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Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) Lectures Kick-Off with Discussion on Second Amendment Ruling

Robert Levy, senior fellow in constitutional studies at the Cato Institute, was the guest speaker at Wake Forest University School of Law’s first Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) luncheon discussion of the fall semester. Levy discussed District of Columbia v. Heller, a case in which the justices held that the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution protects an individual’s right to possess a firearm for private use, such as protection. The decision was split 5-4 with Justice Antonin Scalia writing for the majority.Levy, who served as co-counsel on the case when it was argued in front of the high court earlier this year, provided details of the affirmation of the final opinion. Wilson Parker, Wake Forest professor of law and constitutional law expert, provided details of the dissent written by Justice John Paul Stevens, who wrote that the case “bestowed a dramatic upheaval in the law.”

“Scalia acknowledged that the Second Amendment is not absolute,” Parker said. “Heller is about what five people on the Supreme Court think is important today.”

Levy explained that the Heller case is important historically because it is the first Supreme Court case ever to address directly whether the right to keep and bear arms is an individual rightor a collective right that applies only to state militias. This Supreme Court ruling also upheld for the first time a federal appeals court ruling to void a law based on the Second Amendment. The Heller decision has far-reaching implications. As a result of the ruling, not only is the 32-year-old handgun ban in Washington, D.C. unconstitutional, so are similar bans in other cities such as San Francisco and Chicago, according to Levy. “Heller is going to be a milestone,” he said.

The event and Levy’s visit was sponsored by the Law School’s Federalist Society for Law and Policy Studies, an organization of conservatives and libertarians dedicated to the principles that the state exists to preserve freedom, that the separation of government is essential tothe Constitution, and that it is emphatically the province of the judiciary to say what the law is — not what it should be.

The SCOTUS discussions are held monthly in the large courtroom at the Wake Forest University School of Law.

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