Supreme Court’s Decision on Gun Rights

The day is June 26, 2008. It is a historic day for the American system of checks and balances. Since the enactment of the Bill of Rights, the first ten amendments in the U.S. Constitution, this is the first time the Supreme Court interpreted the Second Amendment.

The right to bear arms has always been an issue in the American history. Even in a more peaceful environment, as the 21st century is, that right is not out of the Americans’ agenda. In a country where there is much attention on what is written in the Constitution and, provided that it is mentioned there, the right to bear arms cannot be a disregarded political, judicial and even a business issue.

What the Supreme Court ruled today will doubtlessly be included in the history books. In my opinion, the today’s Supreme Court ruling is the beginning of a continuous debate on the Second Amendment. It is not that it has never been a debate, but from now on, more and more justices appointed by America’s future presidents are expected to be scrutinized by the media on how they stand in the right to bear arms.

“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” is said in the Second Amendment. This awkward sentence is among the major reasons for the creation of the debate. It appears that the people are Militia. In a time when the American people were fighting for their freedom from Great Britain, they were truly Militia, so that is I believe is the reason why the Second Amendment presents the people as Militia.

In my opinion, what the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution says is that the American people are directly involved in the security of their free State and that is why they have the right to bear arms. And by American people I mean each American citizen: including mentally retarded, criminals, murderers and others. Good thing the Supreme Court ruled that some laws can in fact encroach on phrases such as “cannot be infringed”, as the website www.usconstitution.net points out. Thus mentally retarded people, criminals, murderers and other groups of that kind could be stripped of the right to bear arms as it is unthinkable to consider them involved in the security of the Land of the Free. However, this ruling leads to endless debates and interpretations of the U.S. Constitution, especially after the today’s ruling against Washington D.C.’s 32-year ban on guns [which ban] excludes those guns being owned before the 1976 ruling.

It appears that Washington D.C.’s ban on guns cannot in fact encroach on the cannot-be-infringed part of the Second Amendment, opponents would say. However, the Supreme Court ruling on the so-called encroachment involves only some and not every encroachment. The other side of the coin is that this is an outstanding way the Supreme Court justices found in order to interpret the Constitution in a way they find most convenient so that their lifetime judicial service can hardly be impeached! On the other hand, the encroachment ruling leads to the immortalization of the U.S. Constitution thus making it compatible with every generation. That’s why there are two types of justices in the Supreme Court: strict constructionists and judicial activists. The former are conservative justices. In other words, they are justices who interpret the Constitution literally: for example, the right to bear arms cannot be infringed regardless of the time we live in. To the latter, the judicial activists, the Constitution is a living document: for example, we do not need guns in 21st century.

In my opinion, today’s Supreme Court decition on gun rights must not surprise anybody for at least two reasons. First of all, of the nine Supreme Curt justices, five are strict constructionists: Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, Chief Justice John Roberts, Antonin Scalia, and Anthony Kennedy. The rest are judicial activists: Ruth Ginsberg, Stephen Breyer, John Stevens and David Souter. The former voted for the strike down of the District of Columbia’s 32-year-old ban on handguns as incompatible with gun rights under the Second Amendment while the latter voted against the strike down. You can see it on page 3 of this published document. Justice Antonin Scalia said that the individual right to bear arms is supported by the historical narrative both before and after the Second Amendment was adopted. He also said that the Constitution does not permit the absolute prohibition of handguns held and used for self-defense in the home. In the minority report, Justice John Paul Steven pointed out that the majority would have us believe that over 200 years ago, the Framers made a choice to limit the tools available to elected officials wishing to regulate civilian uses of weapons which evidence is nowhere to be found.

Those are two typical strict-constructionist and judicial-activist opinions and only represent the current status quo in the U.S. Supreme Court. However, I somehow doubt that there would be a way different decision if judicial activists were more than strict constructionists. They probably would not discuss the Second Amendment in such a situation. In my opinion, if the majority of Supreme Court Justices were judicial activists, they would not make any decision on the Second Amendment unless the gun rights ban had already been enacted not just in the District of Columbia, a rather small part of this big country, but also in vast territories of the United States of America. However, even under those two conditions I cannot see them ruling other way because gun rights involve money as well. A ban on handguns in most of the states would hinder the development of the business connected with the production of handguns and therefore would serve as a prerequisite for a possible creation of a handguns black market.

What I am saying is that the right to bear arms shall never be infringed in USA unless the Second Amendment is eliminated from the Constitution which calls for a new constitution and such a decision will never be endorsed by the American politicians and people. I am not saying that the U.S. Constitution should be rewritten. What I am saying is that I see the Second Amendment as a main reason for the creation of a never-ending but fortunately not a grave debate in a powerful country.

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1 Comment

Filed under Civil Rights and Liberties, Politics

One response to “Supreme Court’s Decision on Gun Rights

  1. Pingback: The Bill of Rights (Part One) « Evolution is the key!

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