The Supreme Court and gun control

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.

5 Responses to The Supreme Court and gun control

  1. kad barma says:

    I very much like the idea of licensing firearms based on mandatory training and safety instruction, as well as demonstrated competence–and re-evaluating that competence on a regular basis. (For the record, I also think we are LONG overdue for laws that require the re-evaluation of driving competence in order to maintain a drivers license). The problem is not responsible gun ownership, it’s irresponsible gun ownership. No faster way to a solution than writing our laws on that basis, instead of mere possession.

  2. Shawn says:

    I very much like the idea of licensing “commenting on blogs” based on mandatory training and safety instructions, as wel as demonstrated competence– and re-evaluating that competence on a regular basis.


    A fundamental right should not be controlled in such a way, if you let them control one, they can control all.

    Recommended training? of course, but to have the government set the definition of “competence” to be able to execute your rightful behaviors?

    I think we had that for almost 100 years in the south with regard to voting rights, didn’t we?

    Guns are used safely every day in much greater percentages to prevent crime than to cause it.

    Accidents occur.. thats true also of cars (a priviledge, not a right), as well as walking down the street.

    I taught marksmanship and gun use to children for years at a camp and always believed that a kid with a gun in his hands was in a much safer situation than a kid on the raft on the lake. He automatically treated that gun with respect, but not the risks involved with swimming.

  3. Shawn says:

    oh.. sorry to continue.. Dick, I agree with the limits with regard to mental illness and felony conviction, but not with “charged with domestic violence.”

    Until found guilty, someone should not have their rights limitied. Too many use the making of “charges” as a way to limit others rights. And many lawyers use that one automatically in preparing for divorces.

  4. DickH says:

    While it may not be specifically enumerated in the Constitution, I think that document also gives me a fundamental right to be free from some incompetent gun owner having an accidental discharge in my direction. That he might be punished afterwards would be of little consolation. I just want to raise the odds that it doesn’t happen in the first place and I don’t think that safe firearms handling practices can be obtained by watching 20 hours of police shows on TV each week.

  5. Dean says:

    Does this mean that one will not need a pistol permit to obtain a pistol or rifle in Massachusetts.