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October 6, 2010

The Right to Bear Arms: A Uniquely American Entitlement

Author Affiliations

Author Affiliations: O’Neill Institute on National and Global Health Law, Georgetown University, Washington, DC.

JAMA. 2010;304(13):1485-1486. doi:10.1001/jama.2010.1419

In District of Columbia v Heller, the US Supreme Court held that individuals have a constitutional right to own firearms, notably to keep a loaded handgun at home for self-protection. The historic shift announced by Heller was the recognition of a personal right rather than a collective right tied to state militias.1,2 In McDonald v Chicago,3 the court, in its familiar 5 to 4 ideological split, held that the Second Amendment applies not only to the federal government but also to state and local gun control laws. In his dissent, Justice Stevens predicted that “the consequences could prove far more destructive to our nation's communities and constitutional structure.”3

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