"Today's decision by the U.S. Supreme Court is a major victory for all Americans," said NSSF President Steve Sanetti. "The Heller decision reaffirms the wisdom of our founding fathers in creating the Bill of Rights to protect and preserve individual rights, the cornerstone of our democracy. Furthermore, this decision solidifies an historical fact, the commonsense understanding that governments have powers, not rights -- rights are reserved exclusively for individuals."
Demonstrating the strong grassroots support for the individual rights thesis, the nation's leading gun control group, the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, conceded victory prior to the High Court's ruling. In an interview with ABC News last week, Brady Campaign President Paul Helmke noted, "We've lost the battle on what the Second Amendment means. Seventy-five percent of the public thinks it's an individual right." The U.S. Supreme Court agrees that the public is correct.
The importance of having a uniform and legally accepted definition of the Second Amendment is particularly important to the firearms industry, as noted by Sanetti. "The products that our industry manufactures are the means through which our Second Amendment rights are realized. Clearly sportsmen, hunters, responsible firearms owners and the industry are all heavily vested in this groundbreaking ruling."
Though the Heller decision is the first time that the High Court has declared in absolute terms that the Second Amendment is an individual right, the nation's leading historians, legal scholars and constitutional experts have long been on record supporting such a conclusion. Renowned scholars, including 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, like all the other rights of the people recognized in the Bill of Rights, secures an individual's right to keep and bear arms.
"Today's decision lays to rest the specious argument that the Second Amendment is not an individual right and marks the beginning of the end of repressive gun laws that have infringed upon individual liberty and done nothing to make America safer," said Lawrence G. Keane, NSSF senior vice president and general counsel."
NSSF filed a friend of the court brief in support of the respondent, Mr. Heller.
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."
The mayor of Washington, D.C., Adrian M. Fenty, filed an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, setting the stage for the high court to rule. The case became known as District of Columbia v. Heller. 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.