Friday, June 27, 2008

Not High Noon

Now that SCOTUS has made its decision, which I believe is fundamentally a sound one, the question is will the State of Texas amend the concealed handgun bill to allow people to openly carry their weapons?

A recent non-scientific online survey by the San Antonio Express-News is running about 85% in favor of allowing handgun license holders to openly carry.

Justices say governments can't ban but can restrict handguns
Express-News and wire reports

WASHINGTON — A sharply divided Supreme Court ruled Thursday that the Constitution protects an individual's right to bear arms, while leaving room for governments to regulate gun ownership.

By 5-4, the court struck down the District of Columbia's strict gun ban as an infringement on fundamental rights. The court's historic ruling interprets the Second Amendment for the first time in nearly 70 years, foreshadowing new challenges to local, state and federal gun laws.

Writing for the court majority, Justice Antonin Scalia said the Constitution doesn't allow an “absolute prohibition of handguns held and used for self-defense in the home.”
However, Scalia made clear that the gun right “is not unlimited” and still can be restricted by cities and states.

Scalia didn't spell out the standards for acceptable gun control laws, but he gave some examples of what might be allowed.

For instance, Scalia said Thursday's ruling did not toss out laws barring felons and the mentally ill from owning firearms or measures barring people from carrying the weapons into schools and government buildings.

“Laws imposing conditions and qualifications on the commercial sale of arms” — such as waiting periods or age restrictions — also may be OK, Scalia wrote.

He suggested that measures prohibiting people from carrying “dangerous and unusual weapons” might also pass constitutional muster.

Scalia was joined by Chief Justice John Roberts and Associate Justices Clarence Thomas, Anthony Kennedy and Samuel Alito.

John Paul Stevens, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer and David Souter dissented.
The last time the high court ruled substantively on the issue of gun rights was in 1939, in a case that involved a requirement that short-barreled rifles and shotguns be registered with federal authorities.

Thursday's ruling, which was hailed by gun rights advocates, could make gun control laws in Chicago, New York and elsewhere more vulnerable to legal challenges.
Chicago has a statute similar to the District of Columbia that requires all firearms be registered with the local police, but doesn't allow for the registration of handguns — effectively banning them.

In his dissenting opinion, Stevens predicted the perimeters of the gun right will be defined in courts.

“The court's announcement ... leaves for future cases the formidable task of defining the scope of permissible regulations,” Stevens wrote.

The ruling was the first time the Supreme Court had explicitly ruled on the question of whether the Second Amendment right to “keep and bear” arms applies to individuals or only to states and militias.

The amendment, ratified in 1791, reads: “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms shall not be infringed.”
The often-strident national debate over gun control has diverged on the question of whether that language means that individuals have the right to own guns or whether that right was limited to members of state militias. Scalia's opinion answered that question squarely in favor of individual ownership.

The dissenting justices, led by Stevens, said the nation's founding fathers never meant the right to preserve individual gun ownership.

“There is no indication that the framers of the amendment intended to enshrine the common law right of self defense in the Constitution,” Stevens wrote for the four-justice minority.

Presumptive Republican presidential nominee John McCain said he applauded the decision.
The ruling, he said, “recognizes that gun ownership is a fundamental right — sacred, just as the right to free speech and assembly.”

Presumptive Democratic nominee Barack Obama had a more cautious view, saying he supported the decision that the Constitution “protects the right of individuals to bear arms.”
But Obama said he also identifies “with the need for crime-ravaged communities to save their children from the violence that plagues our streets through common-sense, effective safety measures.”

Texas Gov. Rick Perry issued a statement applauding the ruling.

“Texans have long held that it is a fundamental right of every law-abiding citizen to keep and bear arms,” Perry said. “Affirmation from our country's highest court should unquestionably cement this right for future generations of Texans and Americans.”

Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas, filed a friend-of-the-court brief arguing that the right to bear arms was an individual right, not a collective right under the term “militia.”