Thursday, June 26, 2008

Heller Ruling

Well, the Supreme Court has spoken and we again have a Second Amendment. The Washington, DC handgun ban is unconstitutional, and so is the trigger-lock requirement.

Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) are predictably incensed, and virtually everyone else from uber-liberal Russell Feingold (D-WI) to ur-conservative John Cornyn (R-TX) are generally quite pleased. Feinstein repeated the now-discounted meme that the prior case from 1939, US v. Miller, said the Second Amendment was a collective and not individual right, and stated that the SCOTUS had thrown out "70 years of precedent." Frank Lautenberg, if anybody cares, said this just made him more interested in not promoting "activist" judges like Samuel Alito and John Roberts to the Supreme Court. Is there a circus around here? Because we appear to have at least two clowns.

They can go pound sand. Last I heard, Anthony Kennedy wasn't considered a rock-ribbed conservative, and he was likely the swing vote on this issue. There isn't a whole lot of precedent on the Second Amendment, US v Miller is the most recent case. There is a 5th Circuit Court ruling, US v Emerson, that was among the first to "find" an individual right in the Second Amendment back in 2001, but that didn't apply outside of Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi.

The funny thing about all this windbagging is that this ruling is pretty limited in scope. It basically applies to Washington, DC and no farther, though the precedent of the Second Amendment being a right guaranteed to all Americans is still an important one. The ruling does not strike down all gun laws, Washington DC still has a licensing apparatus that has to be followed. Seeing as the ruling only addressed Washington, DC it has no applicability to the states, given that the Fourteenth Amendment was never brought into play. That issue, "incorporation", or to what extent states have to follow federal constitutional interpretations, will await another case. My bet is that the handgun ban in Chicago* and Morton Grove, IL will be the first case tested, and whatever comes of that will determine how far the newly-emancipated Second Amendment extends.

*In fact, the lawsuit has already been filed.

Scalia is 72 years old, though, and John Paul Stevens, who wrote the minority dissenting opinion, is 88 years old. Ruth Bader Ginsburg is 75, and a 5-4 opinion is more likely to be overturned or soft-pedaled in the future. This case has bearing on the Presidential election only to emphasize the importance of being able to nominate Supreme Court Justices. I suspect that Stevens will stay on the Court until he is either deceased or a Democrat wins the White House, out of a commitment to ideological balance. He certainly could have retired with honors years ago, but I believe the perceived bent of Alito and Roberts encouraged him to stay on.

Why did Bush 41 nominate David Souter, again? You would have thought he was going to be conservative based on who put him up, but apparently that was not to be. He's only 68, I'm afraid we're stuck with him for a while. I always found it fascinating that SCOTUS found a right to privacy from snippets of several aspects of the Bill of Rights in Roe v. Wade, but could not find the obvious (to me) individual right in the Second Amendment.

I do plan to bust a cap or two in celebration of this endorsement of the Second Amendment. Because when it comes down to it, the rights of "the people" does not mean the "right people" get to determine our rights. I believe we fought a war over that point, long ago.

No comments: