This from the AP [excerpts] with my comments below the star line
WASHINGTON - The Supreme Court ruled Thursday that Americans have a right to own guns for self-defense in their homes, the justices' first major pronouncement on gun rights in U.S. history.
The court's 5-4 ruling struck down the District of Columbia's 32-year-old ban on handguns as incompatible with gun rights under the Second Amendment. The decision went further than even the Bush administration wanted, but probably leaves most firearms restrictions intact.
The court had 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 was 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.
Writing for the majority, Justice Antonin Scalia said that an individual right to bear arms is supported by "the historical narrative" both before and after the Second Amendment was adopted.
The Constitution does not permit "the absolute prohibition of handguns held and used for self-defense in the home," Scalia said. The court also struck down Washington's requirement that firearms be equipped with trigger locks or kept disassembled, but left intact the licensing of guns.
Scalia noted that the handgun is Americans' preferred weapon of self-defense in part because "it can be pointed at a burglar with one hand while the other hand dials the police."
In a dissent he summarized from the bench, Justice John Paul Stevens wrote that the majority "would have us believe that over 200 years ago, the Framers made a choice to limit the tools available to elected officials wishing to regulate civilian uses of weapons."
He said such evidence "is nowhere to be found."
Justice Stephen Breyer wrote a separate dissent in which he said, "In my view, there simply is no untouchable constitutional right guaranteed by the Second Amendment to keep loaded handguns in the house in crime-ridden urban areas."
Joining Scalia were Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Samuel Alito, Anthony Kennedy and Clarence Thomas. The other dissenters were Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and David Souter.
Gun rights supporters hailed the decision. "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 this freedom," said Wayne LaPierre, executive vice president of the National Rifle Association.
The NRA will file lawsuits in San Francisco, Chicago and several of its suburbs challenging handgun restrictions there based on Thursday's outcome.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., a leading gun control advocate in Congress, criticized the ruling. "I believe the people of this great country will be less safe because of it," she said. …
The entire AP story’s here.
I’m glad for the ruling, but wish the majority had been larger. However, given the current makeup of the Court, 5-4 was all that could be expected.
Today’s decision reminds us: elections matter. Without the President’s victory in ’04 we’d have had justices like Souter and Ginsberg ruling in place of Alito and Roberts.
The NRA is smart to not sit back, but instead file lawsuits based on today’s ruling. All the talk we hear now about “gun rights are not an issue; the NRA has won” is, IMO, just a Trojan horse the anti-gun lobby and its flacks are peddling to downplay gun rights as an election issue.
No one who cares about the right to self-defense should fall for that Trojan horse.
Justice Scalia's observation the handgun is Americans' preferred weapon of self-defense in part because "it can be pointed at a burglar with one hand while the other hand dials the police" will resonate with sensible people who'll understand that no matter what the anti-gun lobby tells them without the gun the bad guys won't let them call the police.
Getting back to how elections matter, the following is an excerpt from a story ABC News posted this morning prior to the Court’s announcement of its Heller decision:
When Obama has been asked on multiple occasions to weigh in on the D.C. gun case he has regularly maintained that the Second Amendment provides an individual right while at the same time saying that right is not absolute and that the Constitution does not prevent local governments from enacting what Obama calls "common sense laws."As of 2 PM ET I haven’t found comments on the decision by McCain and Obama.
Although he has been willing to describe his general views on this topic, Obama has sidestepped the question of whether the ban in the nation's capital runs afoul of the Second Amendment.
Asked by ABC News' Charlie Gibson if he considers the D.C. law to be consistent with an individual's right to bear arms at ABC's April 16, 2008, debate in Philadelphia, Obama said, "Well, Charlie, I confess I obviously haven't listened to the briefs and looked at all the evidence."
Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., by contrast, has been forthcoming when it comes to the D.C. gun law.
He signed an amicus brief in the District of Columbia v. Heller case, signaling not only his belief in the Second Amendment but also his view that the DC gun ban is incompatible with it.
McCain’s comment is easily predicted: he’ll applaud the decision.
And Obama’s comment? What would you predict?
I’ll make two predictions. It’ll contain a lot of “nuance;” and it'll not begin: “I can no more disown today’s decision than …. “