO WAY the state of Illinois would have allowed an appeal on a child support case!

  5. "No one is safe when the Legislature is in session."

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