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Brief summaries of the rulings from the leading cases before the Supreme Court in its just-ended term:

GUN BAN

Ruled that Americans have a right to own guns for self-defense and hunting. It was the justices' first major pronouncement on gun rights in history. The 5-4 ruling struck down the District of Columbia's 32-year-old ban on handguns as incompatible with gun rights under the Second Amendment. The decision went further than even the Bush administration wanted, but probably leaves most firearms laws intact. Within two days, lawsuit were filed in San Francisco and Chicago challenging similar handgun bans.

The court had not conclusively interpreted the amendment since its ratification in 1791. The amendment reads: "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 basic issue for the justices was whether the amendment protects an individual's right to own guns no matter what, or whether that right is somehow tied to service in a state militia.

Writing for the majority, Justice Antonin Scalia said an individual right to bear arms is supported by "the historical narrative" both before and after the amendment was adopted. The Constitution does not permit "the absolute prohibition of handguns held and used for self-defense in the home," Scalia said. The court also struck down Washington's requirement that firearms be equipped with trigger locks or kept disassembled, but left intact the licensing of guns. Joining Scalia were Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Samuel Alito, Anthony Kennedy and Clarence Thomas.


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