Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Supreme Court to hear Second Amendment case

The United States Supreme Court has agreed to debate the meaning of this sentence:

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 case involves a restrictive Washington, D.C. gun-control law struck down by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.

The Supreme Court has never directly addressed the basic meaning of that passage. When it last considered a Second Amendment case, in 1939, it addressed a somewhat peripheral question, holding that a sawed-off shotgun was not one of the “arms” that the Founding Fathers had in mind.

Today’s announcement that the justices would take the District of Columbia case was no surprise, given that the District of Columbia Circuit’s interpretation of the Second Amendment conflicts with the interpretation of nine other federal appeals courts, and differences between the circuits often steer issues to the high court.

But the argument, and the outcome, will be among the most eagerly awaited in years, with the stakes potentially very high for lawmakers and gun enthusiasts alike. Whichever way the justices rule, gun control is likely to remain a hot political issue, in the 2008 campaigns and beyond.
The GOP, desperately in search of a wedge issue for 2008, God and Gays (to say nothing of immigration) having failed to gain much traction so far, will certainly try to put Guns front and center.

The Republican candidates for president will undoubtedly jump on the assault-weapons-for-everybody bandwagon. They can't afford not to.

Democratic presidential hopefuls would be wise to commit themselves to accepting the wisdom of the high court on this issue. It doesn't mean that you want to see advanced weapons training for kindergarteners. It just means that the party that is campaigning on restoring the rule of American law is willing to defer to the court's constitutionally-appointed authority in interpreting our country's founding document, even if they happen to personally disagree with the result. That is, after all, what it means to live by the rule of law.

We are blessed to live in a nation that has a Supreme Court to arbitrate contentious issues, such as gun rights, when the opposing parties cannot reach common ground. A simple promise by the Democrats to accept and enforce the court's decision will suck the air out of any attempt by the GOP to bludgeon them with it.