UPDATE: Moments after I posted this, the Brady's sent me an email wanting more money. They're clearly worried about this case and the effect it will have on gun bans and gun control laws nationwide. Follow me in giving a donation to your favorite gun rights organization!
Tuesday, November 20, 2007; 1:08 PM
The Supreme Court announced today that it will decide whether the District of Columbia's ban on handguns violates the Constitution, a choice that will put the justices at the center of the controversy over the meaning of the Second Amendment for the first time in nearly 70 years.
The court's decision could have broad implications for gun-control measures locally and across the country, and will raise a hotly contested political issue just in time for the 2008 elections.The court will hear the case after the first of the year. A decision likely would come before it adjourns at the end of June.
For years, legal scholars, historians and grammarians have debated the meaning of the amendment because of its enigmatic wording and odd punctuation:
"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."
Gun rights proponents say the words guarantee the right of an individual to possess firearms. Gun-control supporters say it conveys only a civic or "collective" right to own guns as part of service in an organized military organization.
The court's last examination of the amendment was in 1939, when it ruled in United States v. Miller that a sawed-off shotgun transported across state lines by a bootlegger was not what the amendment's authors had in mind when they were protecting arms needed for military service.
Since then, almost all of the nation's courts of appeal have read the ruling to mean the amendment conveys only a collective right to gun ownership. But the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit broke ranks last spring, becoming the first to strike down a gun-control law on Second Amendment grounds.
A panel of three Republican-appointed judges voted 2-1 that the amendment "protects an individual right to keep and bear arms" and that "once it is determined -- as we have done -- that handguns are 'Arms' referred to in the Second Amendment, it is not open to the District to ban them."
The District law, enacted in 1976, soon after the city won home rule, is one of the toughest in the nation. It prohibits residents from registering and possessing handguns in almost all circumstances. The District also requires that rifles and other long guns kept in the home be unloaded and disassembled or outfitted with trigger locks. The court struck down that law as well, saying it rendered the right to possess such a weapon for self-defense virtually useless.
It is unusual that both the losing party and the winners of that decision asked the court to consider the case. But Robert A. Levy, a wealthy entrepreneur and lawyer who is also a scholar at the libertarian Cato Institute, has worked for years to bring the matter to the Supreme Court.
He and others, including co-counsel Clark M. Neily III and Alan Gura, assembled six D.C. residents to challenge the District ban. Their idea was to present the courts with law-abiding plaintiffs who wanted the weapons for self-defense rather than people appealing criminal convictions for possessing weapons.
A federal district judge ruled against the residents, but the appeals court overturned that decision in a strongly worded opinion written by conservative Senior Judge Laurence H. Silberman.
The District argued in its petition to the Supreme Court that the decision "drastically departs from the mainstream of American jurisprudence."
The petition filed by District Attorney General Linda Singer said the appeals court was wrong for three reasons: because it recognized an individual rather than collective right; because the Second Amendment serves as a restriction only on federal interference with state-regulated militias and state-recognized gun rights; and because the District is within its rights to protect its citizens by banning a certain type of gun.
"It is eminently reasonable to permit private ownership of other types of weapons, including shotguns and rifles, but ban the easily concealed and uniquely dangerous modern handgun," said the petition. "Whatever right the Second Amendment guarantees, it does not require the District to stand by while its citizens die." (There's irony for ya! -Yuri)