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The Supreme Court’s decision in District of Columbia v. Heller, rejecting the narrow interpretation of the Second Amendment that most courts previously embraced, might seem to be a significant setback for gun control supporters and a major victory for gun rights advocates. Challenging that conventional wisdom, the author contends that Heller ultimately will help rather than hinder the push toward strong, sensible gun control laws. Justice Scalia’s opinion for the majority in Heller ultimately backs away from the most drastic implications of its reasoning and instead steers toward a more moderate approach under which virtually all existing gun laws should be upheld. Developments since Heller, including the continuing controversy over gun laws in the District of Columbia and the lower courts’ reactions to a wave of post-Heller challenges to the constitutionality of various federal and state gun laws, suggest that the ultimate effects of the Supreme Court’s decision in Heller will be far less dramatic than many initially expected. In the long run, the Heller decision’s most important effect may be to reduce the intensity and bitterness of the nation’s political and cultural debate over guns. By confirming that reasonable gun regulations will not lead to extreme measures like prohibition of all guns, Heller may turn out to be an important victory for both gun control and gun rights.

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Lewis & Clark Law Review





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