March 19, 2008

SCOTUS rules on guns .. but wait ...

Justices Rule In Favor of Gun Rights

Supreme Court Justices Rule Individuals Have A Right To Own Guns

LA Times
March 19, 2008

The 2nd Amendment right to “keep and bear arms” finally had its day in the Supreme Court on Tuesday, and the long-held view that it protected the rights of gun owners appeared poised to win a historic victory.

Five of the justices, a bare majority, signaled that they thought the amendment gave individuals a right to have a gun for self-defense. It was not limited to arms for “a well-regulated militia,” they said.

By adopting that view, the justices are likely to strike down the nation’s strictest gun control law, a ban on handguns in the District of Columbia.

But Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. said he favored a narrow ruling, one that would not cast doubt on an array of gun control laws across the nation. They include a ban on the sale of new machine guns, required background checks for new buyers of handguns and state licensing rules for those who wish to carry a concealed weapon.

“But I don’t know why when we are starting afresh we would try to articulate a whole standard that would apply in every case.” Roberts told one lawyer.

The court is indeed “starting afresh” with the 2nd Amendment, more than 200 years after it was adopted as part of the Bill of Rights. It says: “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 high court has never struck down a gun control law for violating the 2nd Amendment.

For many years, judges thought the amendment merely prohibited the federal government from interfering with the state’s right to maintain a “well-regulated militia.”

But most Americans know the second clause, referring to the “right of the people to keep and bear arms.” In polls, a large majority say they think it gives law-abiding people a right to own a gun.

Though the court appeared ready to agree with them, the chief justice alluded to the difficulty of deciding what kind of right was protected by the 2nd Amendment. Is the right to own a gun like the right to freedom of speech in the 1st Amendment? If so, most restrictions on that right would be in doubt. Or is the gun right subject to strict regulations by the government?

The justices strongly hinted Tuesday that they would leave open the question of whether many restrictions on gun rights would stand.

Nonetheless, a ruling recognizing an individual right in the 2nd Amendment would be a landmark. And it could well signal the beginning of an era in which anti-gun regulations are subject to legal challenges.

Read Full Article Here

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