- The Washington Times - Friday, June 27, 2008

A nice day’s work at the Supreme Court ought to be enough to sober the conservatives who look forward to spending election day sulking because they’re unable to fall in love with John McCain.

Justice Antonin Scalia’s majority opinion, a tribute to the Constitution’s clear and plain language upholding the Second Amendment, demonstrates amply that the importance of justices of the Supreme Court is equaled only by the importance of the man who appoints them. Though trusting any pol is necessarily a leap of faith, Mr. McCain makes more reassuring noises about that presidential responsibility than the man standing in his way to the White House.

No sulking conservative can imagine the Second Amendment would have been upheld if Republican presidents had not appointed the five members of yesterday’s majority. Who can doubt that Jimmy Carter, Walter Mondale, Michael Dukakis, Al Gore, John Kerry and ol’ Bubba would have appointed judges dedicated to throwing out the constitutional guarantee upheld yesterday?

But only fools and the terminally naïve think the issue is settled once and for all, the theory of -“settled law”-notwithstanding. Nothing is ever finally, absolutely, incontrovertibly and irrevocably settled. The liberals, mostly Democrats, and a lot of mayors quickly declared they’ll pay as little attention to the decision as they can get by with, encouraged by the prospect of a new president who would preserve the law-making urges of judges who, like tadpoles, evolve and mature into frogs once in office.

When he comes to a fork in the road, Barack Obama continues to take it. He declined to join a friend-of-the-court brief signed by most senators, both Democrats and Republicans and including John McCain. He tried to sing a different song yesterday. “I have said consistently that I believe the Second Amendment is an individual right. And that was the essential decision that the Supreme Court came down on.” Right on, but then the inevitable curve ball: “And it also recognized that even though we have an individual right to bear arms, that right can be limited by sensible, reasonable gun laws.” (Sensible, reasonable bureaucrats will always be available to supervise “enjoyment” of those rights.)

Adrian Fenty, the mayor of Washington, said he would direct the D.C. cops to figure out a way around the decision. Nothing unexpected here: “I have directed the Metropolitan Police Department to implement an orderly process for allowing qualified citizens to register handguns for lawful possession in their homes,” he said. (Note the verb “allowing.”) And why shouldn’t he be cheerful about the actual effect of the decision? Once the cops have a computerized list of gun owners, they can draw up a map showing where each of those owners lives. Bureaucrats like maps with a lot of little colored pins. This makes Big Brother’s oversight easier.

Nancy Pelosi, the speaker of the House, is a particularly sore loser with no respect for a decision she doesn’t like. “I think [the Supreme Court decision] still allows the District of Columbia to come forward with a new law that’s less pervasive. I think the Court left a lot of room to run in terms of concealed weapons and guns near schools.”

Neither the mayor nor the speaker is eager to address the actual “roots” of crime in the District and elsewhere, “roots” not about poverty and lack of opportunity, the usual dead horses the liberals mount up and ride. The deprived criminals who are recycled endlessly through District courts, where juries are particularly loathe to return guilty verdicts, are never too poor to buy or otherwise obtain a Glock, a Walther .38, a Smith and Wesson .357 magnum or another of the tools of their grim trade.

The abiding glory of the Constitution is that the Founding Fathers expressed their eloquence in the plain language that anyone who understands unadorned English can readily understand: “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.”

Only a lawyer could pretend not to understand that. “I fear that the District’s policy choice may well be just the first of an unknown number of dominoes to be knocked off the table,” Justice John Paul Stevens wrote in dissent. It was the most encouraging promise in the day’s work.

Wesley Pruden is editor emeritus of The Times.

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