March 23, 2008 - Admin

Individual Rights and Laws on Guns

The Second Amendment to the Constitution

[Editor’s Note: On March 18, 2008 the US Supreme Court heard verbal arguments regarding the Washington D. C. ban on handgun ownership. The following is an unnamed editorial from The Republican Springfield, MA.]

The U.S. Supreme Court last ruled in a case involving the Second Amendment to the Constitution 69 years ago. And when it did, it was looking at a case in which two men had violated a law by transporting a double-barrel shotgun from Oklahoma to Arkansas.

The ruling was narrow. And it was the court’s last word on the Second Amendment.

Until now, that is. The high court will hear arguments today in a highly anticipated case on the constitutionality of an exceedingly restrictive gun law in the District of Columbia. While the ruling will be restricted to the law at hand, it will likely have wide-ranging implications across the land in years to come.

The question is straightforward; the amendment that prompts it is anything but.

The Second Amendment, in its entirety: “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.

Do those 27 words protect an individual’s right to own a gun? Or are they intended to enshrine only a collective right for a state to maintain a militia and for its members to keep arms?

One thing that makes this case so fascinating is that the Supreme Court is coming to it virtually without precedent. Since the 1939 case offers little by way of guidance in the matter at hand, the court will be writing on a blank sheet of paper.

We would hope that the court, in looking at the Second Amendment, takes a peek at the others in the neighborhood. An individual has a right to free speech. An individual is secure in his home, against unwarranted searches and seizures. An individual is protected against incriminating himself in a court of law.

Sensing a trend? The founding fathers were exceedingly skeptical of centralized power. And they were fiercely protective of individual liberties.

The nine justices on the high court know this, of course. We can only hope that a majority keeps that knowledge at the fore when they consider the Washington gun law.

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