Sunday, June 29, 2008

Missing the target

I was hoping that the Supreme Court would come down on the other side of the gun control issue, but there wasn't a whole lot of surprise when this conservative court ruled that Washington, DC's ordinance -- which virtually prevented residents from owning guns -- violated the Second Amendment of the US Constitution.

The National Rifle Association and many Republicans cheered the ruling, but upon inspection the high court's majority opinion, written by Justice Antonin Scalia, has quite a bit for gun-control advocates to be happy about. Scalia, possibly the most conservative member of the court, wrote: "Nothing in our opinion 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.”

Newspaper accounts went on to say that,"
The opinion also said that prohibitions on carrying concealed weapons would be upheld, and suggested somewhat less explicitly that the right to personal possession did not apply to 'dangerous and unusual weapons' that are not typically used for self-defense or recreation. Justice Scalia added that the court’s list of permissible restrictions was not exhaustive."

So, in this landmark ruling for the rights of gun owners, the Supreme Court's top defender of such rights was quite clear that local governments are well within their rights to place numerous restrictions on citizens when it comes to the right to bear arms. The NRA has, for years, been advocating for virtually no such limits, and the organization now plans to challenge all sorts of municipal ordinances and state laws in court, but it seems to me that only those regulations that are as tough as DC's -- and few are -- will be struck down. In other cases, I believe, lower courts will interpret Scalia's opinion as supporting tough prohibitions, and that is a good thing.

No comments: