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Monday, June 28, 2010

Justices Say Gun Rights Apply Locally - NYTimes.com

Justices Say Gun Rights Apply Locally - NYTimes.com

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Supreme Court held Monday that the Constitution's Second Amendment restrains government's ability to significantly limit "the right to keep and bear arms," advancing a recent trend by the John Roberts-led bench to embrace gun rights.

By a narrow, 5-4 vote, the justices signaled, however, that less severe restrictions could survive legal challenges.

Writing for the court in a case involving restrictive laws in Chicago and one of its suburbs, Justice Samuel Alito said that the Second Amendment right "applies equally to the federal government and the states."

The court was split along familiar ideological lines, with five conservative-moderate justices in favor of gun rights and four liberals opposed. Chief Justice Roberts voted with the majority.

Two years ago, the court declared that the Second Amendment protects an individual's right to possess guns, at least for purposes of self-defense in the home.

That ruling applied only to federal laws. It struck down a ban on handguns and a trigger lock requirement for other guns in the District of Columbia, a federal city with a unique legal standing. At the same time, the court was careful not to cast doubt on other regulations of firearms here.

Gun rights proponents almost immediately filed a federal lawsuit challenging gun control laws in Chicago and its suburb of Oak Park, Ill, where handguns have been banned for nearly 30 years. The Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence says those laws appear to be the last two remaining outright bans.

Lower federal courts upheld the two laws, noting that judges on those benches were bound by Supreme Court precedent and that it would be up to the high court justices to ultimately rule on the true reach of the Second Amendment.

The Supreme Court already has said that most of the guarantees in the Bill of Rights serve as a check on state and local, as well as federal, laws.

Monday's decision did not explicitly strike down the Chicago area laws, ordering a federal appeals court to reconsider its ruling. But it left little doubt that they would eventually fall.

Still, Alito noted that the declaration that the Second Amendment is fully binding on states and cities "limits (but by no means eliminates) their ability to devise solutions to social problems that suit local needs and values." More...
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The United States is the only advanced democracy that allows its citizens such an easy and open access to firearms. If you travel or live overseas residents of other countries always raise the gun American gun possession issue coupled with questions about gun violence in the USA. While living in Korea, for over two years countless students told me that they feared coming to the United States, because of its reputation for gun violence.

My, wife, an immigrant from Malaysia, is very puzzled by what she considers American's ridiculous gun laws. "To much freedom", she always says. She has a point. Gun ownership is not necessarily the problem, but the widespread, availability of guns and the extraordinary level of gun possession in the U.S. is a problem. States and localities should have the right to regulate and restrict the ownership and possession of guns. It is a question of both public safety and public health. Handguns in particular are designed for one purpose, killing people. This is an obvious reality. It is easier in some states to buy a handgun than obtain a drivers license. This does not make sense. We tolerate an extraordinary level of gun violence in America. The current, conservative Supreme Court's overly broad reading of the Constitution's Second Amendment is a direct threat to American public health. The Second Amendment clearly stated that the purpose of its embedded right of gun ownership was to allow the states to have well regulated state militias.

“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"

That need for private citizens to carry weapons for the purpose of using them in their state miltia has long passed. The states now provide the arms for its militias (The State National Guard). It's time tor recognize this reality.

John H. Armwood

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