Sunday, January 11, 2009

Second Amendment's bark worse than its bite?

Op-ed by UCLA law professor Adam Winkler, writing at the Huffington Post:
In June, 2008, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a landmark ruling on the Second Amendment right to bear arms, D.C. v. Heller. For over 70 years, the federal courts had read that amendment to protect only a state's right to organize militias, like the National Guard. In a long-awaited victory for the gun rights movement, the Court reversed course and held that the Second Amendment protected an individual's right to own guns for personal self-defense.

So far, the victory hasn't turned out exactly as the gun rights folks had hoped.

As many legal scholars predicted, the Supreme Court's decision led to a tidal wave of Second Amendment challenges to gun control. Every person charged with a gun crime saw the Supreme Court's decision as a Get Out of Jail Free Card.

To date, the lower federal courts have ruled in over 60 different cases on the constitutionality of a wide variety of gun control laws. There have been suits against laws banning possession of firearms by felons, drug addicts, illegal aliens, and individuals convicted of domestic violence misdemeanors. The courts have ruled on the constitutionality of laws prohibiting particular types of weapons, including sawed-off shotguns and machine guns, and specific weapons attachments. Defendants have challenged laws barring guns in school zones and post offices, and laws outlawing "straw" purchases, the carrying of concealed weapons, possession of an unregistered firearm, and particular types of ammunition. The courts have upheld every one of these laws.

Since Heller, its Gun Control: 60, Individual Right: 0.

Before the Supreme Court's decision, none of the numerous challenges to gun control laws raised in recent months would have had any hope of winning. Now, with a revolutionary ruling recognizing a renewed individual right to keep and bear arms, they still have no hope of winning.

About the only real change from Heller is that gun owners have to pay higher legal fees to find out they lose.

Article here. I believe that Professor Winkler co-authored an amicus curiae brief in support of Washington, D.C.'s position in last year's landmark D.C. v. Heller case. In the brief, co-authored with Professor Erwin Chemerinsky, the authors argue that even if the Second Amendment confers an individual right, that gun control laws such as D.C.'s should subject to a deferential "reasonableness" standard. For those interested, the Heller amicus briefs can be found here.

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