Today’s decision of the United States Supreme Court in McDonald v Chicago came as no surprise. This case involved a citizen’s challenge of what he considered an overly restrictive gun control law in the city of Chicago. Two years ago, the US Supreme Court clarified the long-ambiguous 2nd Amendment to the US Constitution, holding in District of Columbia v Heller that the right to “keep and bear arms” was an individual right and not limited to service in the militia. Today’s decision held that the 2nd Amendment right announced in Heller also applied not just to Federal, but to state and local gun control laws as well. The case was remanded back to the trial court to determine whether the Chicago law violated the 2nd Amendment. Since no one argues that the Chicago law does not violate the 2nd Amendment (it’s universally acknowledged that it does), the trial court’s subsequent decision will be somewhat anti-climatic.
As it also did in Heller, the Court’s majority in McDonald specifically stated that neither decision should be read to invalidate all gun laws, ensuring that the hitherto obscure 2nd Amendment will serve as the “lawyers full employment act” of the second decade of the Twenty-First Century as existing and new laws are challenged in the courts. I’ve long been ambivalent about the 2nd Amendment. While I would have preferred the Heller case to have gone the other way (i.e., not raising gun ownership to a fundamental Constitutional right), I have no criticism of the court’s decision in that case.
My interest lies in what limits on gun control will pass Constitutional muster. Clearly keeping a gun in your home for self-defense is OK, but only for some. For example, those treated for mental illness, charged with domestic assault or convicted of a felony should forfeit that right. I also think that law abiding citizens who wish to own a gun should first be required to take and pass a gun safety test. You must pass such a test before being licensed to drive a car, why not to own a gun? Same goes for registering the gun with the police. I know there’s a fringe element that insists such registration “will only make it easier for the authorities to round up the guns”, but reasonable people will understand that when a police officer is dispatched to a home, he or she should arrive knowing whether or not there’s a gun registered at that address. Another issue is re-licensing: When I was in the Army, we had to “qualify” with our weapons annually. I think that would be a reasonable requirement for civilian gun ownership, as well.
The above are just some random suggestions. There are undoubtedly other restrictions that are worthy of discussion. Of course, all of this assumes reason will be applied to this issue which I know is a dangerous assumption to make.