Friday, March 09, 2007

Hell Freezeth Over: DC Handgun Ban Goes Down

I was busy at work today, so I am just now seeing this, but via just about everybody, comes the wonderful news that Washington D.C.'s handgun ban has gone down in flames, ruled unconstitutional on the grounds that it violates the Second Amendment.

T]he phrase ‘the right of the people,’ when read intratextually and in light of Supreme Court precedent, leads us to conclude that the right in question is individual.” The majority opinion sums up its holding on this point as follows:
To summarize, we conclude that the Second Amendment protects an individual right to keep and bear arms. That right existed prior to the formation of the new government under the Constitution and was premised on the private use of arms for activities such as hunting and self-defense, the latter being understood as resistance to either private lawlessness or the depredations of a tyrannical government (or a threat from abroad). In addition, the right to keep and bear arms had the important and salutary civic purpose of helping to preserve the citizen militia. The civic purpose was also a political expedient for the Federalists in the First Congress as it served, in part, to placate their Antifederalist opponents. The individual right facilitated militia service by ensuring that citizens would not be barred from keeping the arms they would need when called forth for militia duty. Despite the importance of the Second Amendment’s civic purpose, however, the activities it protects are not limited to militia service, nor is an individual’s enjoyment of the right contingent upon his or her continued or intermittent enrollment in the militia.

The majority opinion also rejects the argument that the Second Amendment does not apply to the District of Columbia because it is not a State. And the majority opinion concludes, “Section 7-2507.02, like the bar on carrying a pistol within the home, amounts to a complete prohibition on the lawful use of handguns for self-defense. As such, we hold it unconstitutional.

Let us all hope that this is the beginning of the end of the collective-rights interpretation -- or, as SayUncle calls it, the no-rights interpretation. And, of course, the victim-disarmament advocates, as Tam so eloquently called them once, are up in arms, so to speak.
Josh Sugarmann of the Violence Policy Center, at the Huffington Post:
While today's decision is a dream come true for America's gun lobby and gunmakers, it may mark the beginning of a long, national nightmare from which we will never recover as a nation.

And just for those who still think Sarah Brady and her evil minions don't support the same goals as Josh Sugarmann, consider Paul Helmke's comments from the Washington Post:
The 2-1 decision of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit in Parker v. District of Columbia striking down the District of Columbia's handgun law is judicial activism at its worst. By disregarding nearly seventy years of U.S. Supreme Court precedent, two Federal judges have negated the democratically-expressed will of the people of the District of Columbia and deprived this community of a gun law it enacted thirty years ago and still strongly supports.
I'd argue that as opposed to disregarding precedent, the court, as Alex Kozinski might put it, found the courage to oppose a blatantly unconstitutional law and create new, better precedent. And as a commenter at Homeland Stupididy said:

The “democratically-expressed will of the people” was to make blacks drink out of separate water fountains, sit on the back of the bus, and go to substandard schools. The “democratically-expressed will of the people” elected Hitler to power for god’s sake.

Thank god for the court ruling that an INDIVIDUAL has a right (EXPRESSED in the Constitution) that can’t be taken away by the ‘democratically-expressed will of the people”.

A-yep. And once upon a time, that sort of thing was sanctioned by longstanding court precedent, too. (Plessy v. Ferguson stood for almost 60 years before it was struck down by Brown v. Board of Education.) I'd say court precedent is a very poor argument for making new laws or not striking down old ones. As I said here,
Supreme Court interpretations of the Constitution in and of themselves, in the context of history, don't carry nearly as much moral weight (but, of course, far too much legal weight) as some people seem to think they the top of my head, Plessy v. Ferguson, Kelo v. New London, U.S. v. Cruikshank, and Dred Scott v. Sanford all come to mind (yes, I know Plessy was overturned), and without opening up the abortion can o' beans, there are those out there who think Roe v. Wade, in the words of pro-choice Washington Post columnist Michael Kinsley, was a "muddle of bad reasoning and an authentic example of judicial overreaching." (If you really wanted to, I suppose you could go all the way back to Marbury v. Madison (1803) for an example of judicial usurpation...)

Today was a great day for individual liberty in our nation. Let us hope we can advance further.