Skip to comments.US Supreme Court justices seem favorable to constitutional gun rights for Americans
Posted on 03/19/2008 12:15:12 AM PDT by BellStar
WASHINGTON (AP) - Americans have a right to own guns, U.S. Supreme Court justices declared in a historic and lively debate that could lead to the most significant interpretation of whether the U.S. Constitution guarantees that right since the document's ratification two centuries ago.
On the other hand, a majority of justices seemed to agree, governments have a right to regulate those firearms.
There was less apparent agreement on the case they were arguing: whether the national capital's ban on handguns goes too far.
The justices dug deeply Tuesday into arguments about one of the Constitution's most hotly debated provisions as demonstrators shouted slogans outside the stately Supreme Court building. 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 Second Amendment's reference to service in a militia as a condition.
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. The District of Columbia and Washington share joint administration, with more federal oversight than other U.S. cities.
"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 the ban, said, "It's unreasonable, and it fails any standard of review."
The court has not interpreted the Second Amendment conclusively 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 tied somehow to service in a state militia.
A crucial justice, Anthony Kennedy, often the swing vote on the nine-justice court, 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 in a majority.
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 (is) unconstitutional," National Rifle Association executive vice president Wayne LaPierre said after leaving the court. The NRA is a powerful Washington advocacy group.
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.
A decision that defines the amendment's meaning would be significant by itself, but the court also has to decide whether Washington's ban can stand and how to evaluate other gun control laws.
The justices have many options, including upholding a federal appeals court ruling that struck down the ban.
Solicitor General Paul Clement, the Bush administration's top Supreme Court lawyer, supported the individual right but urged the justices not to decide the other question. Instead, Clement said the court should say that governments may impose reasonable restrictions, including federal laws that ban certain types of weapons.
Clement wants the justices to order the appeals court to re-evaluate the Washington law. He did not take a position on it.
This issue has caused division within the administration, with Vice President Dick Cheney taking a harder line than the official position at the court.
While the arguments raged inside, dozens of protesters mingled with tourists and waved signs saying "Ban the Washington elitists, not our guns" or "The NRA helps criminals and terrorists buy guns."
Members of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence chanted "guns kill" as followers of the Second Amendment Sisters and Maryland Shall Issue.Org shouted "more guns, less crime."
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."
Dick Anthony Heller, 65, an armed security guard, sued the district after it rejected his application to keep a handgun at his home for protection in the same neighborhood, near the Capitol, as the court.
The last Supreme Court ruling on the topic came in 1939 in U.S. v. Miller, which involved a sawed-off shotgun. Constitutional scholars disagree over what that case means but agree it did not squarely answer the question of individual versus collective rights.
Roberts said at his confirmation hearing that the correct reading of the Second Amendment was "still very much an open issue."
Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. The information contained in the AP news report may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or otherwise distributed without the prior written authority of The Associated Press. Active hyperlinks have been inserted by AOL. 03/18/08 20:11 EDT
These folks want to punish every law-abiding citizen of this country because of a schizophrenic jackass who should have been institutionalized long before he had a chance to shoot anyone!
When asked to respond, Obama said:
I’m gonna get me a shotgun and kill all the whiteys I see
I’m gonna get me a shotgun and kill all the whiteys i see
If I kill all the whiteys I see,
Then whitey won’t be bothering me!
I’m gonna get me a shotgun and kill all the whiteys I seeeeeeeeeeeee!!
Slowly but surely, they are firing all 5 black people. WATCH UR ASS KEENAN
Where rights are dangerous. If rights are too dangerous in purely urban environments, what say we outlaw purely urban environments? Not only are they unconstitutional, but if you can't protect yourself in them they are a threat to health and safety. Let's ban cities!
A well regulated militia, being necesary to the security of a free stste, the right of the people ... shall not be infringed.EVERYBODY just plain knows that statement is equivalent to:
A well regulated electorate, being necessary to the secuirty of a free state, the right of the people...shal not be infringed.Clearly one object is lethal and the other isn't. Also, and just as clearly, the founding fathers were adament in thier vociferous proclifivity concerning their views.
Lets just get down to it: anything and everything can be banned by the government.
So how comes Pelosi, Murtha's (or Kennedy - my car killed more people than your gun ever did (so I'll legislate to take your gun) Kennedy) haven't been banned yet?
I allege graft.
But only to go to Jodi Foster movies.
I am afraid of governments right to regulate my firearms.
This is a wake up call for all those out there who do not think McCain is conservative enough for your vote. Imagine what a Clinton or Obama appointee would be like. I have a feeling they would make Bader Ginsburg look like Attila the Hun. Let’s face it, the next president could influence the court long after their four year term is done.
It shocked me when they put their whole argument on “Bear Arms”...DC gave up on fighting against the individual right immediately!
The urban environment is exactly where the right to keep and bear arms is most important. If you openly possess a weapon, the bad guys are far more likely to leave you alone and seek out victims who are unarmed. They aren’t stupid and their instinct for self preservation is not turned off just because they are criminals.
I think it will be a 5-4 ruling, with the majority being pro Second Amendment as an individual right above and beyond one’s association with a state militia. That was clearly the Founders’ intent.
Here is the 5-4 as I see it:
5: Roberts, Alito, Thomas, Scalia, Kennedy
4: Ginsburg, Breyer, Stevens, Souter
Dont fall for the BS of the gun rights groups. I thought Gura did a lousy job arguing for the pro gun side. He said at one point that handguns weren’t arms, that he had no problem with govt licencing, trigger locks and other storage requirements, and that “shall not be infringed” could mean “reasonable infringment”. To top it off he was of the opinion that it was ok for govts to regulate arms based on public safety arguments. Other than opposing an outright ban, Sarah Brady would be comfortable with his position. Listen for yourself and decide.
I suspect that they will either throw out the 2d Amendment altogether, or they will say we have a right in theory, but that the states have broad authority to regulate it.
You can’t predict the outcome of these cases by the comments at the oral argument. In fact, to the degree that you can, it’s usually because they are thinking the opposite of what they are saying.
I’m rereading it now. I’m not so sure about Stevens. He is probing for the difference between “shall not be infringed” and “shall not be unreasonably infringed”.
This is exciting! This is truly historic! We are living in interesting times. I watched a man take his first step on the moon. I watched the Soviet Union fall. I watched the millennium pass.
I expect they will decide it is an individual right. But they will add that it is subject to reasonable restrictions. And they will hopefully that the amendment encompasses two types of rights:
The right for the states to have a militia and
Individual rights of self defense of family and neighbors
But what's a "reasonable" restriction. To Teddey the fat, Obama, Feinstein, Brady, Earwax, Hillary, etc. it is absolutely reasonable to restrict all firearms to only their beloved police and their hated military. To me reasonable restrictions are if you can afford it then it's reasonable that you have it. When you have a right with restrictions, then it isn't a right.
Insane people can’t have guns. People previously convicted of a violent crime where there was a weapon as part of the crime may not have guns.
That sort of thing.