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Individuals' Rights Key in Landmark D.C. Gun Case

The Supreme Court on Tuesday heard arguments on the District of Columbia's law essentially banning handgun ownership in the city. It's the first time since 1939 that the court has examined the nature of the Second Amendment and the extent of the right to bear arms.

For most of the past century, the courts have interpreted the constitutional right to bear arms as a collective right, linked to military service and state militias.

But Tuesday, a majority of Supreme Court justices indicated that they believe the right to bear arms is an individual right, like the right of free speech or the right to be free from unreasonable searches.

That intellectual distinction might have very practical effects in a city that tried to attack its high murder rate.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Nina Totenberg is NPR's award-winning legal affairs correspondent. Her reports air regularly on NPR's critically acclaimed newsmagazines All Things Considered, Morning Edition, and Weekend Edition.