At first blush, today’s Supreme Court decision recognizing the right to own handguns sounds good. Bear in mind, however, that it is a familiar practice for courts to announce a seemingly far-reaching opinion, only to begin back-tracking in subsequent cases. It would not surprise me to see a case come up involving a ban on assault weapons, with the court upholding the prohibition by distinguishing today’s decision from the later one. When complaints are leveled against the court, the response would be made that the the 2nd Amendment was upheld in the D.C. case – as to handguns – thus creating the impression that the right to gun ownership was being respected, thus defusing the opposition to gun-control laws.
One sees this tactic in free speech cases. Flag-burning is a protected 1st Amendment right – largely because burning a flag represents no significant threat to the state – but picketing a munitions plant, in wartime, urging workers to not work, is not a form of protected speech. The same pattern emerges: liberty is always given a narrow interpretation by the state, while governmental powers are always given an expansive definition.10:33 am on June 26, 2008 Email Butler Shaffer