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Old 06-26-2008, 01:46 PM   #1
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D.C. Gun Ban Overturned

The Associated Press: Supreme Court rules in favor of gun ownership rights

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court ruled Thursday that Americans have a constitutional right to keep guns in their homes for self-defense, the justices' first major pronouncement on gun control 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 restrictions 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.

Writing for the majority, Justice Antonin Scalia said that an individual right to bear arms is supported by "the historical narrative" both before and after the Second Amendment was adopted.

The Constitution does not permit "the absolute prohibition of handguns held and used for self-defense in the home," Scalia said. The court also struck down Washington's requirement that firearms be equipped with trigger locks or kept disassembled, but left intact the licensing of guns.

Scalia noted that the handgun is Americans' preferred weapon of self-defense in part because "it can be pointed at a burglar with one hand while the other hand dials the police."

In a dissent he summarized from the bench, 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."

Justice Stephen Breyer wrote a separate dissent in which he said, "In my view, there simply is no untouchable constitutional right guaranteed by the Second Amendment to keep loaded handguns in the house in crime-ridden urban areas."

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

Gun rights supporters hailed the decision. "I consider this the opening salvo in a step-by-step process of providing relief for law-abiding Americans everywhere that have been deprived of this freedom," said Wayne LaPierre, executive vice president of the National Rifle Association.

The NRA will file lawsuits in San Francisco, Chicago and several of its suburbs challenging handgun restrictions there based on Thursday's outcome.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., a leading gun control advocate in Congress, criticized the ruling. "I believe the people of this great country will be less safe because of it," she said.

The capital's gun law was among the nation's strictest.

Dick Anthony Heller, 66, an armed security guard, sued the District after it rejected his application to keep a handgun at his Capitol Hill home a short distance from the Supreme Court.

"I'm thrilled I am now able to defend myself and my household in my home," Heller said shortly after the opinion was announced.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia ruled in Heller's favor and struck down Washington's handgun ban, saying the Constitution guarantees Americans the right to own guns and that a total prohibition on handguns is not compatible with that right.

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.

White House reaction was restrained. "We're pleased that the Supreme Court affirmed that the Second Amendment protects the right of Americans to keep and bear arms," White House spokesman Tony Fratto said.

Scalia said nothing in Thursday's ruling should "cast doubt on long-standing prohibitions on the possession of firearms by felons or the mentally ill, or laws forbidding the carrying of firearms in sensitive places such as schools and government buildings."

In a concluding paragraph to the his 64-page opinion, Scalia said the justices in the majority "are aware of the problem of handgun violence in this country" and believe the Constitution "leaves the District of Columbia a variety of tools for combating that problem, including some measures regulating handguns."

The law adopted by Washington's city council in 1976 bars residents from owning handguns unless they had one before the law took effect. Shotguns and rifles may be kept in homes, if they are registered, kept unloaded and either disassembled or equipped with trigger locks.

Opponents of the law have said it prevents residents from defending themselves. The Washington government says no one would be prosecuted for a gun law violation in cases of self-defense.

The last Supreme Court ruling on the topic came in 1939 in U.S. v. Miller, which involved a sawed-off shotgun. Constitutional scholars disagree over what that case means but agree it did not squarely answer the question of individual versus collective rights.

Forty-four state constitutions contain some form of gun rights, which are not affected by the court's consideration of Washington's restrictions.

The case is District of Columbia v. Heller, 07-290.
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Old 06-26-2008, 01:50 PM   #2
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There IS still hope for our country...
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Old 06-26-2008, 02:01 PM   #3
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Activist judges
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Old 06-26-2008, 02:11 PM   #4
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i await two things:

1. the outcry from conservatives and originalists about "activist judges" overturning the will of the people
2. getting mugged at gunpoint

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Old 06-26-2008, 02:32 PM   #5
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2. getting mugged at gunpoint

But hey, now you can legally get your own gun and shoot it out with the muggers on the streets!
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Old 06-26-2008, 02:58 PM   #6
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As a resident of DC, I have to say this is the stupidest decision ever.

It's also nice to know that as residents of DC, we have no one in Congress to appeal to....
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Old 06-26-2008, 03:16 PM   #7
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one thing i will say is that the gun laws in VA are so lax, that it's quite easy for anyone to go across the river, buy a gun, and then come back into DC and shoot people. plenty of people get murdered here every year to begin with.

however, i'm not so comforted by the fact that there might now be several gun shops on street corners in sections of SE selling saturday night specials to whomever wants one.
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Old 06-26-2008, 03:44 PM   #8
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I'll withhold judgement on this one for now. DC has been known as the "murder capital" (in the 90s), even with a gun ban and has a higher murder rate than Richmond, where guns are legal. Politicians too often like to blame lax gun laws instead of addressing the more difficult issues that cause urban violence.
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Old 06-26-2008, 04:22 PM   #9
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I'll withhold judgement on this one for now. DC has been known as the "murder capital" (in the 90s), even with a gun ban and has a higher murder rate than Richmond, where guns are legal. Politicians too often like to blame lax gun laws instead of addressing the more difficult issues that cause urban violence.


while it's true that guns don't kill people, people do, guns do make it much, much easier for people to kill people. so while many causes of inner city violence may have little to do with guns, the mere presence of a gun in any situation increases the probability of a murder.
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Old 06-26-2008, 04:41 PM   #10
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I will preface this by saying that I think Scalia is one of the worst SCOTUS justices in modern history.

However, it is legally the correct decision in my opinion. The law had to be stricken as it was clearly overbroad. And based on how the Second Amendment has historically been interpreted (looking at the definition of "necessary" for the use of a militia), the outcome is right.

The problem is that the US judiciary treats the Constitution as a dead document (as opposed to the living tree doctrine as employed in places like the UK and Canada). Scalia alludes to it in the judgment here by stating that some people feel that the Constitution is outdated (it is), but that it is not up to the judiciary to reach that conclusion; rather, the document should be amended. So there you have it.
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Old 06-26-2008, 04:44 PM   #11
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DC will probably follow NYC's example - registration and licensing, etc. for handguns. It's supposedly very difficult to get a license there, and the ownership rate is very low.
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Old 06-26-2008, 09:22 PM   #12
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I'll withhold judgement on this one for now. DC has been known as the "murder capital" (in the 90s), even with a gun ban and has a higher murder rate than Richmond, where guns are legal. Politicians too often like to blame lax gun laws instead of addressing the more difficult issues that cause urban violence.

As a Libertarian and American citizen, I am glad the U.S. Surpreme Court upheld the right granted by the Socond Amendment.

The U.S. cities with the highest crime rates are the very cities with the strictist gun laws. The "difficult issues that cause urban violence" ....well, who wants to address those issues?
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Old 06-26-2008, 11:52 PM   #13
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But hey, now you can legally get your own gun and shoot it out with the muggers on the streets!




That's the fantasy anyway. . .

Just out of curiosity, how has D.C.'s record of gun violence correlated with the ban they have had on handguns. Has there been even more gun violence since those laws were enacted, has it stayed about the same,or has there been a decrease?
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Old 06-26-2008, 11:56 PM   #14
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i await two things:

1. the outcry from conservatives and originalists about "activist judges" overturning the will of the people
2. getting mugged at gunpoint

Liberty trumped security.
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Old 06-27-2008, 12:22 AM   #15
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Interestingly enough, the crime rate Kennesaw, Georgia plummeted when the city required all its citizens (minus felons) to carry a gun.

Crime Plunges in Pro-gun Town
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