Gun Control after Heller: Litigating against Regulation
NBER Working Paper No. 15431
The “core right” established in D.C. vs. Heller (2008) is to keep an operable handgun in the home for self-defense purposes. If the Court extends this right to cover state and local jurisdictions, the result is likely to include the elimination of the most stringent existing regulations – such as Chicago’s handgun ban – and could also possibly ban regulations that place substantial restrictions or costs on handgun ownership. We find evidence in support of four conclusions: The effect of Heller may be to increase the prevalence of handgun ownership in jurisdictions that currently have restrictive laws; Given the best evidence on the consequences of increased prevalence of gun ownership, these jurisdictions will experience a greater burden of crime due to more lethal violence and an increased burglary rate; Nonetheless, a regime with greater scope for gun rights is not necessarily inferior – whether restrictive regulations would pass a cost benefit test may depend on whether we accept the Heller viewpoint that there is a legal entitlement to possess a handgun; In any event, the core right defined by Heller leaves room for some regulation that would reduce the negative externalities of gun ownership.