Tuesday, November 13, 2007

2nd Amendment goes to court

This is a very important day for gun owners rights. Our very right to own a firearm might be in jeopardy, if the supreme court rules in favor of gun control instead of gun owners individual rights's.

There is a liberal mind set out there that claims the 2nd Amendment doesn't give gun owners a right to own a fire arm and keep it in their residence. Gun owners all over the United States think otherwise. This basic right should not be infringed upon and is guaranteed by the 2nd amendment. Individual cities like Washington D.C. by denying citizens the right to own a firearm are actually making their citizen less safe because the only ones to own guns will be criminals. I have more faith in a Conservative court under Bush than a Clinton court.

WASHINGTON: Both sides in a closely watched legal battle over the District of Columbia's strict gun-control law are urging the Supreme Court to hear the case. If the justices agree — a step they may announce as early as Tuesday — the Roberts court is likely to find itself back on the front lines of the culture wars with an intensity unmatched even by the cases on abortion and race that defined the court's last term.

The question is whether the Second Amendment to the Constitution protects an individual right to "keep and bear arms." If the answer is yes, as the federal appeals court held in March, the justices must then decide what such an interpretation means for a statute that bars all possession of handguns and that requires any other guns in the home to be disassembled or secured by trigger locks.

The Supreme Court has never answered the Second Amendment question directly, and it has been nearly 70 years since the court even approached it obliquely. A decision in 1939, United States v. Miller, held that a sawed-off shotgun was not one of the "arms" to which the Second Amendment referred in its single, densely written, and oddly punctuated sentence: "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."

Asked during his confirmation hearing what he thought that sentence meant, Chief Justice John Roberts Jr. responded that the Miller decision had "side-stepped the issue" and had left "very open" the question of whether the Second Amendment protects an individual right as opposed to a collective right.

A three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, on which the chief justice formerly sat, ruled in March by a vote of 2 to 1 that "the right in question is individual," not tied to membership in a state militia. On that basis, the court declared that the 31-year-old statute, one of the country's strictest, was unconstitutional.

Gun-control advocates have long maintained that the amendment's ambiguous opening reference to a "well regulated Militia" limited its scope to gun ownership in connection with service in a state militia. In the appeals court's view, the clause simply highlighted one of the amendment's "civic purposes." Since the militias of the time included nearly all able-bodied white men, the court said, the amendment served the purpose of assuring that the citizenry would have guns at hand if called up, while also guaranteeing the right to keep arms even if the call never came.

The District of Columbia filed its Supreme Court appeal in September. The statute's challengers, who brought their lawsuit in 2003 for the precise purpose of getting a Second Amendment case before the Supreme Court, promptly agreed that the case merited the justices' attention.

The lawsuit was the creation of a wealthy libertarian, Robert Levy, senior fellow in constitutional studies at the Cato Institute, a prominent libertarian research organization. With the blessing of Cato, Levy financed the lawsuit and recruited six plaintiffs, all of whom wanted to keep handguns in their homes for self-defense. His goal was to present the constitutional issue to the Supreme Court in its most attractive form: not as a criminal appeal, as earlier Second Amendment cases, including the 1939 Supreme Court case, had been, but as an effort by law-abiding citizens to protect themselves. None asserted a desire to carry their weapons outside of their homes.

The strategy was almost too good: the appeals court threw out five of the six plaintiffs for lack of standing, on the ground that their objection to the law was merely abstract. Only one plaintiff remained: Dick Anthony Heller, a security guard at the building that houses the federal judicial system's administrative offices, where he carries a handgun on duty. He had applied for and was denied a license to keep the gun at home. That encounter with the law was sufficiently concrete to give him standing, in the court's view, and to allow the case, now called District of Columbia v. Heller, No. 07-290, to proceed.
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