Thursday, June 26, 2008

Supreme Court Rules 2nd Amendment Right an Individual Right but Not an Unlimited Right

In a landmark decision today the Supreme Court ruled that the Second Amendment grants an individual right to keep and bear arms. District of Columbia v. Heller struck down the District of Columbia’s handgun ban but also made it clear that the Constitution allows for reasonable restrictions on access to firearms.

“Today the Supreme Court took away the single biggest excuse for not passing tough gun laws to keep guns out of the hands of criminals and dangerous individuals,” said Cathie Whittenburg, Director of New England Coalition to Prevent Gun Violence (NECPGV). “The ‘slippery slope’ argument is gone.”

The gun lobby has long argued that common sense restrictions on guns are, in fact, nothing more than initial steps down a “slippery slope” that leads to a general gun ban. By holding that the Second Amendment prohibits the D.C. handgun ban, the Supreme Court has assured gun owners that there is no such “slippery slope”.

In affirming the ability to restrict the sale and possession of firearms the Court ruled:

Like most rights, the Second Amendment right is not unlimited. It is not a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose. The Court’s opinion should not be taken to cast doubt on longstanding prohibitions on the possession of firearms by felons and the mentally ill, or laws forbidding the carrying of firearms in sensitive places such as schools and government buildings, or laws imposing conditions and qualifications on the commercial sale of arms.

The Court also noted that “The Constitution leaves the District of Columbia a variety of tools” for combating the problem of handgun violence, including the current firearm licensing requirement and “some measures regulating handguns.”

“While we are disappointed with today’s ruling and disagree with the individual right interpretation NECPGV will continue to push for reasonable, common sense gun violence prevention laws,” said Whittenburg.

NECPGV advocates for laws that require background checks on all gun purchases; limiting handgun purchases to one per month; require gun owners to report lost or stolen firearms to law enforcement officials; crack down on illegal guns and gun trafficking; and regulate military-style assault weapons and .50 caliber sniper rifles.