The Great Gun Decision

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Today’s Supreme Court decision on guns not only has a great outcome, its reasoning is for the most part exceptionally sound, too. It notes that the Second Amendment does not grant the right to keep and bear arms, or any right at all — it just stops Congress from infringing a “fundamental right” you already had according to “libertarian political principles.”

Justice Scalia wrote the majority opinion, and my initial assessment, at least, is that it’s a masterpiece. It’s a shame he squandered so much credibility with his awful, dishonest dissent in the habeas case earlier this month.

Because the gun opinion only addresses the specific controversy before the court, it doesn’t address a lot of questions many will have. It doesn’t address whether gun licensing and registration is constitutional. It doesn’t address the criteria under which the government could deprive you of your right to bear arms — although it seems to suggest that restrictions might only be applied to the likes of felons and the mentally ill. And, most significantly, it doesn’t address the constitutionality of state and local governments’ gun bans.

Next look for lawsuits trying to apply the Second Amendment to the states through the Fourteenth Amendment to end gun bans in cities like Chicago — a dubious theory, perhaps, but an outcome that wouldn’t trouble me too much — and arguments that state constitutional provisions protecting gun rights should be interpreted in the same way.

9:51 am on June 26, 2008