Monday, January 16, 2006

Individual Rights Vs. "Reasonable Restrictions"

David Codrea of War on Guns believes that the US Supreme Court may hear a Second Amendment case in the next few years. He predicts the Court will agree that Americans have an individual right to own a firearm, but
“…the ruling will be so narrow that it will not override state interest claims. It will not require a strict scrutiny standard, but rather an intermediate one. And it will certainly not overturn "assault weapon" bans, open the door for viable challenges to permitting schemes, or declare registration mandates, background checks, and similar prior restraints unconstitutional infringements.

In short, we will achieve a "status quo," where the vast majority of "existing gun laws" are deemed enforceable and prosecutable, rather than repealable.”
Say Uncle linked to David Codrea’s post and wonders how a pro-individual rights decision could still let stand anti-freedom laws in Chicago, Washington, D.C., and elsewhere.

I can imagine how such a decision could play out. The Supremes would probably agree that the Second Amendment protects an individual right, but they will hedge that decision. They might say that one has a right to own a gun subject to “reasonable restrictions” as decided by Federal, state, and/or local governments. They could argue, further, that no government could ban guns entirely, but could allow “common-sense” laws restricting what people could own.

They could allow a state or city to argue that handguns are a scourge in urban areas and thus ban handguns provided they allowed citizens to own long guns (i.e., similar to Washington, D.C. as it stands now). The same locality could argue that “assault weapons” are too dangerous in an urban area and ban those. I could go on (i.e., semi-automatic rifles have too much firepower, but a single-shot bolt-action .22 rifle is okay), but you get the idea.

Such a decision, if it came to pass, is very similar to former US Attorney General John Ashcroft’s “pro” Second Amendment letter that created a stir in 2001. In it, he said that the Constitution guaranteed an individual right to keep and bear firearms. Wow, seems so good doesn’t it?

Well, the devil’s always in the details. A footnote included,
“Of course, the individual rights view of the Second Amendment dos not prohibit Congress from enacting laws restricting firearms ownership for compelling state interests…”
Ashcroft’s letter gave the example of restricting firearms rights to felons. But, certainly Congresscritters and their state and local counterparts will not stop at that restriction.

So, we gunnies can’t really rely on Courts to solve our problems—although they could be a piece of the puzzle. We must demand our legislators, city councilman, state officials, and others honor our rights. We must make our voices heard at all levels of government.

We must also reach out to our fellow citizens. Take people shooting. Defend your gun rights with well-reasoned arguments. They might not listen to you, but we might just alter their stereotypes of gun owners as redneck fools who love their guns more than their children as some gun banners have suggested.

Or, as Yosemite Sam (Bill) has said, "They can pass all the laws they want, I'm not going to register or get rid of my guns ever." I don't want to get pushed to even that point and want to solve our issues within the law. But, remember your reasonable restriction to an individual right (like no handguns) could be tyranny for me. Tyranny must never stand.

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