UPDATE 1-US top court finds individual right to own guns
WASHINGTON, June 26 (Reuters) - The Supreme Court ruled on Thursday, for the first time in U.S. history, that individual Americans have the right to own guns for personal use, and struck down a strict gun control law in the nation's capital.
The landmark 5-4 ruling marked the first time in nearly 70 years the high court has addressed whether the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution protects an individual right to keep and bear arms, rather than a right tied to service in a state militia.
Writing the court's majority opinion, Justice Antonin Scalia said the Second Amendment protected an individual right to possess a firearm unconnected with service in a militia and to use that arm for traditionally lawful purposes, such as self-defense within the home.
Although an individual now has a constitutional right to own guns, that new right is not unlimited, wrote Scalia, a hunter.
The ruling came the day after a worker at a plastics plant in Henderson, Kentucky, used a handgun to shoot and kill five people inside the factory before killing himself, the latest in a series of deadly shooting sprees across the country.
The Supreme Court's last review of the Second Amendment came in a five-page discussion in an opinion issued in 1939 that failed to definitively resolve the constitutional issue.
The court struck down the nation's strictest gun control law adopted in Washington D.C., 32 years ago. It bans private possession of handguns and requires that any rifles or shotguns kept at home be unloaded and dissembled or bound by a trigger lock.
The justices split along conservative-liberal lines in the ruling, one of the most important of the court's current term, in deciding a legal battle over gun rights in America. The ruling came on the last day of the court's 2007-08 term.
President George W. Bush's two appointees on the court, Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Samuel Alito, both voted with the majority in finding an individual right to keep firearms.
In dissent, Justice Stephen Breyer wrote, "The decision threatens to throw into doubt the constitutionality of gun laws throughout the United States." (Reporting by James Vicini, Editing by Deborah Charles)
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