Archive for Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Supreme Court justices seem to favor right to bear arms

March 19, 2008


— Americans have a right to own guns, Supreme Court justices declared Tuesday in a historic and lively debate that could lead to the most significant interpretation of the Second Amendment since its ratification two centuries ago.

Governments have a right to regulate those firearms, a majority of justices seemed to agree. But there was less apparent agreement on the case they were arguing: whether Washington's ban on handguns goes too far.

The justices dug deeply into arguments on one of the Constitution's most hotly debated provisions as demonstrators shouted slogans outside. Guns are an American right, argued one side. "Guns kill," responded the other.

Inside the court, at the end of a session extended long past the normal one hour, a majority of justices appeared ready to say that Americans have a "right to keep and bear arms" that goes beyond the amendment's reference to service in a militia.

Several justices were openly skeptical that the District of Columbia's 32-year-old handgun ban, perhaps the strictest in the nation, could survive under that reading of the Constitution.

"What is reasonable about a total ban on possession?" Chief Justice John Roberts asked.

Walter Dellinger, representing the district, replied that Washington residents could own rifles and shotguns and could use them for protection at home.

"What is reasonable about a total ban on possession is that it's a ban only on the possession of one kind of weapon, of handguns, that's considered especially dangerous," Dellinger said.

Justice Stephen Breyer appeared reluctant to second-guess local officials.

Is it "unreasonable for a city with a very high crime rate ... to say no handguns here?" Breyer asked.

Alan Gura, representing a Washington resident who challenged ban, said, "It's unreasonable and it fails any standard of review."

The court has not conclusively interpreted the Second Amendment since its ratification in 1791. 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 basic issue for the justices is whether the amendment protects an individual's right to own guns no matter what, or whether that right is somehow tied to service in a state militia.

A key justice, Anthony Kennedy, seemed to settle that question early on when he said the Second Amendment gives "a general right to bear arms." He is likely to be joined by Roberts and Justices Samuel Alito, Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas - a majority of the nine-member court.

Gun rights proponents were encouraged.

"What I heard from the court was the view that the D.C. law, which prohibits good people from having a firearm ... to defend themselves against bad people is not reasonable and unconstitutional," National Rifle Association executive vice president Wayne LaPierre said after leaving the court.

Washington Mayor Adrian Fenty said he hoped the court would leave the ban in place and not vote for a compromise that would, for example, allow handguns in homes but not in public places. "More guns anywhere in the District of Columbia is going to lead to more crime. And that is why we stand so steadfastly against any repeal of our handgun ban," the mayor said after attending the arguments.


bondmen 10 years, 1 month ago

It's all Bush's fault! He is guilty of appointing two jurists who know original intent and are able to properly interpret and coherently analyze. Thank you by George!

This decision will be a victory for all Americans, especially those who are poorest and are forced to live in the dangerous neighborhoods of big cities. It should not be a crime to protect yourself from criminals and madmen.

Jim Phillips 10 years, 1 month ago


Clarification-I didn't mean to imply that we would teach kids how to shoot, but I can see where you would think that was my thought. My proposal was just to teach the safety issue. Handling skills would be a different topic altogether. I would no more force guns into the hands of those who do not want them than I would stand still while mine were being taken away.

And for the record, voting is not listed in the Bill of Rights.

beatrice 10 years, 1 month ago

Bazookas for everyone!!!! You will have to pry my nuclear-ammo anti-aircraft missle launching gun from my cold dead hands!!!! A personal gun collection should resemble a Mormon family's pantry!!!! Children should have access to the family's machine guns to protect against schoolyard bullies!!!! More Guns!!! More Guns!!! Kill!!! Gunsssss!!!! Killllllll!!!!!!! (pant, pant, pant)

Actually, defender, not ALL know or agree on what our forefathers meant, hence this case going to the Supreme Court.

However, now that it has gone to the highest court in the land, which I think is long overdue, when the ruling comes down this summer I hope we can be done debating the issue, whichever way it falls. If they rule in favor of allowing free and unlimited access to all firearms for all Americans, then so be it. Such a ruling won't make me feel the slightest bit safer as I personally don't believe more guns is the answer and think cities and states should have the right to protect themselves against gun proliferation, but if the court rules in favor of free access and no limits then I obviously must accept it.

Serious question, will a pro-gun proliferation ruling prevent the possibility of future laws to make mandatory training or registration for gun owners? Just wondering.

beatrice 10 years, 1 month ago

mad, isn't that what it is? Aren't you in favor of gun proliferation in our society? Don't you want guns to be freely owned and carried? That would make you pro-gun proliferation, wouldn't it? I meant no disrespect by it, and I'm not actually against the 2nd as you suggest, hence my saying that it is a good thing that the court is looking at this issue. If the court rules against bans, so be it. That is exactly what I said. I may not be in favor of guns, but that doesn't mean I'm against the Constitution.

Do you even read the posts for content, or just to find something to argue with when it is clear that someone isn't in lock-step agreement with your opinion?

beatrice 10 years, 1 month ago

Defender, you are calling me a spaz, yet you fail to realize that the reason this has gone to the Supreme Court is because we do NOT all know what the forefathers meant. Why would the court accept a case if there wasn't a question as to the meaning? And you call me a spaz. Please.

Are you also denying to being in favor of gun proliferation in our society? To be in favor of the opposite would be to favor bans on guns -- wouldn't you at least agree to that?

akt2 10 years, 1 month ago

I was wondering if I needed a gun as I pulled into Kohl's parking lot yesterday. Probably not, but the thought did cross my mind in lieu of recent events in that parking lot. Basically you are in charge of protecting yourself these days.

beatrice 10 years, 1 month ago

So only choirs would have freedom of speech? That would be annoying.

mad, I do see where both sides are coming from on this issue, which is why I am glad this case went to the Supreme Court. Let them settle it, one way or the other. I know how you want the court to rule, but if it rules in favor of the ban will you be able to let the matter rest for yourself?

As far as things worrying you, please know that others are worried by the thought of people "protecting" themselves by firing away at bad guys despite others being in harms way. People don't want to be struck by "friendly fire" while in a shopping center, for example. Is that really such a radical concern? That is where the ban issue arises. Again, I support the Constitution and the 2nd, but I see where the issue can be questioned on either side.

beatrice 10 years, 1 month ago

oops, Defender snuck in before I posted to mad.

Defender: "Yes, there are some very un-American folks that believe we do not have the right to protect ourselves and our families from those that would do us harm."

I say you are wrong, wrong, wrong with that statement (unless you are actually talking about people who don't reside within the United States). The reality is that there are Americans who question the way in which you are allowed to defend yourself. I think very few people, perhaps only extreme examples of pacifists, who would be against self defense itself. However, there are Americans, probably even some who vote Republican, who don't want another shooting at a "bad guy" in a crowded situation (or anywhere within the potential flight path of a bullet) as a means of protection. You can protect yourself, but you can't use a bazooka, though feel free to use a baseball bat. Seems rational enough. Now, replace "bazooka" with "gun." You may not agree, but it doesn't mean someone who feels that way should be branded unAmerican? So ease up on the unAmerican rant if someone disagrees with you, as it makes you appear to be a spaz -- an unAmerican spaz at that.

And what exactly is wrong with saying you are pro-gun proliferation if you support the proliferation of guns? I am still kind of suprised by that. It would be like saying someone who is for gun control objecting to being called pro-gun control. Embrace the label, I say.

BlackVelvet 10 years, 1 month ago

Personally, I would be all for private gun owners being required to attend some type of training, but unfortunately, with that usually comes some kind of federal "registration", and with the abuses already documented by the BATFE, I don't think I want them knowing all of my business-at least more than they already know.

Flap Doodle 10 years, 1 month ago

bea wrote: "And what exactly is wrong with saying you are pro-gun proliferation if you support the proliferation of guns? I am still kind of suprised by that. It would be like saying someone who is for gun control objecting to being called pro-gun control. Embrace the label, I say."

Letting the other side choose your label is usually a bad idea. "profileration" has become somewhat of a pejorative term over the years.

I'll be content with "pro-self-defense" or "pro-Second-Amendment". Will you be comfortable with "pro-criminal"?

Jim Phillips 10 years, 1 month ago

beatrice (Anonymous) says:

"Defender, you are calling me a spaz, yet you fail to realize that the reason this has gone to the Supreme Court is because we do NOT all know what the forefathers meant. Why would the court accept a case if there wasn't a question as to the meaning? And you call me a spaz. Please."

Sorry bea, there is a difference between not knowing what was meant and refusing to accept to context.

beatrice 10 years, 1 month ago

Hey Guardian. "...refusing to accept to context?" Sorry, but you lost me there.

Anyway, this case, which is a good one for the courts to listen to, is about gun control laws - for and against. Some want fewer guns to be available, others want more, hence my use of the word proliferation to describe the more crowd. I understand we are talking about law-abiding citizens. Nothing was meant bad by that. I just used it as descriptive, but some don't like it so I won't use it. No harm, no foul.

It isn't like I said people who are in favor of owning guns are pro-potentially-dead-innocent-bystanders. That would be over the line, and spaz like, just like those who say pro-gun-control types are somehow anti-self-defense. Would it be the means by which one would be anti-self-defense?

To continue our earlier gun discussion, you claim gun ownership is a right, unlike driving, which is a priviledge, thus gun owners shouldn't need to register their guns the way drivers must register their cars. A very good point. We shouldn't compare the two.

Yet voting is a right, and we register voters every day. You can't vote if you aren't registered, thus you can't practice your right without being registered. So what is the difference?

Sigmund 10 years, 1 month ago

beatrice (Anonymous) says: "Serious question, will a pro-gun proliferation ruling prevent the possibility of future laws to make mandatory training or registration for gun owners? Just wondering."

Serious answer. This isn't "pro-gun" case, it's a rights of citizens case. Guns have no rights, people do. As for preventing future regulation, I don't think so. It really depends upon how onerous the regulation is. A KU professor (sorry I can't find a link) has estimated there are over 20,000 gun laws in the US and few if any of them will be impacted. Minimum age restrictions, or legal restrictions on those convicted of spousal abuse and other serious crimes, or carry restrictions for example will likely to be unaffected. Restrictions on ownership in the home or regulations that are so severe that they amount to de facto proscriptions seem to be the focus of this case.

I haven't had time to follow this case that closely so I suspect if I missed something some poster will be more than glad to point out my error.

Jim Phillips 10 years, 1 month ago

Hey Pudgy1.


What I meant was the Constitution was written in the language of the day. The framers wrote what they meant to say and did not intend for their words to be "interpereted". Remember what they were breaking away from and what they were trying to establish at the time. They were determined to be free men.

As far as registering voters, I responded to this late in another post so you might not have had the opportunity to read it. Our current voter registration policies are a result of ballot box suffing in the early to mid 1900s. There was proof that ballot boxes were being filled with votes from "voters" who had been long deceased. So I have no problem with proving I'm not dead when I vote.

Now, regarding mandatory firearms training before anyone can purchase a firearm. Excellent idea! So we set up a mandatory curriculum in grade school, junior high school, and high school. Student will be required to take all three gun safety classes before they can graduate. That eliminates the paper trail for us pro-gun folks and gives the anti-gun crowd what they are clammering for. Wanna bet the Libs won't like that idea?

beatrice 10 years, 1 month ago

Guardian, so we forced registration on everyone, including law-abiding voters because of the actions of criminals, and you are okay with that. Interesting.

Just as there were criminals stuffing ballots and the lawful voters paid the price, there are innocent people being killed by lawfully armed citizens who don't know how to use their guns, as you well know. That is where the training and registration comes in. The killed innocents are the equivalent of the stuffed ballots for setting the standard.

Your mandatory training, however, would force the gun into the hands of everyone, including those who don't want it there. The 2nd doesn't say you must own. I'm quite sure we all agree on that, which is why this "lib" doesn't like your proposal. We don't force people to register to vote, but if you don't register you don't get to practice your right to vote.

Your gun, you train to use it, at your expense. Prove that you can handle the gun so your innocent neighbor doesn't become a dead neighbor when you accidentally miss your target or it accidentally fires when you don't know how to clean your own weapon. (I don't mean "you" personally, of course, since from everything you've said I have great confidence in your abilities to own and handle your guns.)

Sigmund: "This isn't "pro-gun" case, it's a rights of citizens case. Guns have no rights, people do."

I honestly can't remember the last time I rolled my eyes so hard. This is a pro-gun case on one side, and an anti-gun case on the other. That is what it is, whether you admit it to yourself or not.

kansanjayhawk 10 years, 1 month ago

When guns are outlawed--only criminals will have guns!

Mkh 10 years, 1 month ago

The Federal Government has no right to regulate gun ownership of private citizens or state militias. The founding fathers were incredibly clear on this point.

beatrice 10 years, 1 month ago

Guardian, thanks for the clarification completely different from what I first imagined. I would support a basic gun awareness / safety course in public schools. In our well armed society, it makes perfect sense. (I also would support other basic life lesson type courses, such as cooking rather than "heating" classes, and a basic financial class that teaches students to at least balance a check book.) But as far as actually teaching how to handle a gun in school, you might be surprised to know that I wouldn't object to that, either as long as it was off school grounds and was extra-curricular. Like bowling.

So, has this "lib" surprised you?

Kansanjay: I remember when I saw my first bumper sticker, too.

mkh: Do the Feds have the right to outlaw yelling "fire" in a crowded theater when there is no fire? What about regulating my hand-held bazookas? How about military machine guns or any other military-type weapon designed to kill a maximum number of people? Nuclear handguns? What about basic handguns, and the regulation that says ex-cons can't own guns? Do you honestly think people on parole should not have their access to guns regulated? Are you sure you really thought through your stand?

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