District of Columbia v. Heller goes to the Supreme Court today, as a group of Washington, D.C. residents contend that the ban on operable firearms inside homes in the District of Columbia—including an outright ban on handguns not registered prior to 1976—violates the Second Amendment and is unconstitutional.
Robert A. Levy, co-counsel to Heller has an op-ed posted in today's Boston Globe that highlights the correct individual rights argument.
Predictably, the editorial board of the New York Times has an op-ed of their own against the individual rights perspective, which they seem to feel applies to the First Amendment, but not the Second.
They write, quote dishonestly:
Today the Supreme Court will hear arguments in a politically charged challenge to the District of Columbia's gun control laws. The case poses a vital question: can cities impose reasonable controls on guns to protect their citizens? The court should rule that they can.
The District of Columbia, which has one of the nation’s highest crime rates, banned private ownership of handguns. Rifles and shotguns were permitted, if kept disassembled or under an easily removed trigger lock. It is a reasonable law, far from the ban that some anti-gun-control advocates depict.
What is "reasonable" about a law that turns a homeowner into a felon the moment he takes a trigger lock off his firearm (including rifles or shotguns) and loads it during a home invasion to protect his family? The Times refuses to address the obvious unfairness of this law, and the fact that it completely precludes any legal armed self defense, even during the most violent of crimes.
As you might expect from the Times, they follow one deception with another.
The United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ruled that the law violates the Second Amendment, which states: "A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed." The decision broke with the great majority of federal courts that have examined the issue, including the Supreme Court in 1939. Those courts have held that the constitutional right to bear arms is tied to service in a militia, and is not an individual right.
The 1939 case in questions is of course, United States vs. Miller in which a pair of bootleggers were arrested for transporting a sawed-off shotgun in violation of the National Firearms Act of 1934, which required certain firearms to be registered and a $200 transfer tax be paid every time an NFA firearm was transferred. The two men were charged for not paying the $200 tax on the the shortened shotgun. Neither of the bootleggers nor their defense showed up for the Supreme Court case, as Miller had been killed by that time, and the other defendant, Layton, accepted a plea bargain.
In reality, Miller is a very murky ruling, having been cited by both gun control advocates and gun rights advocates alike. Far from being a pro-gun control case, Miller is inconclusive at best, which the Times dishonestly and purposefully overlooks.
The appeals court made two mistakes. First, it inflated the Second Amendment into a sweeping right to own guns, virtually without restriction or regulation. Defenders of gun rights argue that if the Supreme Court sticks with the interpretation of the Second Amendment that it sketched out in 1939, it will be eviscerating the right to own a gun, but that is not so. Americans have significant rights to own and carry guns, but the scope of those rights is set by federal, state and local laws.
The second mistake that the appeals court made — one that many supporters of gun rights may concede — was its unduly narrow view of what constitutes a "reasonable" law. The court insisted that its interpretation of the Second Amendment still leaves room for government to impose "reasonable" gun regulations. If so, it is hard to see why it rejected Washington's rules.
Again, only at the Times could they attempt support a law that completely outlaws the use of a firearm as a firearm as a "reasonable" restriction.
Perhaps if the District of Columbia ruled that their citizens had the right to own a printing press"or today, a computer printer"but required it to be kept disassembled or locked up, and made it illegal to either load it with paper or ink, then the Times might change their tune.
That, of course would require far more intellectual honesty than exists at the Times, and it seems that putting truly innocent people at risk to the whims of criminals does not weigh heavily on their souls.
Cross-posted to Confederate Yankee.