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Right-to-bear review

NEWTOWN, Conn. — The National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF) — the trade association of the firearms industry — applauded the decision by the United States Supreme Court to determine authoritatively whether the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution provides an individual right to keep and bear arms.

The U.S. Supreme Court granted a review of a decision from March by the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia in Parker, et al., v. District of Columbia (Circuit docket 04-7041) — a case that upheld the striking down of the District's ban on private ownership of handguns while asserting that the Second Amendment provides an individual right to keep and bear arms.

The case is now known as District of Columbia v. Heller. The mayor of Washington, D.C., Adrian M. Fenty, filed the appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, setting the stage for the high court to rule. According to FBI statistics, Washington D.C., with its gun ban, ranks as one of the most dangerous cities in the United States and maintains one of the highest per-capita murder rates in the country.

"The firearms industry looks forward to the Supreme Court putting to rest the specious argument that the Second Amendment is not an individual right," said Lawrence G. Keane, NSSF senior vice president and general counsel. "This intellectually bankrupt and feeble argument has been used by gun control advocates to justify laws and regulations that deny Americans their civil right to own and lawfully use firearms for protection, hunting, sports shooting and other lawful purposes.

"The firearms and ammunition industry is unique in that our products are the means through which the Second Amendment right is realized," continued Keane. "If there were no firearms and ammunition manufacturers, then the Second Amendment becomes an illusory right."

While the Heller case will be the first time since 1939 that the Supreme Court has addressed the Second Amendment (U.S. v. Miller), the nation's leading historians, legal scholars and constitutional experts are on record as having concluded that the Second Amendment provides an individual right. Such renowned scholars as Lawrence Tribe of Harvard, Akhil Reed Amar of Yale, William Van Alstyne of Duke and Sanford Levinson of the University of Texas have been vocal in their assertion that the Second Amendment secures an individual right to keep and bear arms.

"The government has powers, not rights," added Keane. "The contention that the Second Amendment is a collective right of the government is completely without merit."

In March, the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, in striking down the District's gun ban, held in Parker, et al., v. District of Columbia that "The phrase 'the right of the people' . . . leads us to conclude that the right in question is individual." This was the second time in recent history that a federal circuit court upheld the longstanding belief that the Second Amendment was an individual right. In 2001, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit ruled in the case of U.S. v. Emerson that "All of the evidence indicates that the Second Amendment, like other parts of the Bill of Rights, applies to and protects individual Americans."