Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Supremes and the Second Amendment

Here is the Register's editorial commenting on the oral argument Tuesday before the Supreme Court on D.C. v. Heller, regarding the District of Columbia's draconian gun law, passed in ,976, which prohibits ownership of handguns entirely, and requires that rifles and shotguns be disassembled or disabled by a trigger lock. Heller, a security guard, had applied for a permit and was denied, so he had standing to sue.

The key issue is whether the right to keep and bear arms, which according to the Second Amendment "shall not be infringed," is an individual or a collective right. Adherents of the religion of gun control have made the case that because of the introductory mililtia clause, the right accrues only to members of a state militia. Recent scholarship on various aspects of gun control and history has established the idea that it is an individual right pretty firmly, and the D.C. Circuit agreed, invalidating the law.

Five members of the Supremes seem to agree too, with Kennedy, Mr. Swing Vote, leading the questioning of DC's lawyer and even helping out the pro-rights lawyer when he got off track.

The hero here is Robert Levy, who made a bunch of money in investments, sold his firm for a pile, then got his law degree and joined Cato. He financed the entire case himself, picking the plaintiffs and hiring the lawyers (he was a co-counsel). Bob doesn't own a gun or want to, but he's a strong believer in individual rights and in the individual-right interpretation of the Second Amendment. I've talked to him on the phone many times and in person a few times, and he is truly one of the good guys.

For more than you can digest on Supreme Court activities (e.g., links to 50-plus amicus briefs on this case), the place to go is SCOTUSblog.

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