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JediAthos
06-26-2008, 12:38 PM
(source is AP via Yahoo.com)

WASHINGTON - The Supreme Court ruled Thursday that Americans have a right to own guns for self-defense in their homes, the justices' first major pronouncement on gun rights in U.S. history.
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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 home for protection in the same Capitol Hill neighborhood as the court.

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.


I say it's about time the Supreme Court stepped up and said something on this issue as it's been debated here in the States for a very long time. I'm not a hunter or a member of the NRA or anything like that, but I do own a gun and it's partly for home defense and partly because I enjoy going to the range and shooting.

I'd love to hear others thoughts on the ruling.

Achilles
06-26-2008, 01:15 PM
I would tend to agree with the majority opinion on this case.

Of course, I also grew up in police officer's house and have been around handguns, been exposed to relentless hours of gun safety lectures, etc, etc. So my opinion is probably biased.

Rev7
06-26-2008, 01:46 PM
This is good news. :)

mimartin
06-26-2008, 02:02 PM
Personally I have no problem with the ruling, I also own firearms including handguns so I may be also biased in this case. I’m glad the ruling did not go further in getting rid of the licensing process. I tend to disagree with the courts language in this matter, just like driving, I believe owning a firearm is a privilege and not a right.

ForeverNight
06-26-2008, 02:05 PM
I'm honestly surprised that I'm agreeing with Achilles on this one....

Yeah, it's about time that such a ruling was passed. If one looks at the Constitution, it says nothing about being a member of the militia as a requirement of the protection.On top of that, there's the part that during the Revolution, if what my 9th grade history book (and my memory) is accurate, everybody of age was expected to work with the Militia and fight the English... Of course, that's from 2 years back, so I'm not trusting my memory.

Still, if that's the era the Constitution was written in, then shouldn't every decision made about "What the Framers were trying to say was..." be made with the Historical Context in mind?

Anyway, glad to see that SCotUS is doing some good!

Achilles
06-26-2008, 02:10 PM
I'm honestly surprised that I'm agreeing with Achilles on this one....Why is that? Have we had major disagreements in the past?

ForeverNight
06-26-2008, 02:23 PM
Why is that? Have we had major disagreements in the past?

I can't really say that we've had major disagreements, but I've read a lot of threads without posting in them, and I have to say that in some most cases I end up really disagreeing with you...

Not meant as a: "Achilles and I are always at each other's throats" type comment. After all, I've not been here long enough to say such a thing... nor do I post enough to say it.

Sorry for the confusion!

Det. Bart Lasiter
06-26-2008, 02:26 PM
Yeah, it's about time that such a ruling was passed. If one looks at the Constitution, it says nothing about being a member of the militia as a requirement of the protection.On top of that, there's the part that during the Revolution, if what my 9th grade history book (and my memory) is accurate, everybody of age was expected to work with the Militia and fight the English... Of course, that's from 2 years back, so I'm not trusting my memory.Around 60% of the country didn't want to go to war because they were either loyal to Britain or just didn't want to go to war.

ForeverNight
06-26-2008, 02:37 PM
Like I said, assuming my History book is accurate, as well as my memory... which neither were.., go figure!

I thought that sounded very odd, considering your statistic, but I shrugged and let it go.

Thank you for the correction jmac...

Arcesious
06-26-2008, 05:31 PM
Huh... Well it probably won't amke much of a difference to my family... Our neighbors' houses have both had burleries before, and all that my parents did was put up 'beware of dog' signs to scare off burglers. Like those signs will scare of a burgler with a gun, or a burgler who may be watching the activity of my house at this very moment, possibly. After all, my dog is small, and not much of a threat. Besides that, my dad says that 'he trusts in the Lord' that we won't have any burgleries... I've tried to argue to him that self-defense is a neccessity, but he doesn't listen. Our front doors are made of glass that is not shatterproof, being easily breakable. The back door has two padlocks, but the front door and the windows are still liabilities... All I've got when I'm home alone is a pocketknife and a wooden baseball bat. My father used to be a hunter though (before I was born he used to go hunting), so I'd expect that he'd be capable of buying a firearm of some sort, due to this recent developement. But I doubt he will... A determined, 'smart' burgler can probably come to obtain the tools he needs to break any lock. :/

Yeah, sure- like a couple 'melee armaments' will do any good if the guy has a gun? It would be just like that scene in Indiana Jones when a ninja tries to attack Indy, and Indy just turns around and shoots him. [/sarcastic.]

mur'phon
06-26-2008, 05:47 PM
To be fair, beware of dog signs can be rather effective. Most burglars won't enter a house with a living alarm capable of waking half the neighborhood, and while it may bark more than it bites, unless you have some juicy valluables, most burglars would look for easier targets.

EnderWiggin
06-26-2008, 05:48 PM
I would tend to agree with the majority opinion on this case.

Of course, I also grew up in police officer's house and have been around handguns, been exposed to relentless hours of gun safety lectures, etc, etc. So my opinion is probably biased.

Just because it's biased doesn't mean it's not right ;)

_EW_

Q
06-27-2008, 09:14 PM
Wow. I must admit that I'm peasantly surprised by everyone's reaction to this ruling. Of course, I'm all for it and for any ruling by the SCotUS defending personal freedom rather than curtailing it. :)

Arcesious
06-28-2008, 08:15 AM
I'm all for this, because I do beleive we should have the right to self-defense with a gun. However, I think there should be limits on types of guns that civilians can use. Military, police, and government employed people should be allowed to have the more powerful guns if they wish, though. IE, heavy duty shotguns, machinguns, assualt rifles, and such should be unavailable to civilians. (Hunting rifles/shotguns should not be resticted though.) Backround checks, etc, etc, should also be required. (Might I suggest, a polygraph test be required for all people wanting to buy a gun, possibly?)
I do admit, however, that is only takes one idiot out of a million people with guns to cause great damage... Therefore, carrying of a gun in public by a civilian, IMO, should be illegal. Possession of a gun at a workplace or home should be legal. Of course, there can be special circumstances that loophole around this for certain people...

Just my personal opinion...

mur'phon
06-28-2008, 10:07 AM
To be honest, if I wanted to cause as much death and destruction as possible, a gun isn't the most efective way. Bombs work better, and since they don't have background checks for fertilizer, far easier to get hold of. I agree with some of what you said, except for the polygraph, (it is a damn liar) though most workplaces get robbed at night, or when the employees aren't there. And those that do get robbed in "broad daylight" tend to have suficent safety measures. Besides, why seperate betwen public (as in roads, parks, etc, people must be alowed to ban weapons on their property) and private places? Especially considering the amount of workers working in such places, who would be alowed guns.

jonathan7
06-28-2008, 10:16 AM
I'm not weighing in on either side - I do think that the handgun ban in Britain is an interesting case study...

The number of death's from fire arm's is an awful lot less percentage wise here than across the pond. (Of course it was before we band handguns anyway) I do find the gun culture state side a concern; I personally think it far too easy to purchase a gun in the US.

The problem you have as soon as you make anything illegal is it opens up a trading opportunity for less reputable business people; and with guns pushes the trade underground, and makes policing difficult as you have no real idea how many guns are out on the streets.

Is there an answer? I don't know, I think in Britain that it has gone far to far the other way; http://uk.news.yahoo.com/skynews/20080627/tuk-wimbledon-fans-arrested-for-cutlery-45dbed5.html

Totenkopf
06-28-2008, 11:07 AM
Positive decision overall. The main problem with strict gun restriction has always been that it does little to deter the criminal "class" from using such weapons. While accidental gun deaths are always tragic/unfortunate, they are also too statistically insignificant a reason to ban private ownership of such weapons. While I believe there's a constitutionally enshrined right to own private firearms, I don't necessarily have a problem (in principle, anyway) with there being regulations regarding the use and care of said weapons. Such rules/regulations would have to be dealt with on a case by case basis, though.

Jae Onasi
06-28-2008, 12:54 PM
Part of the reason for the second amendment was so people could also protect themselves from the government should it change dramatically (e.g. became a dictatorship). The reason monarchies in the 1600's and 1700's could restrict citizens' freedoms was because the ordinary citizen was barred from owning firearms, but royalty (and it's army) had all the firepower it wanted. Besides the balance of power issue, it also had an effect on food supply for Joe Ordinary. If you have no gun, you can't hunt animals for meat easily. The main issue was still balance of power and self-protection, however. The founding fathers thought that the 2nd amendment would help prevent the imbalance of firepower between gov't and ordinary citizens that had allowed absolute monarchies to maintain their hold over the populace.

We don't face those same challenges today, but the 2nd amendment is pretty clear on gun ownership, so I think the Court made the correct decision. If gun control advocates feel strongly about it, they may need to work on changing the amendment itself, which will be difficult. By the same token, I think pro-firearms groups should put their money where their mouths are on gun safety issues and be a lot more active in educating people on gun safety in the home, particularly homes with children. I think we also need to make certain safety features mandatory on firearms to prevent accidental misfiring.

Litofsky
06-28-2008, 01:22 PM
We don't face those same challenges today, but the 2nd amendment is pretty clear on gun ownership, so I think the Court made the correct decision. If gun control advocates feel strongly about it, they may need to work on changing the amendment itself, which will be difficult. By the same token, I think pro-firearms groups should put their money where their mouths are on gun safety issues and be a lot more active in educating people on gun safety in the home, particularly homes with children. I think we also need to make certain safety features mandatory on firearms to prevent accidental misfiring.

That's my outlook on it, too. I think that it was Jefferson who commented that the only time we'll need to use the Second Amendment is when "they" try to take it away. "They" could either be a Government (as Jae said), or it could be an 'aggressor.'

Either way, I think that the Supreme Court made the right decision. It seems that, in today's age, guns speak louder than words. I'm still waiting to here otherwise. :(