Monday, March 17, 2008

Fulcrum: DC v. Heller

fulcrum / ful·crum /ˈfʊlkrəm, ˈfʌl-/ noun / the support,
or point of rest, on which a lever turns in moving a body.

For those of us who hold sacred Amendment II of the Constitution for the United States of America, the future of our right to keep and bear arms sits atop a judicial fulcrum.

On March 18, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in a landmark case, District of Columbia v. Heller, marking the first time in nearly 70 years that a Second Amendment challenge to a firearms law has reached the high court. The District is appealing a 2007 D.C. Circuit Court ruling affirming that our Constitution guarantees an individual's right to keep and bear arms, and that D.C.'s bans on handguns, carrying firearms within the home, and possession of loaded or operable firearms for self-defense violate that right. Specifically:

"[T]he phrase 'the right of the people,' when read intratextually and in light of Supreme Court precedent, leads us to conclude that the right in question is individual."

The District also had argued that the Second Amendment doesn't apply because D.C. isn't a state, a claim rejected by the lower court.

In the face of repeated and persistent attacks on our Second Amendment rights, gun owners have been heaving on a short stick for the last three decades. If the Supreme Court agrees with the D.C. Circuit Court -- a big "if" -- and Heller goes our way, we'd begin to regain much-needed leverage.

Local and state infringement of Second Amendment rights wouldn't collapse automatically, of course, but they'd become vulnerable to challenge. Federal legislators' attempts to reinstate the so-called "Clinton Gun Ban" would confront a significant roadblock as well.

Like many judicial matters, however, Heller isn't necessarily a zero-sum proposition; that is, the Supreme Court's ruling, which likely will be issued in June, may be neither a complete victory nor a total loss -- for either side.

Complicating matters further is the fact that 2008 is a presidential election year, and that two of the three remaining candidates (or all three, depending on one's level of pessimism) pose potential threats to individuals' Second Amendment rights -- to say nothing of the current makeup of the U.S. Congress.

We already know that gun-control advocates will take extreme measures to circumvent the Constitution, and even with a pro-Second Amendment outcome in the Heller case they'd surely employ new and creative ways to disarm law-abiding American citizens.

Let's say, optimistically, that the Supreme Court affirms, categorically, the lower court's ruling. With all-out gun bans difficult at best, it's reasonable to predict that we'd see myriad proposals to tax virtually everything related to our constitutional right to keep and bear arms -- guns, ammunition, parts -- and oppressive new licensing-and-registration regulations.

One way or another, attacks on American citizens' Second Amendment rights will continue, perhaps even intensify, and gun owners need to disabuse themselves of the notion that "they wouldn't dare."

They would, and they will. Count on it.

To be clear, then, this is the constitutional guarantee at stake:

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.

If you believe that affirms an individual citizen's right to keep and bear arms, it's time to back up your belief with action. Join the National Rifle Association or state-level advocacy organization, or both, and become familiar with the issues. Get active. Be vocal.

After all, as it's often said, the Second Amendment guarantees the one right that protects every other right that American citizens enjoy. Don't let our elected officials run roughshod over it.