The Second Amendment has always been like the lost continent of the Constitution. Well, today the Supreme Court discovered it — right between the first and third amendments — after 127 years. The Court ruled that the Second Amendment does indeed create an individual right to gun ownership. The opinion can be accessed here.
The Supreme Court also gave a victory to millionaires running for office who can finance their campaigns more freely — or buy guns more easily.
Justice Scalia as expected is the author of the majority the opinion. Justice Breyer dissented, with Justices Stevens, Souter and Ginsburg. Two dissents were written in the 5-4 split — written by Stevens and Breyer. This is another case (as with the death penalty decision yesterday) of the power of Justice Kennedy as the swing voter. On cases like this, it becomes a Court of one.
Scalia emphasized that reasonable limitations can be placed on the right, such as possession by felons etc. The Court also said that it was not ruling on whether laws requiring licenses are constitutional. The Court struck down two provisions of D.C.’s 1976 gun control law. First it found unconstitutional to ban the possession of a gun in the home and second it found uconstitutional to require that any gun, other than one kept at a business, be unloaded and disassembled or have a trigger lock in place.
While I have gotten a fair amount of heat over it, I have long held that the second amendment does indeed create an individual right, here.
While I am not an advocate of gun ownership, I still believe that it is a cause for celebration whenever individual right is recognized — I only wish many second amendment advocates showed the same passion in resisting attacks on other such rights by the Bush Administration in the first, fourth, fifth, sixth, and eighth amendments.
The ruling does not mean that citizens can go out and purchase AK-47s. Like other individual rights in the Bill of Rights, gun ownership will be subject to reasonable limitations.
Yet, the decision does show how politics can distort legal judgment. Many of us chided the D.C. Attorney General’s office for pushing this appeal when it was clear that they would expand their loss and extend it across the country. Nevertheless, Nichols and his staff felt great pressure to “do something” even if it meant a virtually certain ruling that would throw dozens of other laws into question.
Today, the Court also decided Davis v. Federal Election Commission (07-320) — a case looking at the so-called “Millionaire’s Amendment” to campaign finance laws, which relaxes campaign finance limits for opponents of congressional candidates spending more than $350,000 of their own money. The Court invalidated the law in an opinion by Justice Alito. The Davis opinion is available here. This invalidates both contribution limits and the disclosure requirements.
For the story on today’s gun ruling, click here.