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EDITORIAL: The new battleground for gun rights
High court decision expands Second Amendment
The Supreme Court yesterday gunned down the Windy City’s attempt to undermine the Second Amendment rights of its residents. In the closely divided McDonald v. Chicago decision, the justices expanded on 2008’s District of Columbia v. Heller ruling by making it clear that the right of the people to keep and bear arms applies in all 50 states, not just federal enclaves like the District. Law-abiding gun owners can find a lot to celebrate in this decision.
Nonetheless, the court left a number of unsettled issues that will form the new battleground for gun rights for years to come. The decision recognized that certain ownership restrictions might be permissible without specifying acceptable limits. With the First Amendment, another “incorporated” right, the government decided that certain types of political speech should be limited through campaign-finance regulations. In the name of “protecting safety,” we can expect bureaucrats to likewise concoct schemes to evade the Second Amendment protections.
The District, for example, rewrote its rules in the wake of Heller so that they would be only slightly less restrictive. In effect, guns are still banned in the nation’s capital for all but the most persistent and wealthy individuals. The city requires two tests and four trips to the police station and payment of up to $550 before one can get a handgun permit. A whole class of handguns - semiautomatics with magazines - is still forbidden. Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley promises to follow the District’s lead and make gun ownership even more costly in his town.
It is worth noting that Justice Sonia Sotomayor joined in the dissent penned by Justice Stephen G. Breyer, which explained that they “can find nothing in the Second Amendment’s text, history or underlying rationale that could warrant characterizing it as ‘fundamental,’ insofar as it seeks to protect the keeping and bearing of arms for private self-defense purposes.” Compare that to Justice Sotomayor’s claims before the Senate Judiciary Committee during the confirmation process. Sen. Patrick J. Leahy, Vermont Democrat, asked if she agreed that “the Supreme Court decided in Heller that the personal right to bear arms is guaranteed by the Second Amendment of the Constitution against federal law restrictions.” Ms. Sotomayor answered: “It is.”
As they did back in 2008, the gun grabbers are warning once again that striking down gun-control laws will result in blood on our streets. They have no evidence to back up the claim. Murders in the District fell after the 2008 ruling, both in absolute terms and relative to other cities. There were 43 percent fewer murders in D.C. in the first five months of 2010, compared with the same five months in 2008. By contrast, Chicago’s murders fell by just over 5 percent during that period, despite having strict gun-control measures.
The story is the same throughout the country, and the explanation is all too simple: Law-abiding citizens are much more likely to obey gun-control laws and be disarmed than criminals. Instead of making potential victims safer, gun control makes the criminals safer. To the extent that this ruling discourages state and local governments from infringing on the rights of Americans, the country will be safer as a result.
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