Thursday, June 26, 2008

More on the Decision!!!

If you hit the Supreme Court of the US Blog the complete decision is now online as well as a selection of key quotes from the decision. I’ll start with the key quotes and as I get through the decision I’ll post more later:

“Logic demands that there be a link between the stated purpose and the command.”

“We start therefore with a strong presumption that the Second Amendment right is exercised individually and belongs to all Americans.”

“the most natural reading of ‘keep Arms’ in the Second Amendment is to “have weapons.”

“The term was applied, then as now, to weapons that were not specifically designed for military use and were not employed in a military capacity.”

“Putting all of these textual elements together, we find that they guarantee the individual right to possess and carry weapons in case of confrontation.”

“Thus, we do not read the Second Amendment to protect the right of citizens to carry arms for any sort of confrontation, just as we do not read the First Amendment to protect the right of citizens to speak for any purpose.”

“The prefatory clause does not suggest that preserving the militia was the only reason Americans valued the ancient right; most undoubtedly thought it even more important for self-defense and hunting.”

“It was plainly the understanding in the post-Civil War Congress that the Second Amendment protected an individual right to use arms for self-defense.”

So I’ll break here – I’ll have to read the decision more carefully, but the quote above regarding weapons that were not “designed for military use” or “employed in a military capacity” seems to cast some doubt on some of the provisions of the older Miller case, because Heller is now specifically protecting non-military firearms. It’s also important that the decision is not only affirming the right to keep and bear arms, but the right to use arms for self-defense.

“Like most rights, the right secured by the Second Amendment is not unlimited.”

“Although we do not undertake an exhaustive historical analysis today of the full scope of the Second Amendment, nothing in our opinion should be taken to cast doubt on longstanding prohibitions on the possession of firearms by felons and the mentally ill, or laws forbidding the carrying of firearms in sensitive places such as schools and government buildings, or laws imposing conditions and qualifications on the commercial sale of arms.”

This is one of the more disappointing aspects of the decision. If the individual has the right of self-defense, why does that right end at the door of a school or government building? Expect this to be one of the next legal battlefields.

“We also recognize another important limitation on the right to keep and carry arms. Miller said, as we have explained, that the sorts of weapons protected were those ‘in common use at the time.’ 307 U. S., at 179.”

“Whatever the reason, handguns are the most popular weapon chosen by Americans for self-defense in the home, and a complete prohibition of their use is invalid.”

“In sum, we hold that the District’s ban on handgun possession in the home violates the Second Amendment, as does its prohibition against rendering any lawful firearm in the home operable for the purpose of immediate self-defense. Assuming that Heller is not disqualified from the exercise of Second Amendment rights, the District must permit him to register his handgun and must issue him a license to carry it in the home.”

Again – this is a disappointing paragraph in some ways. If we have an inalienable right to keep and bear arms, and an equally inalienable right to self-defense, why must handguns be registered and individuals licensed to carry a firearm on their own property? Must we now be licensed and registered to speak? Must Catholics register their religion? This is an area that I’m sure will get a lot of scrutiny over the next several days.

It seems as if we’ve won the battle, but the war is just getting started at this point. Expect challenges to further outright bans over the next several months as well as there are several firearms “in common use” which are categorically banned in several jurisdictions.

Much, much, more to come!

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