- The Washington Times - Monday, June 16, 2008

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Most Americans believe that owning a gun is the right of every citizen. According to a Gallup poll, 73 percent of the U.S. public believe that the Second Amendment guarantees individuals the right to gun ownership. Therefore the Heller decision, which is expected any day now, could play a pivotal role in the 2008 presidential campaign. Former Ohio Secretary of State-turned-pundit Kenneth Blackwell calls it “the Roe v. Wade” of gun rights and suggests that the case (and its results) will ripple beyond District borders to impact “90 million American gun owners.”

It was six D.C. residents, fed up with escalating crime and the inability to protect themselves in they city they love, who filed suit in 2003 to challenge the constitutionality of the District’s ban on handguns. The lawsuit was dismissed but reversed on appeal by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, which found that the petitioner: 1) had standing to bring the lawsuit, 2) is protected by the Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms (handguns) and 3) therefore, the District “is not open to ban them.”

Last year, D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty failed in his petition to rehear the appeal, paving the way for both defendant and plantiffs to petition the Supreme Court. That brings us to where we are today, in the midst of a presidential election when opinions on every matter are measured at every turn and the issue of “gun rights” is beginning to weave its way in and out of the political debate.

Generally speaking, more gun owners identify as Republicans (53 percent) than identify as Democrats (39 percent), according to Gallup. And a Harris poll, out this week, backs that up. It found that 51 percent of Republicans and 41 percent of Democrats support an individual’s right to bear arms.

While the justices are expected to make their decision based on rule of law, not public opinion, the weight of whether the two presumptive presidential candidates are in sync with the public’s views on the issue should not be lost among voters. But nailing either candidate down on the matter is dicey. We know Barack Obama referred to Hillary Clinton as “Annie Oakley,” suggesting that she attempted to pander to gun owners during the primary campaign. But Mr. Obama didn’t do himself any favors with with his “they cling to guns” remark. Mr. Obama has also opposed “right to carry” laws, voted to ban almost all rifle ammunition and has endorsed a complete ban on handgun ownership.

John McCain has caught grief from gun advocates for his support for closing gun-show “loopholes.” But he is seen by many in this same group as the “lesser of two evils.” Mr. McCain also joined close to 300 other lawmakers in signing a court brief which supported lifting the D.C. gun ban, and he delivered a laudable speech to the National Rifle Association’s annual conference last month, addressing what he considers Mr. Obama’s glaring contradiction on gun rights: “Let’s be clear if … Obama is elected president, the rights of law-abiding gun owners will be at risk.”

The Gallup poll cited also found that the majority of Americans don’t actually own a firearm (only 35 percent say they do). But that doesn’t mean they forfeit the right to purchase one if they so desire. We hope the majority of justices agree.

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