Thursday, June 26, 2008

An individual right, affirmed

This morning, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the District of Columbia's oppressive ban on handguns violates individual citizens' right to keep and bear arms, a right guaranteed by Amendment II of the Constitution for the United States of America.

For millions of law-abiding gun owners, these are the words we've been waiting to hear:

"In sum, we hold that the District’s ban on handgun possession in the home violates the Second Amendment, as does its prohibition against rendering any lawful firearm in the home operable for the purpose of immediate self-defense."

"...the enshrinement of constitutional rights necessarily takes certain policy choices off the table. These include the absolute prohibition of handguns held and used for self-defense in the home. Undoubtedly some think that the Second Amendment is outmoded in a society where our standing army is the pride of our Nation, where well-trained police forces provide personal security, and where gun violence is a serious problem. That is perhaps debatable, but what is not debatable is that it is not the role of this Court to pronounce the Second Amendment extinct." (Justice Scalia, writing for the majority)

Such an affirmation is unprecedented -- this is the first time that the high court has addressed "the right of the people to keep and bear arms" as an individual right.

It's important to note that the Court left room for "reasonable restrictions" (so-called):

"Although we do not undertake an exhaustive historical analysis today of the full scope of the Second Amendment, nothing in our opinion should 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." (Justice Scalia, writing for the majority)

Some gun owners will look at that aspect of the opinion, along with the narrow 5-4 majority and other factors, and characterize the ruling as something short of a win.


There's the old story about a lifeguard who braved crashing waves to rescue a small boy floundering in the surf. When he brought the child, safe and sound, back to his mother's loving arms, she sneered, "He had a hat."

I refuse to look at Heller like the mom looked at the lifeguard.

Viewed in the bright light of realism, we've claimed a significant victory -- what we could win today, we won. Practically speaking, the Court's decision compels the anti-gun crowd to cede valuable leverage to those of us who cherish our Constitutional right to keep and bear arms.

So today, we celebrate.

Tomorrow, we go back to work, because those who seek to rob us of our Second Amendment rights won't be taking the day off -- we can be absolutely sure of that.

District of Columbia v. Heller (07-290) (pdf)
Fulcrum: DC v. Heller