As expected, the U.S. Supreme Court affirmed that the Second Amendment of the Constitution is an individual right and upheld a previous ruling that said that the gun ban in the District of Columbia is unconstitutional. Now that we’ve dispensed with the utter folly of the idea that “the right of the people” somehow means military and quasi-military organizations under the control of government, the debate now moves to what “shall not be infringed” actually means. The court didn’t tackle that question, saying that it was permissible to require licensing and registration, which would seem to indicate that “shall not be infringed” is interpreted to mean “may be infringed” as long as government can explain why it is doing so. Also, while the court supported the right to “keep” firearms, it doesn’t seem that the question of when citizens may exercise their rights to “bear” them was addressed.
SCOTUSBlog has details, as well as a link to the decision.
In District of Columbia v. Heller (07-290), the Court nullified two provisions of the city of Washington’s strict 1976 gun control law: a flat ban on possessing a gun in one’s home, and a requirement that any gun — except one kept at a business — must be unloaded and disassembled or have a trigger lock in place. The Court said it was not passing on a part of the law requiring that guns be licensed. It said that issuing a license to a handgun owner, so the weapon can be used at home, would be a sufficient remedy for the Second Amendment violation of denying any access to a handgun.
Still, this is a huge victory that may sweep away pretty draconian restrictions of the right to keep and bear arms in some non-trivial places in America, particularly a number of large crime-infested cities. The case also will serve as a springboard for other cases to be brought that will clarify the aspects of the Second Amendment that the Supreme Court didn’t address this time around. With enough licensing and regulation burdens, it’s pretty easy for a government to effectively prohibit firearm ownership within their jurisdiction in the same way that the State of Maryland effectively prohibits concealed carry in Maryland by making the process of obtaining a permit so arbitrary and ridiculous that only the political elite can obtain them.
We made a lot of progress today on the long road to restore civil rights to the American people that have been usurped by their government. There’s a lot more road to travel here, but we haven’t made this kind of progress in almost a century.
UPDATE: Perhaps one of the more intriguing questions about this ruling, which hasn’t received much discussion, is whether the federal government can ban the possession of firearms on public lands such as Wildlife refuges and National Parks. Although a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking is working its way through the system to allow such possession, this ruling may simply preempt federal agencies other than law enforcement agencies and the Department of Defense from imposing such rules. If handgun possession cannot be abridged (subject to reasonable regulation) in the District of Columbia, it similarly could not be abridged in a National Park, one would think.
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