Politics & Media
Aug 06, 2008, 07:48AM

Speaking With The Gun Ban Man

Dick Heller is a private security guard living in a dangerous Washinton, D.C. neighborhood. He felt he should be able to keep a handgun in his home for self-defense, and with a little help from some friendly lawyers, his suit to do so reached the Supreme Court. Last month the D.C. gun ban was struck down, and this young journalist was there chatting up the regular guy who precipitated a major shift in the application of our Constitution.

Don't say my name out loud."That's the first thing Dick Heller told me as we stood outside the Supreme Court building on the morning of June 26, waiting for the decision in a landmark Second Amendment case.

Heller, who lives in a dangerous neighborhood and wants to keep a handgun at home for self-defense, was contacted by Bob Levy, a senior fellow at the libertarian Cato Institute, where I am working as an intern this summer. Levy, a self-made millionaire, was preparing to bankroll a lawsuit against the ban. Heller joined five other plaintiffs in the suit, then known as Parker v. District of Columbia.

While the attorneys were primarily responsible for brilliantly shepherding the case to the Supreme Court, a vital part of the case hinged on actions Heller took on his own. On the advice of his friend and attorney Dane Van Breichenruchardt, Heller had gone to a police station to attempt to register a handgun. When the clerk refused, saying it was against the law, Heller had him write down the name of the law it broke on the denied application.

The purpose of this bizarre encounter was to establish legal standing for Heller to sue by proving that he had been injured by the law. It worked: When the lawsuit, which had been dismissed by the District Court, went to the D.C. Court of Appeals, they.ruled that Heller — though not the other plaintiffs — had standing, and struck down the ban.

I ended up sitting right next to Heller in one of the back rows of the Supreme Court.


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