Current Events Post -
Gun Rights, the 2nd Amendment and the Supreme Court
October 2, 2009
Gun rights will be reviewed again by the Supreme Court in what will undoubtedly turn out to be a very contentious ruling, no matter which way it rules. This week the highest court in the land announced it would finally address an issue that the Court has never ruled on before - whether or not the 2nd Amendment's guarantee of the right to bear arms applies to the states. Their decision will determine whether or not the states can impose bans on their citizens use and possession of guns. Read this editorial from The Minuteman, the editor of this site, and read the comments of some of our readers at the bottom of the page. You can add your own thoughts or comments on Gun Rights and the 2nd Amendment if you want to!
Gun Rights and the Second Amendment
The case that will be reviewed by the Supreme Court revolves around whether the city of Chicago can ban its citizens from possessing guns. In this particular case, an elderly man has a shotgun for protection from gangs in his neighborhood. The city of Chicago says he cannot possess the gun because its dangerous. He contends that the Second Amendment guarantees his individual right to bear arms. Gun rights advocates agree that the
Bill of Rights guarantees an individual's right to bear arms. They say this makes society safer because people can protect themselves from criminals if they have their own guns. Those on the other side say that allowing citizens to carry guns only makes everyone more unsafe, because people might use them if they get angry or they might go off by accident or a child could get hold of them, etc.
The Court has never addressed this issue in its over 200 years of existence. In 2008, the Court did make a ruling that favored the individual rights interpretation of the Second Amendment. In a case called District of Columbia v. Heller the Court ruled that local governments, in this case, the District of Columbia, could not pass total bans on gun ownership by citizens. This judgment did not make clear though if states could ban gun ownership, because Washington DC is not a state.
Through the "incorporation doctrine," the Court has applied most of the Bill of Rights to the states since the 60s. When the Founding Fathers made the Constitution and added the Bill of Rights, the restrictions against government were only intended to be directed at the Federal Government, not the states. So, while the Federal Government could not restrict speech, or assembly, or gun rights, the states could. Since the 60s though, the Courts have argued
that various Amendments must be incorporated against the states as well, normally using the 14th Amendment's Due Process Clause for justification. In this new Chicago case, the Court will finally determine whether or not the Second Amendment's restriction on the government from banning gun possession will be incorporated against the states.
On September 29, 2009, the Court announced it would finally rule on this issue. Will the Court declare gun bans by states or local governments unconstitutional, or will they find that gun bans are allowed? Some of the different factors include the following:
- What does the Second Amendment actually say! (duh!)
- Does allowing citizens to keep guns make society more dangerous, or does it make us safer?
- Should there be some restrictions on gun ownership, such as on mentally ill people or criminals?
- Does the 14th Amendment actually say that the other Amendments must be incorporated against the states, or only against the Federal Government?
This will be a momentous decision no matter how the Court decides. It will be a very interesting fight to watch!
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