District of Columbia v. Heller, Decided
Here we are on the day of a historic Supreme Court ruling. In a 5 – to – 4 decision,...
Here we are on the day of a historic Supreme Court ruling. In a 5 – to – 4 decision, a deeply divided court said the Second Amendment protects an individual’s right to own a gun (not just the rights of states to keep militias).
As reported in this New York Times article, Justice Antonin Scalia, writing for the majority, said the amendment does not allow, “the absolute prohibition of handguns held and used for self-defense in the home,” thus ruling that the D.C. handgun ban was unconstitutional.
But, far from a blanket ruling in favor of unlimited rights to individual gun ownership, the decision also states, “It is not a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose.”
Today’s ruling was the first since 1939 to deal with the Second Amendment, and the first in the nation’s history to fully address the meaning of the amendment’s original text.
In case you don’t have time to read the 64-page Opinion of the Court (not to mention the dissenting opinions that follow it), I’ve highlighted a couple of the places (there aren’t very many) where hunting comes up in the dense text. First, an excerpt from the Opinion of the Court:
“It is therefore entirely sensible that the Second Amendment’s prefatory clause announces the purpose for which the right was codified: to prevent elimination of the militia. 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.”
And several pages later, the dissenting opinion of Justice John Paul Stevens:
“The parallels between the Second Amendment and these state declarations, and the Second Amendment’s omission of any statement of purpose related to the right to use firearms for hunting or personal self-defense, is especially striking in light of the fact that the Declarations of Rights of Pennsylvania and Vermont did expressly protect such civilian uses at the time.”
Of course, the fallout from the decision is already rolling as challenges to other city firearms restrictions get underway and District of Columbia Mayor Adrian Fenty plans legislative counter-measures.
What was your reaction to the ruling (leading question, I know) and were you at all surprised by it? – K.H.