Thursday, June 26, 2008

A great day!

The Supreme Court today ruled that the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution means exactly what it says.

WASHINGTON - The Supreme Court ruled Thursday that Americans have a right to own guns for self-defense and hunting, the justices' first major pronouncement on gun rights in U.S. history.

The court's 5-4 ruling struck down the District of Columbia's 32-year-old ban on handguns as incompatible with gun rights under the Second Amendment. The decision went further than even the Bush administration wanted, but probably leaves most firearms laws intact.

The court had not conclusively interpreted the Second Amendment since its ratification in 1791. The amendment 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."

The basic issue for the justices was whether the amendment protects an individual's right to own guns no matter what, or whether that right is somehow tied to service in a state militia.

Justice Antonin Scalia, writing for four colleagues, said the Constitution does not permit "the absolute prohibition of handguns held and used for self-defense in the home."

In dissent, Justice John Paul Stevens wrote that the majority "would have us believe that over 200 years ago, the Framers made a choice to limit the tools available to elected officials wishing to regulate civilian uses of weapons."

He said such evidence "is nowhere to be found."

The "evidence", you drooling moron, is to be found in a document called "The Constitution". For supporting evidence you can look at every single fraking thing that any and all of the people who wrote and ratified the Constitution had to say about the ownership and carrying of firearms.

Joining Scalia were Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Samuel Alito, Anthony Kennedy and Clarence Thomas. The other dissenters were Justices Stephen Breyer, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and David Souter.

No surprises there, unless you find it a bit amazing that Kennedy did the right thing.

The issue caused a split within the Bush administration. Vice President Dick Cheney supported the appeals court ruling, but others in the administration feared it could lead to the undoing of other gun regulations, including a federal law restricting sales of machine guns. Other laws keep felons from buying guns and provide for an instant background check.

Let us pray that the fearful ones were entirely justified in their fears and that Heller becomes the crowbar which dismantles the entire unconstitutional structure of gun control laws in this nation. The only citizens who should be deprived of their right to keep and bear (own and carry) arms are violent felons, young children outside the supervision of their parents and the insane.

SCOTUSblog has these quotes from the Heller Decision:

“Logic demands that there be a link between the stated purpose and the command.”

“We start therefore with a strong presumption that the Second Amendment right is exercised individually and belongs to all Americans.”

“the most natural reading of ‘keep Arms’ in the Second Amendment is to “have weapons.”

“The term was applied, then as now, to weapons that were not specifically designed for military use and were not employed in a military capacity.”

“Putting all of these textual elements together, we find that they guarantee the individual right to possess and carry weapons in case of confrontation.”

“Thus, we do not read the Second Amendment to protect the right of citizens to carry arms for any sort of confrontation, just as we do not read the First Amendment to protect the right of citizens to speak for any purpose.”

“The prefatory clause does not suggest that preserving the militia was the only reason Americans valued the ancient right; most undoubtedly thought it even more important for self-defense and hunting.”

“It was plainly the understanding in the post-Civil War Congress that the Second Amendment protected an individual right to use arms for self-defense.” [This refers to the unconstitutionality of laws forbidding freed slaves from owning firearms]

“In sum, we hold that the District’s ban on handgun possession in the home violates the Second Amendment, as does its prohibition against rendering any lawful firearm in the home operable for the purpose of immediate self-defense. Assuming that Heller is not disqualified from the exercise of Second Amendment rights, the District must permit him to register his handgun and must issue him a license to carry it in the home.”

For my money this is the most significant language in the opinion. If the District MUST permit Heller to own his handgun and to allow him to keep it in his home assembled and loaded for the purpose of self defense then the District is prohibited from establishing a sham purchase permit system where everyone is welcome to apply but in practice no one but the politically connected are actually granted the permits.

Under the Supreme Court's language anyone in the District who is not disqualified under the Second Amendment MUST be allowed to own a gun and self defense is, all by itself, a valid reason for that ownership.

This is potentially huge because if this ruling is held to apply to the states (as any ruling on the First Amendment would) then this will radically transform the firearms laws in places like New Jersey, New York City, Chicago and San Francisco (Diane Feinstein and Nancy Pelosi won't be the only ones there with handguns anymore).

You will also notice that Justice Scalia wrote about "carrying weapons" in the same context as owning weapons. This might very well lay the groundwork for making the entire nation "shall issue" with regard to concealed handgun permits.

Tom Goldstein, writing on the SCOTUSblog summarized the ruling this way:

Individuals have a constitutional right to possess a basic firearm and to use it in self-defense. The government can prohibit possession of firearms by, for example, felons and the mentally ill. And it can also regulate the sale of firearms, presumably through background checks.

The opinion leaves open the question whether the Second Amendment is incorporated against the States, but strongly suggests it is. So today’s ruling likely applies equally to State regulation.

Patterico has this to say:

5-4. Let that sink in, folks. Even though it was expected, it’s now official. Ponder it for a moment.

If the Democrats had appointed just one more Justice to the U.S. Supreme Court, there would be no individual right to possess firearms in the United States of America.

I agree completely. That is why it so breaks my heart that we don't have a Republican running for president this time around. BTY, I'll have more to say about McCain and the Court later today.

Download the entire Heller Decision here.
I'll be celebrating tonight with a glass of 12-year-old scotch and a fine cigar. Then Saturday I'm off to the range for some celebratory cap-busting! Post a comment and tell us how you plan to celebrate.