On Thursday, the United States Supreme Court issued a historic ruling on the right of Americans to own guns. The nation's highest court ruled that the United States Constitution protects the rights of individuals to own handguns for self-defense in their homes. Five justices supported the decision. Four opposed it.
|Hand guns like this one have been banned in Washington, DC for 32 years|
The decision overturned a thirty-two-year-old ban on handguns in Washington, D.C. The Supreme Court majority ruled that the gun control law in the nation's capital made it too difficult to own a handgun. The Court also struck down the city's requirement that larger guns kept at home must be taken apart or have locks.
Legal experts have long debated the meaning of the Second Amendment to the Constitution, which was written more than two hundred years ago. Some experts argued that the amendment guaranteed the right of individuals to own guns. Others argued that it only applied to state militias, armies of citizens. That amendment says: "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." The Court ruled that this does not limit gun ownership to service in a militia.
Justice John Paul Stevens was among the four in the minority who strongly opposed the ruling. He said decisions about gun control should be made by legislatures.
However, the Court recognized that the individual right to have a gun is not unlimited. It said the ruling does not mean that laws against carrying hidden weapons should be ended.
The Court noted that other long-standing gun restrictions remain in effect. These restrictions include a ban on the possession of guns by convicted criminals and the mentally ill. They also include laws that ban weapons from being carried into schools and government buildings.
Washington, D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty said he was not happy with the Supreme Court ruling. He said he believes that more handguns in the city will mean more gun violence. Several other American cities also ban handguns and other weapons.
President Bush welcomed the decision. The White House released a statement saying the president strongly agrees with the Court's majority opinion.
Republican Party presidential candidate John McCain praised the decision as a major victory for freedom in the United States.
Democratic Party presidential candidate Barack Obama also released a statement on the Court ruling. He said it would help guide local communities trying to balance the right of gun owners with the need to protect citizens in high crime areas.
The last time the Supreme Court dealt with the Second Amendment and gun ownership was in nineteen thirty-nine. However, at that time the Court did not directly settle the question of whether individual citizens have a right to have guns.
And that's IN THE NEWS in VOA Special English, written by Brianna Blake. You can find scripts and download audio on our Web site, voaspecialenglish.com. I'm Steve Ember.