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Where Do You Stand on the Court's Gun Decision?

Yesterday the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 that Washington, D.C.'s ban on handguns is unconstitutional. Today the nation's best-known liberal and conservative editorial pages weighed in. After the jump, read what they said and tell us what you think...

The Wall Street Journal agrees with Justice Scalia's majority opinion, and criticizes the minority:

These are the same four liberal Justices who routinely invoke the "right to privacy" — which is nowhere in the text of the Constitution — as a justification for asserting various social rights. Yet in his dissent, Justice John Paul Stevens argues that a right to bear arms that is plainly in the text adheres to an individual only if he is sanctioned by government...He wants to establish an "interest-balancing test" to weigh the Constitutionality of particular restrictions on gun ownership...But as Justice Scalia writes, no other Constitutional right is subjected to this sort of interest-balancing. "The very enumeration of the right takes [it] out of the hands of government" — even the hands of Olympian judges like Stephen Breyer. "Like the First, [the Second Amendment] is the very product of an interest-balancing by the people — which Justice Breyer would now conduct for them anew." In that one sentence, Justice Scalia illuminates a main fault line on this current Supreme Court.

Meanwhile the New York Times blasted the court's decision:

In a radical break from 70 years of Supreme Court precedent, Justice Antonin Scalia, writing for the majority, declared that the Second Amendment guarantees individuals the right to bear arms for nonmilitary uses, even though the amendment clearly links the right to service in a "militia." The ruling will give gun-rights advocates a powerful new legal tool to try to strike down gun-control laws across the nation. This is a decision that will cost innocent lives, cause immeasurable pain and suffering and turn America into a more dangerous country...In his dissent, Justice John Paul Stevens was right when he said that the court has now established "a new constitutional right" that creates a "dramatic upheaval in the law." Even if there were a constitutional right to possess guns for nonmilitary uses, constitutional rights are not absolute. The First Amendment guarantees free speech, but that does not mean that laws cannot prohibit some spoken words, like threats to commit imminent violent acts. In his dissent, Justice Stephen Breyer argued soundly that whatever right gun owners have to unimpeded gun use is outweighed by the District of Columbia's "compelling" public-safety interests...This audaciously harmful decision, which hands the far right a victory it has sought for decades, is a powerful reminder of why voters need to have the Supreme Court firmly in mind when they vote for the president this fall.

So what do you think?

Comments

 

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Frightening. Our country already has a huge homocide rate - I think this decision opens the door for more weapons in our communities and puts all of us at a greater risk of violence.

Sent by Ellen | 11:51 AM | 6-27-2008

"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."

To me, this amendment is restricted to the right to regulate militias whom are under the order of state government (via the Insurrection Act). The "right of the people" was an assumption that said people would be drafted into the militia and thus was included under the jurisdiction of such action as to defend the sovereignty of the state. The worry of the founding fathers was that restricting weapons to only a few would gut the ability of the state to raise an effective militia. This came out of incidents in Europe where upon weapons were banned from any but the military as a form of suppression (those that were found to have weapons were charged with potential subversion of the state).

As Justice Stevens wrote, "a right to bear arms that is plainly in the text adheres to an individual only if he is sanctioned by government". This is not an issue of individual rights -- the conservative justices who constantly harp about adhering to precedent as a matter of continuity decided that that value no longer applied. John Paul Stevens is indeed correct when he wrote in dissent that they have caused "dramatic upheaval in the law", as numerous law suits have already been filed and will likely result in conflicting decisions for many years to come.

"These are the same four liberal Justices who routinely invoke the "right to privacy" -- which is nowhere in the text of the Constitution -- as a justification for asserting various social rights."

And the fourth amendment would guarantee...?

Sent by Leigh Cutler | 12:09 PM | 6-27-2008

I think this court has killed stare decisis. What it means for the future is liberal courts will undo the work of conservative courts a vice versa. In their ideological zeal the current conservative majority have done much to undermine the stability of our legal system. This was made even clearer in the dissenting views from the most recent Guantanamo decision. Scalia's opinion "It (the majority decision) will almost certainly cause more Americans to be killed." Nothing about habeas in here, just the ends justify the means. Roberts' dissent was only slightly less scary.

Sent by Dave Wiley | 12:31 PM | 6-27-2008

So now that the Supreme Court has done the NRA's work for them, didn't they just kick one of the legs out of the whole "God, guns and gays" platform? At a time when the GOP doesn't have much going for it politically, it seems like losing one of their most popular wedge issues like this in the long run doesn't actually help them much. After all, that's why Roe V. Wade has never been overturned and likely never will: if the anti-abortion crowd thinks their job is done, say goodbye to all those sweet, sweet campaign donations!

Sent by Stewart | 1:28 PM | 6-27-2008

no smoking, no driving and drinking, no trespassing, no littering, no stealing, no kicking or hitting, no disorderly conduct, no disturbing the peace, yes guns....NO SENSE.

Sent by janet | 6:32 PM | 6-27-2008

Frightening? Freedoms and living in a free country should not be frightening. The Supreme Court essentially affirmed something that is plainly obvious in any reading of the Bill of Rights. Now, I also think that the constitution is written so that there are non explicit rights as well (for example, certain cases of privacy), but protecting the right that is the obvious subject of the second amendment is pretty much a no brainer. Individual rights and freedoms are what make us different from a carefully regulated, cleaned society of iron filings.

Sent by Steve Labinski | 10:44 AM | 6-28-2008

yes, steve, our country should not be scary but the last 8 years have been exactly that...and apparently justice john paul stevens does not find the same aspects of our constitution as plainly obvious as you do...if things were so plainly obvious, our congress would be more like "the hill is alive with music"...but alas, education, IQ, facts and idealogy are not ingredience for agreement...i think the founding fathers might think it worth rethinking personal gun rights...let's see now...we can all have guns but we can't all run for public office unless we got a whole lot of do-ray-me...and are now denied (by our 5-4 supremes) additional public funding to those politicians who want to keep up with those lucky jones's....thank goodness this time the good guys raised the$$$$$$$$$!!! ahhhhhh, how the cocept of equality has changed...now an equal playing field means we can all be packin pistols...

money do good. guns do bad. so simple and obvious....

Sent by janet | 4:08 PM | 6-28-2008

Until recently I pretty much took the right to bear arms for granted. In February 2008, I was taken on a tour of S21 in Phnom Penh and subsequently to one of the many rural "killing fields" of Cambodia. The "highlight" of this particular field was a monument containing 3,000 human skulls later recovered from this field. Even 3,000 skulls is a lot of skulls. According to our guide, an estimated 2 million people died because of the tyranny of the Khymer Rouge regime ... this would be a third of the total Cambodian population of only 6 million people ... I cannot tell you how upsetting this was for me and I could not help but think that if only a relatively small fraction of the law abiding citizens of Cambodia had been able to exercise a right to bear arms that most of 2 million people would not have had to die.

Sent by Franklin Fong | 5:45 PM | 6-29-2008

It's strange that I, without any judicial experience or a law degree, am aware of the historical fact that the framers spent days and days hammering out the language of the Constitution down to the very *word*, and yet apparently five of the Justices are not.

The fact is, the framers put that qualifying clause there for a reason. For those whose eyes weren't on the ball: the SCOTUS just took a black magic marker and drew a line through those words.

A few specific responses:

Leigh: Actually, he is technically correct there. The Fourth Amendment guarantees protection from search and seizure, not specifically privacy. It has merely historically been *read* as assuming a right to privacy.

Stewart: well said, but so far this only applies to D.C. This may actually energize the right, as there will now be plenty more highly publicized cases where the NRA will try to extend this ruling to other areas - which means the candidates are going to be asked where they stand on gun control. A lot.

Franklin: You're comparing apples and oranges. The killings in the killing fields were in fact carried out by "law-abiding citizens", since it was authorized by what passed for a government there at the time. Gun control laws are only meaningful in modern, civilized democracies. Less developed nations have more basic problems to confront before gun laws can do any good.

Sent by Kasreyn | 9:42 AM | 6-30-2008

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