The U.S. Supreme Court this week took up the politically charged question of whether the Second Amendment of the Constitution confers an individual the right to bear arms. The justices conducted oral arguments in a case challenging a local Washington, D.C., law that bars residents from keeping guns in their homes. In their questioning, the justices focused on the ambiguous wording of the Second Amendment, which asserts: “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.”

Defending the D.C. statute, lawyer Walter Dellinger argued that the amendment established only the “right to participate in the common defense.” But Justice Anthony Kennedy, the likely swing vote in the case, seemed skeptical, suggesting that the Constitution’s framers wanted to assure the right of “the remote settler to defend himself and his family against hostile Indian tribes and outlaws, wolves and bears and grizzlies and things like that.” If the court strikes down the District’s statute on broad grounds, many other types of gun regulations could also be in jeopardy.