Dick Anthony Heller, the Washington, D.C. resident challenging the District’s handgun ban in the United States Supreme Court in the case of District of Columbia v. Heller, is the CCRKBA Gun Rights Defender of the Month for April.
In nominating Heller for the Award, John M. Snyder, CCRKBA Public Affairs Director, said that, “Dick Heller deserves the thanks and appreciation of America’s 80 million law-abiding gun owners for bringing this case all the way from the streets of the Capital City to the highest court in the land. He’s arguing that the handgun ban is a violation of the individual Second Amendment civil right to keep and bear arms. He’s been arguing this for over 10 years. A year ago, an appellate court agreed with him and declared the D.C. law an unconstitutional violation of the individual right to keep and bear arms. Then the city of Washington asked the Supreme Court to overturn the lower court ruling. When I met and talked with Dick on March 18 in the Supreme Court building just before entering the courtroom to hear arguments in the case, he said he’d been working on the case for so long that it had become part of his life. His patience, persistence and determination in pursuing this matter render him a true modern Second Amendment hero. He certainly is most deserving of this Award.”
Heller is a security guard at a government facility in the Nation’s Capital. He carries a pistol on the job but is prevented by the D.C. law from being able to keep a handgun in his own home for self-protection.
Heller, 66, told Point Blank that his father was a medic in the submarine service of the U.S. Navy during World War Two, and that Dick was born in San Diego, California at a time when his dad was based there.
He’s had an eventful life, living in many parts of the United States and the world, even spending about a year in Africa as a gold miner.
Heller joined the U.S. Army when he was 17 years old and became a paratrooper. He eventually settled in Washington, D.C. in 1962 since his parents had jobs in the city. He earned an engineering degree at Montgomery College in adjacent Montgomery County, Maryland in the 1960s. According to The Washingtonian, Dick has “worked in banking, at NASA, in a stock brokerage, and as a consultant.”
About 38 years ago, Dick moved to the Capitol Hill section of Washington, D.C. At the time, he owned a few firearms, and bought a nine-shot Buntline Special revolver with a 9-1/2 inch barrel.
Shortly after Dick bought the Buntline, the city enacted its nefarious law which prevented anyone but retired and working law enforcement officers from keeping handguns in their homes and required that all shotguns and rifles be kept unloaded and dissembled or disabled with a trigger lock. The 1976 law allowed exceptions for residents who at the time already owned handguns, provided they registered the firearms with the Washington, D.C. Metropolitan Police before a given deadline.
Although Heller could have kept the Buntline at the time had he registered it with the city, he refused to do so.
“I objected to the government’s knowing everyone’s business,” he said. “We lived in an era when John Wayne was still king. It was a culture that celebrated our Western heritage.”
Dick left his revolver with friends across the Potomac River, in suburban Virginia.
The neighborhood in which Heller was living went from bad to worse, and he “routinely witnessed gunfire, drug-dealing and other violence,” according to the Baltimore Sun. Heller felt he needed to keep a handgun at home for self protection but now was prevented by the handgun ban from doing so.
Heller and others got together with attorney Bob Levy of the Cato Institute, who agreed to fund the case, and decided to challenge the D.C. gun law.
On July 22, 2002, Heller went to police headquarters to register his personal .22 caliber handgun, and was turned down. That meant he could claim he was “harmed” by the D.C. law and had legal standing to sue.
Although there originally were a number of plaintiffs in the case challenging the D.C. law, the lower court decided that only Heller had standing to sue.
Heller has since married and moved to another neighborhood of Washington, D.C. and hopes for a favorable ruling in the case by the Supreme Court.
A decision is expected in late June.