Berkeley's Conservative Voice

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Chicago, the Supreme Court is on the line...

About three years ago, back in the good old days of high school, my United States History teacher tasked each student in the class with a unique term paper on the topic of their choice. Given my family's immersion in "the gun culture", I thought it would be exciting to study Second Amendment case law, which was interesting primarily because by and large it didn't exist. The last time the Supreme Court had touched gun rights was about 70 years prior, and the decision itself was more remarkable for what it didn't say than what it did. I didn't see that trend changing any time soon, and remarked to my teacher that the 2008 case Parker v. District of Columbia would never see the Supreme Court.

Ah, the things kids say.

In 2008, the Court did hear that case (renamed Heller v. DC) and affirmed that the right to keep and bear arms was an individual right, not a "collective" one - meaning that, like all rights, the moral sanction on the ownership and use of arms for self-defense, recreation, hunting, and other purposes was vested in individuals, not in broad groups like "the militia" (which, tragically, no longer exists).

The Supreme Court has since gone further and "incorporated" the Second Amendment in the recent case McDonald v. Chicago. Under "incorporation", State and local governments are prohibited from violating provisions in the Federal Constitution. That means that the Second Amendment is no longer a second-class right; it cannot be dismissed on hazy "public welfare" grounds or ignored outright by States and municipal governments. Perhaps the most interesting thing about the case is that it was not the usual 5-4 with Kennedy as the swing vote. This time, Clarence Thomas was the critical vote. The distinction between him and the rest of the pro-liberty bloc of the decision was Thomas' argument that the Second Amendment should be incorporated by the "Privileges and Immunities" clause rather than the "Due Process" clause favored by the other four. The former would declare that the ownership and use of firearms is a fundamental right of all Americans, firmly rooted in our way of life and our legal tradition.

Apparently, Chicago didn't get the message. reports that the city has voted 45-0 to instate a new gun ban. In classic Chicago style, the city is desperately looking for a way to ignore the law and foist their own vision for the city's residents onto the newly enfranchised population: "...we're struggling to figure out a way in which we can limit the guns on our streets and still meet the test that our Supreme Court has set for us." The ban would prohibit gun owners from even stepping out of their homes and require that they wade through red tape - including taking training courses that are not even available! - and create a registry of city gun owners for potential future confiscation or police harassment.

Despite the City's rather predictable violation of the Court's judgment, it is still rather heartening to see gun rights, the palladium of liberty, finally elevated to their proper place in Constitutional law, and humbling to think that the case that the Court would never touch has already grown into one of the greatest triumphs for liberty in modern history.

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