Despite mountains of scholarly research, enough books to fill a library shelf, and decades of political battles about gun control, the Supreme Court will have an opportunity this week that is almost unique for a modern court when it examines whether Washington, D.C.’s handgun ban violates the Second Amendment, the Washington Post reports. “This may be one of the only cases in our lifetime when the Supreme Court is going to be interpreting the meaning of an important provision of the Constitution unencumbered by precedent,” said Randy Barnett, a constitutional scholar at the Georgetown University Law Center. “And that’s why there’s so much discussion on the original meaning of the Second Amendment.”
The Post says the outcome could roil the political campaigns, send a national message about what kinds of gun control are constitutional, and settle the question of whether the 27-word amendment, with its odd structure and antiquated punctuation, provides an individual right to gun ownership or simply pertains to militia service. It is difficult to know what gun-control legislation across the country would be at risk if the Supreme Court strikes down the D.C. law. Robert Levy, who filed the challenge to the statute, said the next targets will be handgun laws in Chicago and New York City, although the court has never held that the Second Amendment is applicable to states. One legal theory is that the provision is a restriction only against the federal government.