Gun Control Groups Divided on High Court Ruling

Published on
by
Inter Press Service

Gun Control Groups Divided on High Court Ruling

by
Eli Clifton

WASHINGTON - Monday's Supreme
Court decision on the extent to which the Second Amendment of the U.S.
constitution guarantees the universal right to own a gun is being
welcomed by organizations on both sides of the debate, even as some
warn that the ruling could to open a floodgate of legislation
challenging gun laws in different states.

"It is clear that the
Framers [of the constitution]...counted the right to keep and bear arms
among those fundamental rights necessary to our system of ordered
liberty," wrote Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr.

The Supreme Court decided in the case of McDonald v. Chicago that Chicago's 28-year-old ban on handguns was unconstitutional.

The
Supreme Court's five-to-four decision, which came on the last day of
its term, ruled that the Second Amendment provides all citizens a right
to bear arms but leaves the door open for certain local and state laws
which restrict who can possess handguns and where handguns can be taken.

"We
repeat those assurances here," Alito wrote. "Despite municipal
respondents' doomsday proclamations, [the decision] does not imperil
every law regulating firearms."

Also voting in the majority
were Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Justices Antonin Scalia,
Anthony M. Kennedy and Clarence Thomas.

Justices Stephen G. Breyer, John Paul Stevens, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor cast the four dissenting votes.

"Given
the empirical and local value-laden nature of the questions that lie at
the heart of the issue, why, in a nation whose constitution foresees
democratic decision- making, is it so fundamental a matter as to
require taking that power from the people?" Breyer wrote. "What is it
here that the people did not know? What is it that a judge knows
better?"

Stevens read his own dissent from the bench, in which
he took issue with the majority's decision that gun ownership is a
fundamental right.

The decision does not explicitly strike down
Chicago's handgun ban but it does move the ban's opponents one step
closer to overturning the law.

The National Rifle Association
(NRA), the biggest pro-gun rights organization in the U.S., and the
Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, an organization which has
called for stricter legislation to prevent gun violence, both
celebrated the ruling.

NRA Executive Vice President Wayne
LaPierre welcomed the decision, saying, "The Supreme Court said what a
majority of the American public believes. The people who wrote the
Second Amendment said it was an individual right, and the Court has now
confirmed what our founding fathers wrote and intended. The Second
Amendment - as every citizen's constitutional right - is now a real
part of American Constitutional law."

But LaPierre also warned
that the court's decision could result in a "practical defeat by
activist judges, defiant city councils, or cynical politicians who seek
to pervert, reverse, or nullify the Supreme Court's McDonald decision
through Byzantine labyrinths of restrictions and regulations that
render the Second Amendment inaccessible, unaffordable, or otherwise
impossible to experience in a practical, reasonable way."

Paul Helmke, president of the Brady Campaign, also responded favorably to the decision.

"We
are pleased that the Court reaffirmed its language in District of
Columbia v. Heller that the Second Amendment individual right to
possess guns in the home for self-defense does not prevent our elected
representatives from enacting common-sense gun laws to protect our
communities from gun violence," wrote Helmke.

He continued, "We
are reassured that the Court has rejected, once again, the gun lobby
argument that its 'any gun, for anybody, anywhere' agenda is protected
by the Constitution. The Court again recognized that the Second
Amendment allows for reasonable restrictions on firearms, including who
can have them and under what conditions, where they can be taken, and
what types of firearms are available."

Helmke also emphasized
that the ruling would not prevent the city of Chicago from amending its
gun laws to comply with the ruling and continue "to have strong,
comprehensive and Constitutional gun laws".

While the Brady
Campaign downplayed the effects of the court's ruling on gun
regulation, the Violence Policy Center (VPC), a group which addresses
gun violence as a public health issue, saw the Supreme Court's decision
as a major blow to their attempts to curb handgun violence.

"People
will die because of this decision. It is a victory only for the gun
lobby and America's fading firearms industry. The inevitable tide of
frivolous pro-gun litigation destined to follow will force cities,
counties, and states to expend scarce resources to defend longstanding,
effective public safety laws," said a statement from the VPC.

The
statement continued, "The gun lobby and gunmakers are seeking nothing
less than the complete dismantling of our nation's gun laws in a
cynical effort to try and stem the long-term drop in gun ownership and
save the dwindling gun industry. The 30,000 lives claimed annually by
gun violence and the families destroyed in the wake of mass shootings
and murder-suicides mean little to the gun lobby and the firearm
manufacturers it protects."

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