Supreme Court Upholds Second Amendmant!

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Supreme Court Upholds Second Amendmant!

Post by hawkiye on Thu 26 Jun 2008, 11:27 pm

(06-26) 19:07 PDT SAN FRANCISCO -- Americans have a constitutional right to own guns, the Supreme Court declared Thursday in a ruling that resoundingly endorsed the ability of an armed populace to resist tyranny but appeared to allow bans on military-style weapons and regulations on other firearms.

The National Rifle Association immediately said it would use the ruling for a new round of legal challenges to gun-control laws, including a ban on handgun possession in public housing in San Francisco.

In a 5-4 ruling on the last day of the court's 2007-08 term, Justice Antonin Scalia said the Constitution's Second Amendment - whose meaning has been disputed for more than 200 years - guarantees "the right of law-abiding, responsible citizens to use arms in defense of hearth and home." The court said a Washington, D.C., ordinance prohibiting residents from carrying handguns in their homes or anywhere else in the city violates that right.

The Second Amendment, part of the Bill of Rights that was added to the Constitution in 1791, 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."

In its first-ever interpretation of the amendment, the court settled one long-raging debate - whether the Constitution protects gun ownership by individuals or only by members of a state militia - but left a host of questions unanswered about the scope of gun-control laws.

Dissenting Justice Stephen Breyer predicted the ruling would "encourage legal challenges to gun regulation throughout the nation ... without clear standards for resolving those challenges."

The NRA said it would launch a new series of lawsuits around the nation as early as Friday. One target will be the gun ban in low-income housing managed by the San Francisco Housing Authority.

"We refuse to allow law-abiding Americans to be treated as second-class citizens when it comes to this constitutional right, which applies to poor people, too," said NRA lobbyist Chris Cox.

Mayor Gavin Newsom responded by inviting an NRA leader to move into any big-city public housing development for two months "and tell me ... what he really thinks about the proliferation of guns and easy access to guns in homes."

San Francisco voters approved a broader prohibition on handgun possession by city residents in 2005, but it was overturned by state courts, which said it conflicted with California law.

A separate ordinance, passed by the Board of Supervisors in 2007, requires gun-owning residents to keep their weapons in locked boxes or to disable them with trigger locks. Cox said the NRA may challenge that law as well.

The District of Columbia had a similar provision in its 32-year-old handgun ordinance that the Supreme Court overturned Thursday. In addition to prohibiting residents from carrying guns, the ordinance required owners to keep their weapons locked up or inoperable in their homes.

That restriction, the court said, "makes it impossible for citizens to use them for the core lawful purpose of self-defense." One advantage of having a loaded handgun available, Scalia observed, is that "it can be pointed at a burglar with one hand while the other hand dials the police."

San Francisco District Attorney Kamala Harris said both the Housing Authority ban and the local trigger-lock requirement appeared to be vulnerable under Thursday's ruling.

The ruling "leaves open for dispute and interpretation some of the existing laws that we have restricting or regulating gun ownership and use," said Harris, who was co-author of a brief signed by 18 prosecutors around the nation urging the court to rule narrowly and leave local regulations intact.

"At the very least, it's going to clog up our courts," Harris said of the decision.

Scalia sketched out a few guidelines for future cases in his majority opinion, which was joined by Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Anthony Kennedy, Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito.

Although the government can't forbid gun possession in the home, Scalia said, it can continue to ban ownership by certain categories of people, such as felons and the mentally ill. It can also ban people from carrying guns in "sensitive places," such as schools and government buildings, Scalia said.

He also cited a historical tradition of prohibiting non-soldiers from carrying "dangerous and unusual weapons," such as military rifles, and noted 19th century rulings upholding bans on carrying concealed weapons in public.

The court may provide some specifics in its next term, which begins in October, when it rules on a challenge to a federal law banning gun possession by anyone convicted of a felony or a misdemeanor involving domestic violence.

Harris said the court seemed prepared to uphold gun-licensing laws, like a California law requiring a police permit to carry a loaded weapon in public. The court's reference to "dangerous and unusual weapons" suggested a defense for laws in California and other states that ban military-style semiautomatic rifles and pistols.

The state also limits gun purchases to one a month and prohibits ownership of the cheap handguns known as Saturday-night specials. Those laws are likely to survive, said attorney Juliet Leftwich of Legal Community Against Violence, a lawyers' group formed after a gunman with a grudge against attorneys entered a San Francisco law office in 1993 and killed nine people, including himself.

Other gun-control advocates lamented the ruling. Kristen Rand of the Violence Policy Center said the court "ignored our nation's history of mass shootings, assassinations and unparalleled gun violence," including 30,000 annual gun deaths.

But the NRA's executive vice president, Wayne LaPierre, called it "a great moment in American history. ... Our founding fathers wrote and intended the Second Amendment to be an individual right. The Supreme Court has now acknowledged it."

The ruling reflected a relatively recent shift in the prevailing legal view of the Second Amendment, which had long been interpreted by most scholars and judges as protecting only a collective right to be part of a state or national militia. The Supreme Court seemed to accept that interpretation in a 1939 ruling upholding a federal machine gun ban, although it did not rule explicitly on the meaning of the amendment.

The competing individual-rights view has gained increasing acceptance in the last decade, culminating in Thursday's ruling overturning the Washington handgun ban.

Scalia's majority opinion delved into dictionaries and legal tracts from the 17th and 18th centuries for his assessment that the right to "keep and bear" arms meant the right to possess and carry them, and that the "well regulated militia" consisted of all able-bodied men in the community.

English history that influenced the Second Amendment's authors showed that "the way tyrants had eliminated a militia consisting of all the able-bodied men was not by banning the militia but simply by taking away the people's arms," Scalia said. "When the able-bodied men of a nation are trained in arms and organized, they are better able to resist tyranny."

Dissenting Justice John Paul Stevens said the wording of the amendment and the history of its drafting compelled the opposite conclusion - that it was meant to protect the people's right to bear arms "in conjunction with service in a well-regulated militia."

Breyer joined Stevens' dissent and also wrote separately that even if the Constitution protects individual gun ownership, a handgun ban in a city plagued by firearm violence should be upheld as a reasonable regulation. Justices David Souter and Ruth Bader Ginsburg also dissented.

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Re: Supreme Court Upholds Second Amendmant!

Post by Eddie Willers on Sat 28 Jun 2008, 8:38 am

"Subject to reasonable restrictions."

That's the rub. The German Constitution was a wonderful document in the Weimar Republic - except that all the "rights" given to Germans were subject to government oversight and laws.

And we saw what happened there.


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Re: Supreme Court Upholds Second Amendmant!

Post by greendragon on Thu 03 Jul 2008, 10:14 am

Agreed it doesn't go far enough however at least it has established it as an individual right (even though we have always known that) to shut the gun grabbers up about having to be in a militia

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