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Court Case Could Change Application of Second Amendment

Aired June 14, 2000 - 1:09 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

LOU WATERS, CNN ANCHOR: The right to bear arms has been enshrined in the U.S. Constitution for more than 200 years, but who exactly does it apply to?

CNN's Bob Franken reports a federal court is finally taking aim at that loaded question.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BOB FRANKEN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This is the Second Amendment to the Constitution: A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.

The courts have never clearly decided whether it guarantees the individual's right to possess a gun in the United States, or whether it really applies in this day and age to the National Guard.

Now a U.S. Appeals Court in New Orleans has heard a Texas case which might decide the question. A lower court judge ruled that a federal law that took away the husband's gun, in bitter divorce litigation, was unconstitutional. It violated the Second Amendment individual right to own a gun.

DENNIS HENIGAN, HANDGUN CONTROL INC.: If the individual rights view were to prevail generally, it would fundamentally alter the constitutional standards under which gun laws are judged.

STEPHEN HALBROOK, GUN RIGHTS ATTORNEY: I think everybody realizes the stakes are very high.

FRANKEN: Alarmed gun control advocates argued in the appeals court that if the judge's decision was upheld, many of the nation's gun laws would be overturned. The members of the three-judge panel repeatedly questioned whether this belonged in their court. Pro-gun attorneys insist that a ruling favorable to their side would not eliminate gun control but certainly limit it.

(on camera): If the Supreme Court should ultimately decide this case, it would be the first definitive ruling on the scope of the Second Amendment, even though it's been in the Constitution since 1791.

Bob Franken CNN, Washington. (END VIDEOTAPE)

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