Tuesday, June 29, 2010
The U.S. Supreme Court's narrow 5-4 decision on Monday upholding the right to own a gun for self defense would seem to follow the original intent of the Founding Fathers.
Gun-control advocates might not like it, but the court's interpretation of the Second Amendment is generally understood to mean the people -- individuals -- have a right to keep and bear arms.
Still, the court appropriately and wisely noted that the right to own guns is not unfettered. Just as there are some limits to free speech (falsely shouting "fire'' in a crowded theater), there are also limits to gun ownership.
The court made it clear some limitations on the Second Amendment can survive legal challenges.
Justice Samuel Alito, writing for the majority, said the court did not mean to cast doubt on laws prohibiting possession of guns by felons and people who suffer from mental illness, laws forbidding carrying guns in sensitive places such as schools and government buildings or laws regulating the commercial sale of firearms.
Exactly. The overall safety of the public must be considered.
However, individual gun ownership by those who are not a threat to society is protected.
Ironically, the court did not specifically rule on the constitutionality of the two gun-control laws at issue from Chicago and Oak Park, Ill. The justices returned the cases to the lower courts to decide whether those exceptionally strict laws, which effectively banned the private possession of handguns, can be reconciled with the Second Amendment.
What's got gun-control advocates concerned is that the Monday ruling settled the debate over whether Second Amendment rights protect gun owners from overreaching by state and local governments. They do.
Some like to argue the Second Amendment -- "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" -- applies only to soldiers.
But at the time the Constitution was written more than 200 years ago it was understood that militia referred to all of the people.
The Founding Fathers wanted to make sure ordinary citizens could rise up against the government if necessary. The Founding Fathers were not referring to a state militia that looks like today's government-run National Guard.
The intent of the Second Amendment was to allow individual gun ownership.