Sandy Hook

Sandy Hook

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Second Amendment Challenge

The Supreme Court has agreed to hear a case next year that will have every gun rights and gun control supporter watching with more than the usual anticipation. The court is to decide if state and local gun control laws violate the Second Amendment. In McDonald v. Chicago, gun rights advocates are challenging a lower court ruling which upheld a Chicago gun ban law.

Judge Frank Easterbrook, of the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, said "the Constitution establishes a federal republic where local differences are to be cherished as elements of liberty rather than extirpated in order to produce a single, nationally applicable rule."

"Federalism is an older and more deeply rooted tradition than is a right to carry any particular kind of weapon," wrote Easterbrook. He also said that evaluating arguments over the extension of the Second Amendment is a job "for the justices rather than a court of appeals."

In June 2008 the High Court struck down a handgun ban in the District of Columbia, which is owned and operated by the federal government. The Chicagoans and their suburban neighbors are now trying to ascertain if this ruling applies to local and state laws.

Any bets as to how the Court will decide?


  1. Without wanting to be unduly optimistic in the face of what is a fundamentally conservative court, I think it's a tricky bet. The DC handgun ban was a flat ban of handgun ownership. The Illinois state bill is a more traditional example of the nuanced (and sometimes toothless) gun control bills traditionally passed.

    The courts have traditionally supported assault weapons bans. This court is more conservative than past courts so there may be a change. I don't think strict constructionists want to see a proliferation of legal assault weapons sales anymore than 'living document' judges. The state ban (which targets assault weapons and makes it a crime to carry a concealed firearm) will probably stand.

    I don't know the exact composition of the Chicago ban. If it's a straight ban, like the DC law, it will probably be struck down.

    I am in the minority of left wingers who thought striking the DC ban down was the right thing to do. Laws banning legal firearms transactions don't have much effect on the proliferation of illegal firearms. I believe in a fundamental natural right to self-defense and that means the right for law-abiding citizens to own a gun.

    I do believe the state has a duty to regulate gun ownership much the way it regulates driving rights, but this is an issue much like that of drug prohibition. Passing laws doesn't solve the problem and criminalizes otherwise law-abiding citizens.

  2. 40% of gun death are committed by family members. These are old stats, so I assume the percentage could be higher. Are we going to walk around our homes carrying weapons to protect ourselves from Uncle Harry and Granny Tootsie?

  3. And more of them are accidental than deliberate, to boot. On the other hand, the total percentage of murder-by-family-member is much higher when you consider that in the majority of cases the killer is the spouse. If one were to go solely by the statistic, one might not want to protect one's self from Uncle Harry and Granny Tootsie... but married people should tote guns to protect themselves from the spouse. ;)

    More seriously, I don't mean to the minimize the real problems that come of combining stupidity with firearms. Nor the real problem of gun related crime. I just don't think gun bans can really do anything about the latter. Gun bans might be able to do something about the former... but not without genuinely compromising individual rights. I don't think the state has the duty or perogative to protect us from stupid people who act like children by treating everyone like stupid children.

    Even proper safety training and licensing have not solved the problem of automobile deaths and the likelihood is that cars will always kill people. We don't talk about banning cars, nor do we expect to really ever stop cars from killing people.

    I don't think it's any more realistic to expect to ever stop guns from killing people.

    I do think it is realistic to expect people who want guns to know how to use them safely and prove it. I think that would have a more significant effect on accidental death rates than blanket gun bans.