At the close of today’s public session, Chief Justice John Roberts indicated that all the court’s remaining opinions will be issued tomorrow at 10am. That includes District of Columbia v. Heller, which is going to start us off on what will no doubt be a long and loud road towards what new gun regulation will come to be in the District… and likely, everywhere else.
Tom Goldstein wrote on SCOTUSBlog on Monday his speculation that the Heller majority opinion would be written by Justice Scalia, which is probably going to be great news if you’re in favor of an individual right to own a gun versus the more traditional collective militia interpretation. Goldstein points out that Scalia is the only justice who hasn’t penned a majority opinion from the cases in March’s sittings – and this is the last of March’s cases – though of course this assumes (a) Scalia will be on the pro-gun side – probably a fair guess – and (b) that the pro-gun contingent is going to carry this decision, which sure sounded that way from the oral arguments.
That’s divergent from what Mike O’Shea predicted right after oral arguments, when he believed that Justice Roberts or Kennedy would be writing the opinion, though both think there’s going to be an individual right component to the decision.
The reasonable thing to wonder in response to that is, of course, so what? What’s that really mean for people visiting and living in the district? Well, Nina Totenberg’s NPR article here points out that the DC law as it stands doesn’t prohibit residents from keeping what I’d call “long guns” at home for protection, provided that they’re trigger-locked or disassembled, so odds are we’re just going to see that residents will be able to keep pistols as well as rifles at home. Whether they’ll have to continue to be locked is more up in the air. Justice Scalia certainly seemed pretty firmly on the side of self-protection, and DC circuit court ruling said not just that Heller had the right to have the gun at home, but also loaded and unlocked.
I think we can be pretty much certain that at the end of this there’s not going to be any expectation that you’re going to have the right to have a gun out and about with you when you travel through town, visible or not. That might be the next fight Heller and others like him choose to pick, but I’d be overtly astonished if there’s any overt statement on that kind of matter in the decision. The Court likes to give a thumbs up or down to lower court decisions without further narrowing, and the Circuit opinion outright says “Heller does not claim a legal right to carry a handgun outside his home, so we need not consider the more difficult issue whether the District can ban the carrying of handguns in public, or in automobiles.” Or in other words, we’re going to punt and just ignore this sub-issue. Bet on a follow-up case – if this goes as expected and residents are allowed to have guns in their home – over being able to transport them to and fro.
See you at the range.
This post appeared in its original form at DC Metblogs