The Supreme Court ruled Tuesday that a federal law protecting people from being killed by police who believe they are in imminent danger from an armed assailant violates the Constitution.
The 5-4 decision in D.C. v.
Heller overturned a lower court’s decision that the state’s “stand your ground” law was unconstitutional.
Under the state law, a person who believes he or she is in immediate danger from being shot or killed by an officer cannot use deadly force.
The justices rejected arguments by gun rights groups that the law was not a reasonable response to the threat posed by the gunman.
The court did not decide whether the state could bring an action seeking to overturn the ruling.
The ruling by the court’s liberal justices will likely set the stage for a nationwide debate over whether the Second Amendment guarantees an individual right to self-defense.
Supporters of the law, who have fought for decades to protect the rights of those who use firearms, said the ruling means the law must be rewritten to protect people’s Second Amendment rights.
The Justice Department, which opposed the law in court, had argued that its requirements were reasonable and narrowly tailored to address specific threats posed by gun violence.
The department also said the law’s language was sufficiently vague to allow people to draw a valid “stand” defense.
The case was brought by two men, Stephen L. Gifford and Mark L. O’Connell, who say they were approached by officers who approached them outside a D.S., Washington, D.O. nightclub and opened fire.
The officers did not kill them.
The state Supreme Court last year ruled that the officers were justified in shooting Giffords and O’Donnell in self-defence, and the federal appeals court in March overturned that ruling.
A separate lawsuit filed by the city of D.H.C., which has the city’s law on its books, was dismissed by the justices.
A federal judge in the District last year upheld the law as constitutional.
The government’s case, which was backed by the American Civil Liberties Union, argued that the “stand-your-ground” law is unconstitutional because it is a pre-emptive measure that allows a person to use deadly physical force against a threat of death or serious bodily injury if he or her belief is reasonable.
The gun rights group the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, which filed the case, also argued that allowing individuals to draw an “armed self- defense” defense “would chill the free exercise of Second Amendment freedoms by providing an effective justification for unlawful and unnecessary use of deadly force by law enforcement.”