Court ruling distorts the aim of Second Amendment
The Supreme Court has rejected a long-standing judgment that allows gun-safety regulations.
IN nullifying the District of Columbia's strict gun-safety laws and overturning established Second Amendment rulings of their predecessors, majority justices of the Supreme Court managed also to create ambiguity with unspecified standards for firearms restrictions.
The 5-4 decision, written by Antonin Scalia, will yield a fresh crop of work for lawyers as firearms advocates shop for plaintiffs to challenge state and municipal gun regulations as they did for the district case.
Indeed, a leader of the Hawaii affiliate of the powerful National Rifle Association predicted more legal action, but not necessarily in Hawaii. There are higher-profile venues, such as Chicago and San Francisco, where the NRA filed suits yesterday.
In the opinion, Scalia interprets the Constitution to conclude it protects individuals' right to bear arms for private use, not just as part of a "well-regulated militia," though that is the only use specified in the amendment.
Constitutional rights are subject to limitations, such as the right to unwarranted search and seizures, which the court has recognized even in a post-9/11 atmosphere. It is unreasonable to set aside the district's concerns for public safety to grant gun owners liberal use of weapons.
Scalia notes that justices acknowledge "the problem of handgun violence," adding that they "take seriously" the arguments for restrictions on handgun ownership. He generously allowed that nothing in the opinion "should be taken to cast doubt" on banning weapons possession by felons or mentally ill persons, which is what most state laws aim to do.
The opinion says the right to shoot belongs to the law-abiding "in defense of hearth and home" and "sensitive places" such as schools and government buildings, like the one he occupies. Whether the ruling will extend the same allowance for safety to private work places remains to be seen, and will have to be litigated for clarification.
Also uncertain is whether the ruling covers state regulations, because the case arose from laws governing Washington, D.C., which is under federal jurisdiction. Again, legal challenges might be necessary to clear ambiguity.
The decision indicates that the court will accept laws that prohibit "dangerous and unusual weapons," but once more, the precise definitions are missing and laws that attempt to identify the terms will be subject to lawsuits.
There will be many. Said NRA official Wayne LaPierre, "I consider this the opening salvo in a step-by-step process of providing relief for law-abiding Americans everywhere that have been deprived of freedom."