GUN USA Today: Do you have a legal right to own a gun?

Discussion in 'On Topic' started by houseofdon, Feb 28, 2008.

  1. houseofdon

    houseofdon Simplify Moderator

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    Cover story from today's USA Today
    http://www.usatoday.com/printedition/news/20080227/1a_cover27x_dom.art.htm

    Do you have a legal right to own a gun?
    It's been a divisive issue for decades. Finally, the Supreme Court weighs in.

    By Joan Biskupic
    USA TODAY

    WASHINGTON � Guns, and questions about how much power the government has to keep people from owning them, are at the core of one of the most divisive topics in American politics.

    Nowhere is that divide more pronounced than in the gap between Americans' beliefs about their rights under the Second Amendment, and how courts have interpreted the law.

    Nearly three out of four Americans � 73% � believe the Second Amendment spells out an individual right to own a firearm, according to a USA TODAY/Gallup Poll of 1,016 adults taken Feb. 8-10.

    Yet for decades, federal judges have seen the Constitution differently, allowing a range of gun-control measures imposed by governments seeking to curb gun violence.

    Lower court judges overwhelmingly have ruled that the right "to keep and bear arms" isn't for individuals, but instead applies to state militias, such as National Guard units. The U.S. Supreme Court repeatedly declined to hear appeals of those rulings, fueling the debate over gun control and tension between the law and public opinion.

    Now, in a benchmark case that arises against a backdrop of election-year politics, the high court will take its first definitive look at the Second Amendment. However the nine justices rule in the case, their decision will reshape the national debate over guns, a conflict that pits images of America's history of frontier liberty against concerns about public safety.

    "A Supreme Court decision has a moral, political and cultural meaning as well as a legal meaning," says Temple University law professor David Kairys, who has long been in the thick of the debate over gun rights and firearms violence as a defender of gun restrictions. "I think it is going to have a huge impact."

    The case tests the constitutionality of a handgun ban in Washington, D.C., where in 1976 officials imposed one of the nation's strictest gun-control laws in response to alarming levels of gun violence. The justices will hear arguments on March 18; a ruling is likely by the end of June.

    If the court decides there is an individual right to bear arms, it will be a huge victory for gun-rights advocates. It would reverse years of legal precedent and embolden politicians and groups such as the National Rifle Association (NRA) that have touted gun rights. It also likely would discourage new gun regulations and inspire challenges to other gun restrictions.

    The possibility that the D.C. dispute could jeopardize a range of federal firearms laws � including those banning individuals from owning machine guns and those establishing rules for transporting weapons � has led the Bush administration to take a step back from its strong support of gun rights.

    In 2001, the administration reversed decades of Justice Department positions when then-attorney general John Ashcroft said the Second Amendment did cover an individual right to have guns.

    Now, with the D.C. case before the Supreme Court, the administration isn't taking such a hard line on an individual right to own and use guns, a stance pushed by the NRA and its allies. Instead, the White House is urging the justices to adopt a legal standard that would protect an individual right to own guns but protect federal firearms laws.

    University of Texas law professor Sanford Levinson, who believes the Second Amendment provides a right to individual ownership, says the government's new position might be easier for the court to adopt.

    Many legal analysts predict that the court led by conservative Chief Justice John Roberts is ready to declare some individual right to own guns. Moderate conservative Justice Anthony Kennedy could be a key vote on the issue, as he has been for the past two years on the divided court.

    "My assumption is that there are at least five votes for the proposition that the Second Amendment protects an individual right," says Yale University law professor Jack Balkin. "But just because you say there is an individual right, you haven't resolved the case. … Is it an individual right to keep and bear arms that might be useful in militia service, a right to keep and bear arms that might be useful for self-defense, or both?"

    Gun control was a recurring issue in the 1990s and deeply divided Democrats and Republicans, as Democrats typically favored strict controls on guns and Republicans stressed that people would be safer if they were allowed to arm themselves.

    That has changed somewhat. The Democratic and GOP candidates for president have differences on gun control, but Democrats are trying to appeal to those on each side of the debate. That's likely a reflection of Democratic leaders' attempts to move their party's stance on guns closer to that of most voters.

    Neither Hillary Clinton nor Barack Obama has focused on gun control in their campaigns for the Democratic nomination. When asked specifically about it in public forums, they voice modest support for new regulations and quickly add that the Second Amendment protects people's gun rights.

    "The Clinton and Obama campaigns know the public opinion data on the issue well," says Karlyn Bowman, a senior fellow specializing in public opinion polls at the American Enterprise Institute. "Opinion is complex, but the right to be able to own a gun seems to be firmly held, and I think that's why both candidates say what they say."

    At a debate in January, Clinton acknowledged that she had dropped her support for the licensing of new gun owners and registration of new guns, which she advocated in 2000 when she ran for the U.S. Senate in New York. She endorsed reinstating an assault-weapons ban, then added: "I believe in the Second Amendment. People have a right to bear arms. But I also believe that we can common-sensically approach this."

    Obama also said he no longer supported broad licensing and registering of firearms, as he did when he was in the Illinois Senate. "We essentially have two realities when it comes to guns in this country. You've got the tradition of lawful gun ownership. … And it is very important for many Americans to be able to hunt, fish, take their kids out, teach them how to shoot," he said. "And then you've got the reality of public school students who get shot down on the streets of Chicago."

    Republican frontrunner Sen. John McCain has needed no such finessing of the issue.

    He joined a congressional "friend of the court" brief in the D.C. case that vigorously endorses an individual right to have guns.

    The Second Amendment says, "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." Until recently, judges seized on the first part, the collective "militia" right, rather than the second clause, "the right of the people."

    The last time the Supreme Court took up a major gun-rights case was in 1939. That dispute, United States v. Miller, involved two men who were caught transporting an illegal sawed-off shotgun across state lines. The court did not directly address the scope of the Second Amendment. Yet its decision rested on the notion that the Second Amendment protects a collective right to firearms, not an individual right.

    In the years since, most lower federal courts interpreted the Miller decision to mean there was no individual right to have firearms.

    Last year, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia set the stage for the high court to weigh in when it ruled that the Second Amendment "protects an individual right to keep and bear arms … for such activities as hunting and self-defense." The appeals court invalidated D.C.'s ban on handguns in the home.

    Attorneys for Dick Anthony Heller, a security guard who wanted to keep a handgun in his Washington home for self-defense and who helped start the case, urged the justices to affirm that decision.

    Heller's attorneys note that in America's early days, colonists were bitter about the British king's disarmament of the English population. The attorneys say "the Second Amendment's text thus … confirms the people's right to arms."

    Lawyers for the D.C. government echo lower courts that have rejected such a notion: "The text and history of the Second Amendment conclusively refute the notion that it entitles individuals to have guns for their own private purposes."

    D.C. officials say they banned handguns because such weapons "are disproportionately linked to violent and deadly crime."

    The Bush administration's shifting stance on gun control has added political drama to the case.

    Ashcroft's position seven years ago made him a hero to the 4 million-member NRA, which put him on the cover of its monthly magazine and called him a "breath of fresh air to freedom-loving gun owners."

    The next year, in 2002, Justice Department lawyers said that any government regulation of gun rights should be subject to the highest level of judicial scrutiny, which would make it harder to enact gun laws.

    Now, the Bush administration is siding with Heller in a "friend of the court" brief � but with a large caveat. Justice Department lawyers have backed off their earlier position and now say gun regulation should be subjected to a lesser level of scrutiny that would allow far more regulation than the 2002 stance.

    The reason is explained in the first line of the administration's court brief: "Congress has enacted numerous laws regulating firearms." Current laws ban private ownership of machine guns and limit possession of firearms that can go undetected by metal detectors or X-ray machines. Laws also regulate the manufacture, sale and importation of firearms.

    Vice President Cheney, a hunting enthusiast, broke with the administration and signed a brief with a majority of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives urging a high threshold for gun regulation.

    Levinson believes the Justice Department's stance could appeal to most of the high court as well as the public. "I think laws that pass with genuine public support are likely to be upheld," he says.

    Kairys, who has helped cities sue gunmakers for the costs of firearms violence, says gun-control laws could be hurt by any court finding of an individual right. If the court does that, he says, "It's going to be very hard to get any (gun control) legislation passed."

    Adds Balkin, "There is no reason to believe the court's decision will defuse the battle over guns. The court rarely has the last word in major social controversies. If the court rules for D.C., there will be continuing agitation by gun-rights advocates. If the court rules against D.C., there will be new waves of litigation" over what the ruling means.
     
  2. houseofdon

    houseofdon Simplify Moderator

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    IBallthatshitbyyou.jpg
     
  3. Jumpem

    Jumpem OT Supporter

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    Saw that at work. :hs:
     
  4. [DWI]

    [DWI] Master of Nothing

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    saw it linked on fark earlier, but the idiot said that today was decision day.
     
  5. sprite

    sprite Active Member

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    Email to USA Today: "Do you have a legal right to publish a newspaper?"
     
  6. Fairwind44

    Fairwind44 New Member

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    :hsugh:
     
  7. Pineapple Devil

    Pineapple Devil beat it!

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    no cliffs or bolded important parts?
     
  8. blindarrow

    blindarrow New Member

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    Cliffs are it seemed fairly balanced.. did mention that a majority of American's believe it's an individual right.

    All in all just dumbing it all down for the masses.
     
  9. critter783

    critter783 OT Supporter

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    You know, its funny that the phrase "the right of the people" is interpreted in the First Amendment to mean "all citizens," but some people want to interpret the very same phrase completely differently in the VERY NEXT amendment.
     
  10. P07r0457

    P07r0457 New Member

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    ya.

    they also seem to forget that once upon a time we had to revolt against an over-oppressive government.... And they want to protect that right. The official branches of the military are part of that government -- so that protection needs to extend to normal civilians to ensure we remain free.
     
  11. PumpScout

    PumpScout New Member

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    "Is it an individual right to keep and bear arms that might be useful in militia service, a right to keep and bear arms that might be useful for self-defense, or both?"

    Does that mean we might have the right to keep and bear an RPG?

    I kind of stopped reading a little past that. It's been a long day, and the article was making my head spin.
     
  12. critter783

    critter783 OT Supporter

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    It's also funny how people freak out in general at the mention of guns. Just today, I was in a meeting at the university I work at. We were discussing a silent-alarm solution for professors to notify campus police of a campus-shooter type situation, and I mentioned that repealing the restriction on CCW on the university's campus would be a great way to address the problem. The horrified looks and snide comments I drew were pretty disheartening. No one had any argument when I asked them to imagine how grateful the students would be if someone ended a shooting spree with a concealed handgun, as opposed to waiting for campus police to respond, which we were told was an average of 15 minutes to most buildings on campus.
     
  13. RonJeremey

    RonJeremey OT Supporter

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    individual right.
     
  14. RonJeremey

    RonJeremey OT Supporter

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    Yes. Because some day, someone in an armored vehicle, or tank, or semi-truck may try to harm you, and you have the right to be prepared for that, even if it is mostly unnecessary.

    I would personally love to see the import ban lifted.
     
  15. Keesh

    Keesh New Member

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    Man, the Killdozer guy made himself a tank and fucked up everybody's shit. A couple RPGs would be been a godsend.
     
  16. Tdizzle

    Tdizzle New Member

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    The constitution doesn't give you the right to bear arms, it simply states that congress cannot interfere with that preexisting right to do so
     
  17. w1ndsurfer

    w1ndsurfer Member

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    True. It guarantees the right. Semantics, but people don't realize the authors of that amendment recognized firearm ownership as a universal right; they wanted the Constitution to protect that right.
     
  18. MTech

    MTech New Member

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    not true, they try and mess with our freedom of speech as well... Tipper Gore anyone?

    and the what gun you can and can't have is such bullshit.. do you see anything regulating what guns people can have in the constitution? No. Gun=Gun.
     
  19. Slick26

    Slick26 Gun|Bike|Cigar|PS3|Beer |Whisky|Night Crew

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    Duh. :ugh: I swear these people are fucking brain dead.
     
  20. footratfunkface

    footratfunkface New Member

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    It's not a LEGAL right, it's a birthright. It's a right ingrained in every person around the world who has not demonstrated themselves unable to responsibly exercise such a right. Call it God-given, or whatever, but it's NOT a legal right. That implies that there is some sort of law providing the right. There are no laws giving rights. There are Constitutional Amendments PROTECTING them, and there are laws and case laws infringing upon or further upholding the amendments.
     
  21. Burmonster

    Burmonster OT Supporter

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    Wat?
     
  22. Jurisbot Esq.

    Jurisbot Esq. Don't blame me I voted for Ron Paul. OT Supporter

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    :bowdown:

    Constitionally protected rights, not Constitutional rights.
     
  23. Keesh

    Keesh New Member

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    Don't worry, they cost more than you make in a month.
     
  24. Emfuser

    Emfuser Nuclear Moderator Super Moderator

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    From: http://www.haloboyle.com/2004/07/pens_and_swords.html

    Let’s imagine the First Amendment were treated like the Second.

    The manufacture and import of printing equipment would be heavily regulated. All books would have a serial number. To go into the book business you would have to have a federal license. It would be a felony to sell a book if you didn’t have a license. Everyone who bought a book from a federally licensed dealer would have to fill out a form giving his name, address, personal information and the serial number of the book. You would have to submit to a criminal background check. You would have to wait five days to take possession of your book.

    To buy big, heavy books (unless you were a government agent) you would have to pay a $200 tax, get fingerprinted and photographed, have your local sheriff approve your application and then wait months to receive the paperwork back from the Bureau of Ink, Paper and Binding. If you failed to pay the tax or properly complete the application and you had a big book in your possession, you would be guilty of a felony punishable by ten years in prison and a fine of $10,000.

    It would be a felony (unless you work for the government) to own books that were not printed on a certain kind of paper. It would be a felony (unless you were a government agent) to own books that didn’t look a certain way, or that were too big or too small. In certain states you would be forbidden to buy more than a single book in a month. If you stored your books where your children could reach them you could lose your kids and go to prison.

    It would be commonplace for government enforcement agents to break into people’s homes, confiscate their property and send them to prison for “conspiracy to violate the federal book laws.” It would not be unheard of for government agents to plant banned books in people’s homes then stage a raid and shoot the people dead and burn the property to the ground.
     
  25. Burmonster

    Burmonster OT Supporter

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    Punk pulled a Glock 7 on me :noes:
     

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