Friday, June 27, 2008


Stickin' To Our Guns

Illness prevented me from weighing in on the big SCOTUS decision yesterday.

No surprise, I thought the Court got it right. What was most surprising -- for those who read into the tea leaves of innner-Court politics -- was that Antonin Scalia wrote the majority decision. Usually, in a case this big, the Chief Justice opts to write the decision. Given that Scalia is, arguably, the most conservatively doctrinaire justice, it suggests John Roberts was sending some sort of signal by letting Scalia carve out the fine lines of the Second Amendment.

Indeed, from a political standpoint, I would argue that ironically it gives liberals strong rhetorical language on which to craft gun regulations:
Despite the decision’s enormous symbolic significance, it was far from clear that it actually posed much of a threat to the most common gun regulations. Justice Scalia’s opinion applied explicitly just to “the right of law-abiding, responsible citizens to use arms in defense of hearth and home,” and it had a number of significant qualifications.
“Nothing in our opinion,” he said, “should be taken to cast doubt on longstanding prohibitions on the possession of firearms by felons and the mentally ill, or laws forbidding the carrying of firearms in sensitive places such as schools and government buildings, or laws imposing conditions and qualifications on the commercial sale of arms.”
Indeed, Obama immediately jumped on this -- and who was saying it:
I have always believed that the Second Amendment protects the right of individuals to bear arms, but I also identify with the need for crime-ravaged communities to save their children from the violence that plagues our streets through common-sense, effective safety measures. The Supreme Court has now endorsed that view, and while it ruled that the D.C. gun ban went too far, Justice Scalia himself acknowledged that this right is not absolute and subject to reasonable regulations enacted by local communities to keep their streets safe. Today’s ruling, the first clear statement on this issue in 127 years, will provide much-needed guidance to local jurisdictions across the country.
So, while this is definitely a win for the concept of the individual right to gun ownership, it's not quite the across-the-board "win" many conservatives might think it to be.

Of course, the state-to-state debate --
particularly in New York -- will provide much, ahem, ammo for lawyers and pundits for some time to come.


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