Friday, June 27, 2008

The Supremes on Your (Restricted) Individual Right

The Supreme Court has overturned the gun ban here in Washington, D.C.

For those who want to read the opinion, click here

Getting rid of the D.C. gun ban will not change a thing on the streets of our Nation's Capitol.

D.C. criminals have always ignored the gun ban, while law-abiding folks generally don't shoot other folks.

As for the notion that personal gun ownership will deter street crime, don't count on it.

We do not live in a world of High Noon shootouts, but in a world of drive-by shootings, strong-armed stick-ups, drug deals gone bad, and cowards who shoot others in the back in parking lots. In the real world, punks and criminals almost always have the drop on the law-abiding, and that will not change.

Which is not to say this decision will not make a lot of noise. This being the political season, folks on both the right and the left are going to pander and play "gotcha" on guns as quick and as loudly as they can.

What makes this partisan posturing and pandering so funny is that, as far as I can tell, there's not a bit of difference between John McCain and Barack Obama on the Second Amendment.

John McCain does not own a gun and does not hunt. Neither does Barack Obama.

Barack Obama believes the Second Amendment is an individual right. So too does John McCain.

John McCain recognizes the need for gun licensing and certain "time, place, and manner" restrictions. Obama believes the same.

And it's not just Barack Obama and John McCain that are in agreement on the Second Amendment; so too is the U.S. Supreme Court.

As Justice Antonin Scalia (the most conservative member of the Court, and a hunter and gun owner) noted in today's opinion:

"Like most rights, the Second Amendment right is not unlimited. It is not a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose: For example, concealed weapons prohibitions have been upheld under the Amendment or state analogues. The Court's opinion should not 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 short, while the Court ruled that the Second Amendment is an individual right, it also ruled that it is a right that is subject to licensing and time, place, manner, and gun-type restrictions at the state and local level. In fact, it is even subject to such restrictions at the building level.

Read the opinion.

You may agree or disagree with it, but this is now the law of the land and valuable guidance for state and local officials.

For those who want to know what I think (both of you), here are the links to what I have written about guns before:


In closing, I should note that while John McCain, Barack Obama and Antonin Scalia are singing out of the same hymnal when it comes to the Second Amendment, John McCain is (arguably) a little shaky on the First Amendment which is why he has come under repeated attack by the National Rifle Association.

Ironically, the Supreme Court chose today to overturn part of the McCain-Feingold campaign finance law which protected members of Congress from running against wealthy self-financing political rivals.

Apparently the Court felt that the legislation championed by Senators McCain and the Feingold violated the First Amendment.

Hmmmm. . . .

This is not the first time this month that John McCain has been at odds with the U.S. Constitution and the U.S. Supreme Court. Two weeks ago the Supreme Court said that detainees in Guantanamo Bay needed to be represented by counsel and could not be detained forever without charge or trial.

McCain, who is a little shaky on Article I of the U.S. Constitution (habeas corpus) objected.

Not all good conservatives did. Republican Senator Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania (former Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee) saluted the Supreme Court's decision and "reaffirmation of the constitutional right to habeas corpus."

Which brings us around full circle.

Perhaps our Founding Father were not crazy when they wrote into the U.S. Constitution an individual right "to keep and bear arms."

After all, when push comes to shove we may yet need our guns -- to protect us from those who would jail us forever on charges never stated, and who would try us without counsel.

We may yet need our guns to protect us from people like John McCain who would subvert the U.S. Constitution while telling us "it's for our own good."

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