Court shoots down outright gun bans

The right to own weapons that millions of Americans believed had been theirs since the founding of the Republic 234 years ago is now enshrined in a decision by the U.S. Supreme Court.

The Second Amendment to the Constitution includes an individual right to own guns, the court said Monday, not just a right for arming state militias. And, under the 14th Amendment, that means cities such as Chicago and Oak Park, Ill., can’t simply prohibit their residents from owning handguns.

The 5-4 ruling Monday in the case of McDonald v. Chicago, is a follow-up to the 5-4 decision handed down two years ago on a similar handgun ban in Washington, D.C. However, because the nation’s capital remains a federal enclave, the question still remained whether individual states or local governments within those states could adopt gun bans.

Justice Samuel Alito, writing for the majority Monday, left little room for doubt in that regard. “It is clear that the Framers (of the Constitution) and ratifiers of the Fourteenth Amendment counted the right to keep and bear arms among those fundamental rights necessary to our system of ordered liberty,” he wrote.

He also noted what the court determined in the Washington, D.C., case two years ago: “that the Second Amendment protects a personal right to keep and bear arms for lawful purposes, most notably for self-defense within the home.”

He concluded, “We therefore hold that the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment incorporates the Second Amendment right.”

It was a strong ruling, referring repeatedly to court precedent about both the 14th and Second Amendments. But Alito also noted that neither this case nor the Washington, D.C. case from 2008 prohibit local governments from enacting some rules regarding firearms within their boundaries. However, they cannot issue blanket bans on weapons that people traditionally use for self-defense or defense of their homes.

Already, some gun-control advocates are predicting blood-baths in the streets of American cities as a result of this ruling, but the facts don’t support that conclusion. Homicides in Washington, D.C. have decreased since the gun ban there was overturned, and states that have enacted concealed-carry permits have not seen large increases in gun crime. Most have seen reductions.

Five justices on the Supreme Court recognized that the right to defend one’s self and one’s home is as integral to our constitutionally protected way of life as the right to speak one’s mind. And that is, indeed, a welcome decision.


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