DC v. Heller
The Supreme Court upheld the appeals court overturning Washington DC’s ban on handguns. I’ll post the link to the decision when it goes up, and maybe offer my thoughts when I’ve glanced through it; until then, here’s a thread to comment on the ruling and other recent SCOTUS decisions. Remember: Civility is nice.
Update 1: .pdf of the ruling, written by Justice Scalia, is here.
Update 2: The juicy part:
1. The Second Amendment protects an individual right to possess a firearm unconnected with service in a militia, and to use that arm for traditionally lawful purposes, such as self-defense within the home.
(a) The Amendment’s prefatory clause announces a purpose, but does not limit or expand the scope of the second part, the operative clause. The operative clause’s text and history demonstrate that it connotes an individual right to keep and bear arms. Pp. 2–22.
2. Like most rights, the Second Amendment right is not unlimited. It is not a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose: For example, concealed weapons prohibitions have been upheld under the Amendment or state analogues. The Court’s opinion should not be taken to cast doubt on longstanding prohibitions on the possession of firearms by felons and the mentally ill, or laws forbidding the carrying of firearms in sensitive places such as schools and government buildings, or laws imposing conditions and qualifications on the commercial sale of arms.
Update 3: ZOMG! Scalia gives props to a “living Constitution”!
Some have made the argument, bordering on the frivolous, that only those arms in existence in the 18th century are protected by the Second Amendment. We do not interpret constitutional rights that way. Just as the First Amendment protects modern forms of communications, e.g., Reno v. American Civil Liberties Union, 521 U. S. 844, 849 (1997), and the Fourth Amendment applies to modern forms of search, e.g., Kyllo v. United States, 533 U. S. 27, 35–36 (2001), the Second Amendment extends, prima facie, to all instruments that constitute bearable arms, even those that were not in existence at the time of the founding.
My head, she is explody.
Update 4: I found this interesting:
A constitutional guarantee subject to future judges’ assessments of its usefulness is no constitutional guarantee at all. Constitutional rights are enshrined with the scope they were understood to have when the people adopted them, whether or not future legislatures or (yes) even future judges think that scope too broad. We would not apply an “interest-balancing” approach to the prohibition of a peaceful neo-Nazi march through Skokie. See National Socialist Party of America v. Skokie, 432 U. S. 43 (1977) (per curiam). The First Amendment contains the freedom-of-speech guarantee that the people ratified, which included exceptions for obscenity, libel, and disclosure of state secrets, but not for the expression of extremely unpopular and wrong-headed views. The Second Amendment is no different.
Update 5: Well, just gave the ruling (although not the dissenting opinions) a very quick read through, and in an event sure to cause cranial rupture to everyone who is of the opinion that I believe that anything Justice Scalia says is wrong, period, full-stop, I agree with it in a general sense, and to the extent that I’ve zoomed through Scalia’s ruling, I think his reasoning here is solid and commonsensical. I think he bangs on poor Justice Stevens a bit much, but that’s Scalia for you. I do think it’s important that Scalia noted that there are limits which may reasonably be imposed on gun possession in certain places and by certain people, and on how guns are sold and registered — and I suspect there will still be a lot of skirmishing, legally-speaking, on how those work, and what is Constitutionally acceptable or not.
How will this shake out in terms of gun violence in a general sense? I have no idea, although if I had to guess I would suspect it won’t make a bit of difference one way or another, since the sort of person most likely to put a bullet in someone else isn’t the sort of person who would be concerned whether or not his firearm was banned. I’ve believed for a long time as a practical matter that handgun bans are useless; there are already millions of them and they will never disappear from the American landscape even if there were a Constitutional amendment banning them (which I don’t recommend). You will never not be able to find a handgun if you really want one.
But beyond that I really do believe (as does Scalia, apparently) that the Framers wanted everyone to have the right to own weapons, for defense of home, etc. It’s true that we do pay a price for it, in terms of gun violence (not to matter simple stupidity involving guns, including the tragic examples of when kids pull out mom or dad’s gun and start playing with it — the stupidity there is on the part of the parents, generally). But we also pay certain prices for the expansiveness of our right to free speech and our habeas corpus rights, to name but two constitutionally-enshrined rights we enjoy.
In any event: I basically agree with this decision, although I note the caveat that this is off a quick read, and that I need to read it in more depth. I doubt that reading in more depth will fundamentally change my opinion of the ruling, although it may reveal details I might quibble (or additionally agree) with.
The floor is open for more comments.