Individuals have a constitutional right to possess firearms and use them for lawful purposes like self-defense and hunting, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled today in its first decision on the interpretation of the Second Amendment and the right to bear arms.
In today's ruling, the Court parsed the language of the Second Amendment, which reads "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." Writing for a 5-4 majority, Justice Antonin Scalia declared that the Amendment protects an individual's right to possess and use firearms (for lawful purposes) "unconnected with service in a militia." The Court held that the Amendment's prefatory clause -- the reference to a well regulated militia -- "announces a purpose, but does not limit or expand the scope of the second part" of the Amendment, the text and history of which "demonstrate that it connotes an individual right to keep and bear arms." Today's ruling came in a challenge to a District of Columbia ban on handguns, which the Court overturned as unconstitutional.