After a hiatus of 68 years, the Supreme Court on Tuesday agreed to rule on the meaning of the Second Amendment — the hotly contested part of the Constitution that guarantees “a right to keep and bear arms.” Not since 1939 has the Court heard a case directly testing the Amendment’s scope — and there is a debate about whether it actually decided anything in that earlier ruling. In a sense, the Court may well be writing on a clean slate if, in the end, it decides the ultimate question: does the Second Amendment guarantee an individual right to have a gun for private use, or does it only guarantee a collective right to have guns in an organized military force such as a state National Guard unit?

Read the court's order here.

The city of Washington’s appeal (District of Columbia v. Heller, 07-290) is expected to be heard in March — slightly more than a year after the D.C. Circuit Court ruled that the right is a personal one, at least to have a gun for self-defense in one’s own home. (The Court took no action on Tuesday on a conditional cross-petition, Parker, et al., v. District of Columbia, 07-335, an appeal by five District residents seeking to join in the case. The absence of any action may mean that the Court has decided not to hear that case. If that is so, it will be indicated in an order next Monday. The Court also may simply be holding the case until it decides the Heller case.)

The Justices chose to write out for themselves the constitutional question they will undertake to answer in Heller. Both sides had urged the Court to hear the city’s case, but they had disagreed over how to frame the Second Amendment issue.

Here is the way the Court phrased the granted issue:

“Whether the following provisions — D.C. Code secs. 7-2502.02(a)(4), 22-4504(a), and 7-2507.02 — 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?”
The first listed section bars registration of pistols if not registered before Sept. 24, 1976; the second bars carrying an unlicensed pistol, and the third requires that any gun kept at home must be unloaded and disassembled or bound by a lock, such as one that prevents the trigger from operating.
The Court did not mention any other issues that it might address as questions of its jurisdiction to reach the ultimate question: did the one individual who was found to have a right to sue — **** Anthony Heller, a D.C. resident – have a right to challenge all three of the sections of the local law cited in the Court’s order, and, is the District of Columbia, as a federal enclave, even covered by the Second Amendment. While neither of those issues is posed in the grant order, the Court may have to be satisfied that the answer to both is affirmative before it would move on to the substantive question about the scope of any right protected by the Amendment.
The Court also granted review on Tuesday of the question of whether federal labor law bars a state from forbidding a company that receives state funds from using any of those funds to speak out on issues in bargaining with a labor union. That case is U.S. Chamber of Commerce, et al., v. Brown, et al. (06-939). The U.S. Solicitor General, asked by the government for its views on the case, urged that review be granted. At least 16 states have laws or are considering laws like the one in California at issue in the case.

The Court also said on Tuesday that it will hear an appeal by Alabama’s governor, Bob Riley, in a voting rights case — but will not necessarily decide the merits of the appeal. The Court postponed the question of its jurisdiction until its hearing on the case of Riley v. Kennedy, et al. (07-77). That means the Justices will, indeed, hear oral argument, but will focus part of that argument on whether the case is properly before them. The other side in the case contended in its response that the state officials waited too long to file their appeal, thus depriving the Court of jurisdiction.

The merits issue raised by the governor is whether rulings by state Supreme Courts on the meaning of state or local election law do bring about the kind of changes in voting rights that must first get federal clearance before going into effect — for those states and local jurisdictions that are covered by the pre-clearance requirement of the Voting Rights Act’s Section 5.

These other two cases, like Heller, are likely to be scheduled for argument in the March sitting that begins on Mar. 17.
Source: SCOTUSblog