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Who Can Own a Gun Under Federal Law?

Apr 18, 2008
While the Courts have never brightly defined under the law who actually has a right to own a firearm, for decades the presumption has always been that there is no individual right bestowed upon the citizens of this country. However, things may soon change if some have their way.

The Second Amendment to the United States Constitution is currently creating a quite a stir in the federal courts. For those that are not familiar with the Second Amendment, it provides as follows: "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." Experts believe that the Second Amendment creates an unlimited right upon individuals to own guns or other weapons. Others disagree and seem to believe that the Second Amendment allows reasonable regulation of gun ownership, such as licensing and registration.

The United States Supreme Court may be putting this issue to rest soon. The question of whether or not an individual has a constitutional right under federal law to own a firearm is being heard in the case District of Columbia v. Heller, No. 07-290. The court granted certiorari in response to an appeal from Parker v. District of Columbia, 478 F.3d 370 (D.C. Cir. 2007), which was a decision from the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. The D.C. Circuit became the first federal appeals court in the United States to rule that a firearm ban was an unconstitutional infringement of the Second Amendment. The appellate court then took it a step further and held that the Second Amendment does protect an individual's right to possess firearms for private use.

A victory for Heller will likely inspire acknowledged gun owners in other jurisdictions to challenge restrictive gun laws passed by states and cities. Accordingly, many commentaries believe that the Supreme Court appears poised to rule that the Second Amendment protects a private right to possess and use firearms.

Does "bear" literally mean the right to carry a gun with you wherever you go, or is the fact that you can have one in your home enough? Moreover, does "arms" mean you can have absolutely any kind of weapon you want, or does the government have the right to say which arms are permitted and which are not? Hopefully, the United States Supreme Court will soon answer these questions for us.
About the Author
Neil Lemons represents Teakell Law. For more information on federal firearm statutes and defense in the Dallas/Fort Worth area visit their website http://www.teakelllaw.com.
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