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Archive for Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Right to keep and bear arms challenged

November 21, 2007

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Second Amendment

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.

— Both sides in the dispute over the handgun ban in the nation's capital point to a grim statistic: Guns were used in four out of every five homicides in Washington this year.

The numbers would be even worse if Washington did not have its strict gun control law, Mayor Adrian M. Fenty said Tuesday.

The ban's opponents countered that residents must be able to protect themselves because their government can't.

The Supreme Court said Tuesday it will decide whether the District of Columbia's handgun ban violates the Constitution. The case could produce the most in-depth examination of the constitutional right to "keep and bear arms" in nearly 70 years.

Legal experts and participants in the case said could be among the court's most important in some time because the justices have had so little to say about the Second Amendment.

"Any resolution of the question will have a significant impact on gun regulation across the country," said Harvard Law School professor Mark Tushnet, author of a new book on the debate over guns.

The government of Washington, D.C., is asking the court to uphold its 31-year ban on handgun ownership in the face of a federal appeals court ruling that struck down the ban as incompatible with the Second Amendment. Tuesday's announcement was widely expected, especially after both the District and the man who challenged the handgun ban asked for the high court review.

The main issue before the justices is whether the Second Amendment protects an individual's right to own guns or instead merely sets forth the collective right of states to maintain militias. The former interpretation would permit fewer restrictions on gun ownership.

Gun-control advocates say the Second Amendment was intended to ensure that states could maintain militias, a response to 18th-century fears of an all-powerful national government. Gun rights proponents contend the amendment gives individuals the right to keep guns for private uses, including self-defense.

Alan Gura, a lawyer for Washington residents who challenged the ban, said he was pleased that the justices were considering the case.

Guns can be regulated but not banned, Gura said. "This isn't going to let crazy people have guns or felons have guns," he said at a news conference outside the court.

Washington banned handguns in 1976, saying it was designed to reduce violent crime in the nation's capital.

The City Council that adopted the ban said it was justified because "handguns have no legitimate use in the purely urban environment of the District of Columbia."

The District is making several arguments in defense of the restriction, including claiming that the Second Amendment involves militia service. It also said the ban is constitutional because it limits the choice of firearms but does not prohibit residents from owning any guns at all.

Rifles and shotguns are legal, if kept under lock or disassembled. Businesses may have guns for protection.

Comments

Cait McKnelly 7 years, 1 month ago

Personally, I believe in the right to arm bears.

Ragingbear 7 years, 1 month ago

If only there were some type of official article, or amendment that our founding fathers wrote for us to look upon and know the basic rules for our country...

ozlandish 7 years, 1 month ago

Um, excuse me, but the firearm ban in Washington doesn't seem to be working if four out of five crimes in the past year involved handguns. Why are we arguing about the right to bear arms when folks ARE bearing arms regardless of the ban? Violent crimes involving firearems are going to continue to occur regardless of the ruling on the second ammendment. Maybe we need fewer law makers, and more people with a common sense approaches to resolve these issues.

Steve Jacob 7 years, 1 month ago

This is a consevative court, they will end up lifting the ban, in D.C. and all over the country. I wish O'Conner was still on the court, and she wished she was too.

Frederic Gutknecht IV 7 years, 1 month ago

That's a great moniker, ozlandish!~)

I don't think I want to live in a world where only criminals and governmentally appointed mercenaries carry guns. I also know I don't want to live in a world where the government disarms the populace. That would be a gargantuan and invasive procedure which would only create turmoil, strife and enough resentment to lead to hatred and subversion. I will submit to it as soon as our government proves that it can be peacefully or even bloodily accomplishedin...say...in Iraq, Iran, Pakistan, Afghanistan, North Korea, etcetera. They can take it easy and start in DC, if they'd like.

Fight the fear mongering!

staff04 7 years, 1 month ago

The second Amendment is just fine the way it is written. It says, "well regulated." I don't understand why anyone thinks in such absolute terms to suggest that there should be NO regulation of firearms (thank you, Gun Owners of America, for being more 2nd Amendment than the rest). No registries, no restricitons, no *regulation. The 2nd Amendment demands that there be certain reasonable restrictions.

Okay, so continue. I'm sure this will be a fun one to watch.

MyName 7 years, 1 month ago

I don't think a literal interpretation of the 2nd Amendment supports the viewpoint that all Americans have the right to own and/or carry any weapon they want. To quote:

"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."

I don't see anything in this amendment about what sort of "arms" people are guaranteed the right to keep, or for that matter whether "the people" refers to each individual, or something on the level of a group of people in a state or city who are put in charge of defending themselves and their city or state. That being said, there is definitely a common law right to keep a weapon to defend yourself and your property that is older than the U.S. Constitution.

I believe the 2nd amendment was put out there as a check against tyranny by a central government, but not as a blanket freedom for all people to carry any sort of weapon they like around. As long as State "Militias" (i.e. National Guard units) are in place, and as long as the general populace has access to some kinds of arms for personal use or as a potential substitute for a militia, I think some restrictions on the kinds of weapons allowed (including handguns) is constitutionally allowed.

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