June 28, 2010

Supreme Court Upholds Second Amendment Rights

The United States Supreme Court issued a 5-4 ruling today that the Second Amendment does, in fact, mean what it says – even in Chicago – and guarantees an individual right to keep and bear arms. The case at hand was McDonald v. City of Chicago, in which the plaintiff sought to overturn Chicago’s blanket ban on handguns.

The Amendment reads, “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 Chicago ban clearly infringed on that right.

That didn’t stop the Chicago Tribune from spinning in its headline, “Supreme Court extends gun rights.” The Tribune lamented that the Court’s decision had “extended the reach of the 2nd Amendment as a nationwide protection.” Such language, of course, suggests that the Court invented the right out of thin air – sort of like abortion on demand. Unlike abortion, however, the right to keep and bear arms is actually written down in the Constitution, in plain view for all to see.

Hans von Spakovsky of the Heritage Foundation summed up the case:

In 2008 in District of Columbia v. Heller, the Court for the first time held that the right to bear arms was an individual right. But that decision, which struck down a virtual ban on handguns and a requirement that rifles and shotguns had to be kept “unloaded and disassembled or bound by a trigger lock” in the District of Columbia, applied only to the federal government because the District is a federal enclave. What had never been decided before today’s decision in McDonald v. Chicago was whether the protection of the Second Amendment is incorporated through the Fourteenth Amendment’s Due Process Clause to apply to state and local governments.

The Associated Press reports, “Monday’s decision did not explicitly strike down the Chicago area laws, ordering a federal appeals court to reconsider its ruling. But it left little doubt that they would eventually fall.”

Predictably, the split was along ideological lines. Chief Justice John Roberts, and Justices Sam Alito, Anthony Kennedy, Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas were in the majority; Steven Breyer, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor and John Paul Stevens, who served his last day on the court Monday, dissented.

Writing for the majority, Justice Alito observed, “It is clear that the Framers and ratifiers of the Fourteenth Amendment counted the right to keep and bear arms among those fundamental rights necessary to our system of ordered liberty.” Alito also wrote, “The Fourteenth Amendment makes the Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms fully applicable to the States.”

Justice Thomas, in a separate opinion, argued a different constitutional rationale, saying, “[The] Due Process Clause, which speaks only to ‘process,’ cannot impose the type of substantive restraint on state legislation that the Court asserts. Rather, the right to keep and bear arms is enforceable against the States because it is a privilege of American citizenship recognized by §1 of the Fourteenth Amendment, which provides, inter alia: ‘No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States.’”

Out in left field, Justice Breyer displayed his bullheaded ignorance, writing, “[N]othing in 18th-, 19th-, 20th-, or 21st-century history shows a consensus that the right to private armed self-defense … is ‘deeply rooted in this nation’s history or tradition’ or is otherwise ‘fundamental.’” Justice Stevens dissented separately, and suddenly became a proponent of federalism: “[T]his is a quintessential area in which federalism ought to be allowed to flourish without this court’s meddling.” Where was this fair-weather federalist with any number of other heavy handed rulings that took away states’ rights?

As for Solicitor General Elena Kagan, Barack Obama’s nominee to replace Stevens on the Court, she pleaded the Fifth. In a monumental case involving the Bill of Rights, she chose not to file so much as a brief in the case. In the past, however, she stated that she was “not sympathetic” to a District resident with a complaint similar to that eventually upheld by the Court in District of Columbia v. Heller. Put another way, Kagan is hostile to the Second Amendment.

The courts likely will now face numerous cases on other state and local gun restrictions. The Supreme Court ruled that gun ownership is an individual right, but it left open many questions regarding who, what and where. This is yet another way in which elections have consequences. For at least two and a half more years, an anti-gun leftist occupies the White House and wields the power to nominate like-minded individuals to the courts.

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