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Posted: 9:12 PM- WASHINGTON - The U.S. Supreme Court made clear Thursday an individual's right to bear arms, prompting many Utah gun rights activists to rhetorically discharge a celebratory round or two.

"It's like the greatest thing that's happened in this nation since the Revolutionary War," said Janalee Tobias, who founded a group called Women Against Gun Control.

The court, conclusively addressing the 2nd Amendment for the first time in 217 years, struck down a strict law in the District of Columbia against handgun ownership. More broadly, the ruling put to rest the question of whether the Constitutional amendment protected an individual right or a collective right as part of a state militia.

Justice Antonin Scalia, writing the 5-4 majority opinion, referred to the "inherent right of self-defense" central to the Second Amendment.

Chicago and San Francisco have gun bans similar to Washington's. City officials, who had attempted to stem gun violence in their dense cities, lamented the ruling.

Democratic Mayor Richard Daley, called the decision "very frightening" and predicted more violence and higher taxes to pay for extra police if his city's gun restrictions are lost, according to The Associated Press.

Washington Mayor Adrian Fenty declared, "More handguns will lead to more handgun violence," The Washington Post reported.

Soon after the ruling Thursday, young protestors with red tape across their mouths staked out the foot of the court's marbled steps, and gun rights supporters and gun control advocates hoisted signs nearby.

The decision - running 157 pages and including two dissents - may have little impact on Utah, where the state Constitution clearly declares an individual right. Still, gun rights activists in the state praised the ruling.

"It is a landmark case for civil rights," said Charles Hardy, executive director of the Gun Owners of Utah, who estimates there are as many guns in the state as people. "If you can't defend your life, your freedom of conscience, your right to own property, all become fairly moot in the extreme."

The District of Columbia's 32-year-old law, banning the carrying or storing of handguns with a few exceptions, was enacted when the city's murder rate had soared. While the federal city of 600,000 has lost the title of the murder capital of the nation, violence still permeates some neighborhoods.

While striking down a ban on firearms for home defense, Scalia cautioned the right to won and bear arms "is not unlimited."

The court declined to make a detailed analysis of what restrictions might be placed on the right. However, Scalia said, "nothing in our opinion should be taken to cast doubt on longstanding prohibitions on the possession of firearms by felons and the mentally ill, or laws forbidding the carrying of firearms in sensitive places such as schools and government buildings, or laws imposing conditions and qualifications on the commercial sale of arms."

In separate dissents, Justice Stephen Breyer and Justice John Paul Stevens found the amendment's concern was not the individual right, but that of states to have their armed militias unrestricted by the federal government.

Sen. Orrin Hatch, a Utah Republican who signed onto a friend-of-the-court brief backing the individual right argument.

"It's difficult for many of us to see why we should even have a conflict or the difficulties that we have had with the issue," Hatch said on the Supreme Court steps encircled by cameras and reporters. Hatch's office says he owns firearms but did not detail his arsenal.

Steve Gunn, who is on the board of the Gun Violence Protection Center of Utah, said the decision would not affect Utah firearms laws. But he did warn the decision, providing little guidance on the scope of the right, will generate "myriad lawsuits" attempting to clarify what restrictions are permissible.

"In a sense, this is the full-employment for judges decision," Gunn said.

It echoed the words of Breyer in his dissent, which warned "the decision threatens to throw into doubt the constitutionality of gun laws throughout the United States."

A spokesman for Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, who has pushed for gun control laws, said the court's decision could open Pandora's Box.

"It's a bitter irony that this setback comes in the name of a right to self-defense," said Anthony Coley.

Thursday's decision was prompted by a lawsuit filed by Dick A. Heller, a private security guard who lives in the same Capitol Hill neighborhood as the Supreme Court building. Heller wanted to register a handgun and keep it at home but was prohibited by city officials.

Back in Utah, where nearly 100,000 concealed carrying permits have been issued to state residents, Heller's effort was heralded.

"It's not going to change, in Utah, much of anything," said Utah Shooting Sports Council leader Clark Aposhian. "But I'm proud to be an American today."