August 2010

Down Range: August 2010

Dark Cloud Inside McDonald

It was certainly a day of days for gun owners. On Monday, June 28, around 10 a.m., the Supreme Court issued a ruling in the McDonald case, voting 5-4 that Chicago’s outright ban on gun

Todd Woodard

ownership was unconstitutional

Formally styled McDonald et al. v. City of Chicago, Illlinois, et al., No. 08–1521, the case follows the Supreme Court’s 2008 Heller decision that struck down a handgun ban within the District of Columbia. That decision found, for the first time, that the "right of the people to keep and bear arms" guaranteed by the Second Amendment applies to individuals outside the "well regulated militia" familiar to 18th-century Americans. Because the capital city is a federal enclave, the 2008 decision left open, as a formal matter at least, whether the same principle applied in the 50 states.

No more. In McDonald, Justice Samuel Alito wrote the majority opinion, saying, "It is clear that the framers and ratifiers of the 14th Amendment counted the right to keep and bear arms among those fundamental rights necessary to our system of ordered liberty." Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Antonin Scalia, Anthony Kennedy and Clarence Thomas joined all or part of the opinion.

Justice John Paul Stevens dissented, saying the majority should have left gun-control decisions to states and cities. "The elected branches have shown themselves to be perfectly capable of safeguarding the interest in keeping and bearing arms," he wrote. "Today’s decision invites an avalanche of litigation that could mire the federal courts in fine-grained determinations about which state and local regulations" survive.

Well, yes. And it’s high time those regulations were challenged, since many will be found unconstitutional. Dear Leader Obama was correct some years ago when he described the Constitution as a list of "negative liberties," that is, what the government cannot do to its citizens. For three decades now, Mayor Richard Daley’s Chicago fiefdom effectively prevented its citizens from exercising one of their most basic rights—self defense. In a just world, Daley would be impeached and tried for his policy of citizen disarmament, which certainly contributed to dozens, maybe hundreds, of deaths of his unarmed subjects.

Also, while gun owners are right to be cheered by the McDonald news, there is a very dark cloud in the ruling (and in Heller, too). Four justices dissented, Stevens by himself. The Breyer-Sotomayor-Ginsburg dissent urged that Heller be overruled and declared, "In sum, the Framers did not write the Second Amendment in order to protect a private right of armed self defense." Is it too difficult to comprehend that, if given the chance, the liberal wing of the Supreme Court will nullify Heller and McDonald?