The ability of Americans to bear arms is on the line in this presidential election. The Supreme Court, which started a new term on Monday, will have little choice but to take up the issue of carry rights within the next few years. All it takes is the appointment of one new justice to shift the balance on this constitutional question.
Oral arguments were heard in Washington Monday in one of the cases that could make its way to the high court. A federal judge will first decide whether the District can outright ban any form of open or concealed carry. In 2008, attorney Alan Gura convinced the Supreme Court to force city officials to recognize the right to keep arms through the Heller v. District of Columbia case.
Now he wants Palmer v. District of Columbia to do likewise with carry rights. “As Heller demonstrated, there are some cases that can and should be resolved simply by interpreting the Constitution,” said Mr. Gura in his opening argument.
Andrew J. Saindon, a D.C. assistant attorney general, argued the Second Amendment doesn’t apply to the right to carry. Mr. Saindon claims the carry ban prevents crime and increases public safety. Echoing a favorite argument of local politicians, Mr. Saindon asserted, “The District is a unique place. It’s the seat of federal government, home to hundreds of politicians … and a proven target of terrorists’ attack.”
Mr. Gura did not address those issues in court, but in an interview afterward he called the argument ridiculous. “There are government officials all over the country, and the life of regular citizens is important too,” said Mr. Gura. “President Obama and Vice President Biden went to Virginia to have hamburgers — those are places where people can carry guns — and they have Secret Service protection.”
Mr. Gura is the Second Amendment Foundation’s lead attorney for five major “bear” cases which the organization has working through the courts: Palmer, Moore v. Madigan in Illinois, Woollard v. Sheridan in Maryland, Piszczatoski v. Maenza in New Jersey and Kachalsky v. Cacace in New York.
The Woollard case, which challenged the Free State statute denying permit applications absent a showing of “good cause,” has gone the furthest with oral arguments beginning Oct. 24 before the 4th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals. Gun-rights advocates predict that the high court will take up the Woollard and Moore cases together so that it can rule simultaneously on whether a state can ban all rights and, if not, what limitations can be set.
“We’ve been working for decades to build the intellectual ammunition to argue these cases in court, and then work on percolating them up with the hope of getting a case to the U.S. Supreme Court,” said Alan Gottleib, who created the Second Amendment Foundation, in an interview Saturday at his organization’s 27th annual Gun Rights Policy Convention. “The significance of these cases is we have the right to keep, but not the right to bear, at the high court level.”
The voters should consider the importance of the Second Amendment before pulling a lever in November.
Emily Miller is a senior editor for the Opinion pages at The Washington Times.