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Saturday, June 28, 2008

The Second Amendment – A Right for Everyone

Steve Sorensen
(Originally published in the Warren Times Observer, June 28, 2008.)

For the first time, the Supreme Court has ruled
that the second amendment is an individual right.

On Thursday, June 26, the United States Supreme Court declared the most restrictive gun law in the nation unconstitutional.

Before being overturned, the Washington D.C. gun ban prohibited functioning weapons in the homes of citizens living in the nation’s capital. Citizens could lawfully possess only broken firearms or firearms rendered inoperable.

What’s a hunter’s take on this landmark decision?

Hunters are happy about the decision, but not because it preserves their right to use guns for hunting and other sporting purposes. It doesn’t. The sporting use of firearms is not a consideration in this ruling. Indeed, in Washington D.C. no land is even available for hunting.

This Supreme Court decision recognizes the right of the people -- all law-abiding people and not just hunters -- to use firearms in the defense of themselves and their security. This decision properly recognizes that the second amendment is not about hunting. It has to do with the right of the individual to self-defense.

From the text of the opinion:
“Under any of the standards of scrutiny the Court has applied to enumerated constitutional rights, this prohibition -- in the place where the importance of the lawful defense of self, family, and property is most acute -- would fail constitutional muster. Similarly, the requirement that any lawful firearm in the home be disassembled or bound by a trigger lock makes it impossible for citizens to use arms for the core lawful purpose of self-defense and is hence unconstitutional.”

The United States Supreme Court has finally said that citizens have the right to use firearms in self-defense. And for the first time, the Supreme Court has ruled that the second amendment is an individual right. That’s not just good news for hunters, it’s good news for every law-abiding citizen.

Although the second amendment is not about hunting, many politicians pander to hunters, attempting to pacify them.

Consider these words from a presidential candidate’s web site:
“Millions of hunters own and use guns each year. Millions more participate in a variety of shooting sports such as sporting clays, skeet, target and trap shooting that may not necessarily involve hunting. As a former constitutional law professor, Barack Obama believes the Second Amendment creates an individual right, and he greatly respects the constitutional rights of Americans to bear arms. He will protect the rights of hunters and other law-abiding Americans to purchase, own, transport, and use guns for the purposes of hunting and target shooting. He also believes that the right is subject to reasonable and commonsense regulation.”

If you think this statement is friendly to gun owners, read it again. It is noteworthy for what it does not say. He states only that Americans have a right to bear arms for hunting and sporting purposes, not for self-defense.

He does not say that he will protect the rights of ordinary law-abiding citizens for the purpose of self-defense. He does not say that self-defense is a legitimate purpose for gun ownership. His statement is carefully crafted to ignore the right of citizens to use firearms in self-defense.

I’d rather not use a gun in self-defense. I hope I never have to. But the D.C. law, before being overturned by the Supreme Court, would penalize any law-abiding citizen who did so. It gave confidence to law breakers that they would not suffer the consequences of an armed citizenry. The result was a high rate of crime.

Now that it is lawful for citizens of Washington D.C. to use firearms in self-defense, we can expect the rate of crime in the nation’s capital (sixth highest in the nation according to the FBI’s 2006 unified crime report) to drop, saving the lives of innocent people.

If you wonder why judicial appointments are so important, this 5-4 ruling is a good example. One vote would have tipped this decision the other way, effectively ending an essential civil right under the Constitution of the United States.

Appointments to the Supreme Court are the most important and far reaching decisions a President makes. Consider that as you decide how to cast your vote in the coming election.


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