Dozens of organizations have weighed in on both sides of District of Columbia. v. Heller, the landmark U.S. Supreme Court case that will consider whether the Second Amendment protects an individual's right to bear arms.
State attorneys general are likewise divided, with 31 states, led by Texas, supporting Heller and more-liberal regions, including Maryland, Massachusetts, and New Jersey, arguing for the city.
Although the Justice Department supports an individual's right to own a gun, it has urged the Supreme Court to remand the lower court's decision. Yet a key Bush administration official, Vice President Dick Cheney—acting in his capacity as a member of Congress—has come down in favor of Heller. A bipartisan group in Congress—55 senators and 250 representatives—has supported Heller, although 18 representatives filed in support of the city.
There are health groups and law enforcement associations on both sides of the issue, along with a collection of niche interests: women's and gay rights organizations that say a right to bear arms is critical to protecting their equality; a group called Jews for the Preservation of Firearms Ownership; and the NAACP, which filed a brief in favor of the city's law.
Excerpts from amicus briefs that side with Heller:
"The Executive Branch had long interpreted the Amendment to secure an individual right prior to the litigation that culminated in this Court's decision in United States v. Miller . And although the Government advanced, in the alternative, a contrary, collective rights interpretation during the Miller litigation, the Executive Branch appears generally to have adhered to an individual rights view for many years thereafter.... Throughout the remainder of the twentieth century, the Executive Branch's interpretations of the Second Amendment were cursory and often equivocal. "The Reno brief also errs in suggesting that affirming the judgment below would jeopardize existing federal firearms laws. The Second Amendment's protection was never understood to extend to unfit persons or to unusual and especially dangerous firearms. Reading the Second Amendment to secure the right of a law-abiding individual to possess a common handgun for personal defense in his own home does not call into question any existing federal firearms regulations."
"Historically Congress has interpreted the Second Amendment as recognizing the right of law-abiding individuals to keep and bear arms. This Court should give due deference to the repeated findings over different historical epochs by Congress, a co-equal branch of government, that the Amendment guarantees the personal right to possess firearms. The District's prohibitions on mere possession by law-abiding persons of handguns in the home and having usable firearms there are unreasonable per se. No purpose would be served by remanding this case for further fact finding or other proceedings. "This declares a political principle and then guarantees a substantive right. The term 'the people' is in juxtaposition to the government, federal or state. Only individuals have 'rights,' while the United States and the states have 'powers.' "
"Laws that prevent the use of firearms for self defense in one's own home disproportionately impact those individuals who are targets of hate violence due to their minority status, whether defined by race, religion, sexual orientation, or other characteristic. Even in their homes, LGBT [lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered] individuals are at risk of murder, aggravated assault and other forms of hate violence because of their sexual orientation. In fact, the home is the most common site of anti-gay violence."