In a surprising move, the Bush Administration has supported D.C. in the upcoming review of its gun control laws just as gun rights advocates thought they had finally achieved an upper hand on the long-unresolved constitutional question.
In filings with the Court, Solicitor General Paul D. Clement urged the Supreme Court limit gun rights and uphold the reasonable regulation of guns, notably including the banning of certain guns.The case will force the Court to finally review the language of the second amendment to determine if it creates an individual right or a right given to the states (to maintain militias). The amendment reads: “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.”
I recently wrote this column to say that I believe an individual right interpretation is the most compelling on an objective read.Notably, Clement argues that the Second Amendment does create such an individual right, but devotes much of his brief to arguing for the Court to establish limits on the right — if it recognizes it. What will upset gun rights advocates the most, he argument that the Court should not strike down the law but remand it for a more tailored ruling.
While advocates are livid, the Bush Administration position reflects the general thrust of the lower court opinion. The appellate panel noted that it was not saying that limits could not or should not be placed on this right when it struck down the law. Rather, the judges indicates that — like any individual right — reasonable limits are expected in society. Nevertheless, the position of the Administration is likely to be seen as something of a betrayal among advocates when they are counting on strong support before the Court. With the Southern primaries approaching, it will be interesting to see how the GOP candidates deal with the question of limits on right to gun ownership.
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