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Thursday, June 26, 2008

SCOTUS on guns and self-defense

The Supreme Court of the U.S. has issued the following ruling in the D.C. v. Heller case:

In a 5-4 decision, the Supremes ruled that the second amendment is an individual right, rather than some sort of collective "militia" right, to bear arms. Trigger locks and other measures that make it difficult for U.S. citizens to defend their "hearth and home" (to use Scalia's language) are unconstitutional. Americans can now defend themselves without having to ask the potential robber/rapist/murderer etc. to wait a little bit while they unlock their safe, re-assemble their gun, and load it with bullets that they've locked up in a separate safe over there by the microwave in the kitchen.

You can judge by my sarcastic remark at the end that I'm as happy as can be about the decision. Listening to Rush Limbaugh tell me news about the decision elicited a "woo hoo!" from me just as the Tim Horton's guy was handing me my coffee. He thought I was happy about the coffee. Which I was. But not as much as the ruling in this decision.

It is, however, yet another 5-4 ruling, splitting the "conservatives" and the "liberals" on the bench. This, of course, is going to lead to even more handwringing about who gets to be on the Supreme Court in the first place, and about the theoretical orientation--especially the various theories of interpretation--of potential SCOTUS appointees. So it goes, I guess.

SCOTUSblog commentary on the decision:

"the Court concluded “we find they guarantee the individual right to possess and carry weaons in case of confrontation” — in other words, for self-defense. “The inherent right of self-defense has been central to the Second Amendment right,” it added.

The individual right interpretation, the Court said, “is strongly confirmed by the historical background of the Second Amendment,” going back to 17th Century England, as well as by gun rights laws in the states before and immediately after the Amendment was put into the U.S. Constitution.

What Congress did in drafting the Amendment, the Court said, was “to codify a pre-existing right, rather than to fashion a new one.”

That last quote is interesting. According to the court, there was a pre-existing (natural?) right to self-defense that Congress recognized in the 2nd amendment.

You can read the full decision, in a PDF courtesy of SCOTUSblog, here.


"1. The Second Amendment protects an individual right to possess a firearm unconnected with service in a militia, and to use that arm for traditionally lawful purposes, such as self-defense within the home.

"2. Like most rights, the Second Amendment right is not unlimited. It is not a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose... The Court's opinion should not 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...

"3. The handgun ban and the trigger-lock requirement (as applied to self-defense) violate the Second Amendment... Similarly, the requirement that any lawful firearm in the home be disassembled or bound by a trigger lock makes it impossible for citizens to use arms for the core lawful purpose of self-defense and is hence unconstitutional."

Here's Cato on the decision.

Bob Levy, Cato scholar, says:

"Heller is merely the opening salvo in a series of litigations that will ultimately resolve what weapons and persons can be regulated and what restrictions are permissible. But because of Thursday’s decision, the prospects for reviving the original meaning of the Second Amendment are now substantially brighter."

Here's reaction from various people on the decision.

Posted by P.M. Jaworski on June 26, 2008 in Crime | Permalink


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Too bad our own court did not read enough history to realize Canadians had the same rights, we just did not codifiy it as they did in the US constitution.

Posted by: Tom | 2008-06-26 2:34:04 PM

and be able to defend oneself and home from
the scumbags and 4#^%&&*()*& that want things
without buying/working/earning them. BET that
after the first few are shot in the the houses
that they broke into to steal and/or rape;the B&E's will drop off ~ knowing they may
get carried out and placed on a marble slab,
on in the ice cooler.
OH Yes - the bleeding hearts out there will be
VERY upset. The poor guy just needed money
for food or buy a new LCD Tv.....THE ONLY
THING he'll GET WILL BE about 10 CENTS worth
of lead.............

NO Warning shots will be fired- - - - - -

Posted by: P. Richard | 2008-06-26 2:40:49 PM

Home invasions in DC will drop dramatically in a short time. The economy will pick up because people will be buying guns, and while they're in the buying mood, they'll do more shopping.

People will feel more secure, and might feel like socializing. Some will start to feel so good about themselves they'll actually stand up to some punks they'd normally cross the street to avoid.

There may be some bad consequences, but that's life. If a few thousand families can sleep a little better tonight, why look at the flip side?

People in Canada have been defenseless for so long we can't even relate to this story. Those of us who don't take crap, even from cops, aren't in the same boat as those poor defenseless bastards on the streets of Toronto. If they ever had the opportunity to defend themselves, they'd probably pass it up and hope for mercy because of their passive nature.

Posted by: dp | 2008-06-26 3:46:24 PM

SCOTUS did good.

Posted by: h2o273kk9 | 2008-06-26 3:50:32 PM

If the gun companies are wise, they'll keep a low profile instead of loudly busking handguns to millions of D.C. residents. Those who want a gun will buy one regardless, and it will give the antis less "ammunition" if they can't portray the manufacturers as profiting from human blood.

That said, RIGHT ON! Wendy Cukier must be crying in her fair-trade latte right now.

Posted by: Shane Matthews | 2008-06-26 4:41:40 PM

Home invasions in DC will drop dramatically in a short time.
Posted by: dp | 26-Jun-08 3:46:24 PM

Home invasions have already dropped significantly in DC. Funny thing is that as the white population of DC increases the number of home invasions decrease. I wonder what Zebulon Punk thinks of that.

The economy will pick up because people will be buying guns, and while they're in the buying mood, they'll do more shopping.
Posted by: dp | 26-Jun-08 3:46:24 PM

If you want to own a handgun and enjoy the benefits of DC, you live in Virginia.

Posted by: The Stig | 2008-06-26 7:53:44 PM

If the gun companies are wise, they'll keep a low profile instead of loudly busking handguns to millions of D.C. residents.
Posted by: Shane Matthews | 26-Jun-08 4:41:40 PM

550,000 people live in DC, not millions.

Posted by: The Stig | 2008-06-26 7:57:47 PM

The Stig

"I wonder what Zebulon Punk thinks of that."

He's smarter than you give him credit. I wish I had him in my neighbourhood watching my back.

I've lived in Texas for many years but I've never felt so isolated and vulnerable since moving back to Ottawa.

Posted by: h2o273kk9 | 2008-06-26 7:58:19 PM

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