Yesterday, the Supreme Court of the United States heard oral arguments in the case of Heller v. District of Columbia, in which a security guard named Dick Anthony Heller is suing DC’s government over its ban on handguns, which has stood since 1976, on the grounds that the law violates his Second Amendment rights. A full text of the oral arguments is available here for those of you who enjoy reading such things. This is the first time the Supreme Court has heard a meaningful case on the Second Amendment since 1939. The main issue is whether the Second Amendment (“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”) applies only to government-run militias like the National Guard, or whether it is meant to bestow upon individuals the right and responsibility to defend the nation in case of invasion or tyranny. Right now, it’s looking as though at least five members of the Court (Roberts, Thomas, Scalia, Alito, and Kennedy) agree with the latter interpretation. My thoughts after the jump.
Honestly, I can’t see this turning out well for the anti-gun folks in any case. Best case scenario for the Brady Campaign types is that the Court declares the Second Amendment a collective right, rather than an individual one, at which point you’re going to have all of us gun nuts forming/joining militias–the National Guard wasn’t formed till the 20th century, so it’d be difficult to argue that the Founders intended that as the “well regulated militia,” rather than citizen militias–in order to firmly establish members’ rights to bear arms. Given that current US Code defines the “militia” as both the National Guard/Coast Guard and all able-bodied males between 17 and 45 (plus, presumably, women who volunteer–the code hasn’t been updated in almost a century), even that might as well be an individual right. Worst case scenario for the antis is that the Court declares gun ownership an individual right not subject to restriction, which would basically negate all gun control beyond background checks, if that. The most likely scenario in my opinion, based on the oral arguments, is that the Court will rule that the Second Amendment is an individual right but subject to “reasonable restriction,” much like the First Amendment doesn’t mean you can commit libel with impunity.
Whatever happens, it’ll be interesting to watch.