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Supreme Court Affirms that Gun Ownership is a Fundamental Civil Right

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In a ruling even more definitive than 2008's Heller vs. US case, the Supreme Court has struck down Chicago's long-time ban on private ownership of handguns in a wide-reaching decision which decisively settles the issue of whether the Second Amendment is a universal protection of individual rights against infringement by state and local governments.

The decision was made on the basis of the due process clause of the 14th Amendment, which extends the protections of the Bill of Rights to all citizens and against infringement by all levels of government. There has been an ongoing push to treat the 2nd Amendment as different from the other parts of the Bill of Rights, as applying to states or militias rather than individuals. This ruling may finally put that skewed viewpoint to rest.

Once again, the justices made the constitutional position on this issue absolutely clear, writing:

"Self-defense is a basic right, recognized by many legal systems from ancient times to the present…The need for defense of self, family and property is most acute in the home…this right applies to handguns because they are 'the most preferred firearm in the nation to "keep" and use for protection of one's home and family."

Meanwhile, Chicago's government continues to labor under the delusion that taking away gun rights can magically make people safer and Mayor Daley announced that his administration is "working to rewrite our ordinance in a reasonable and responsible way to protect Second Amendment rights and protect Chicagoans from gun violence." They may move to restrict gun rights instead of an outright ban, falling back on draconian licensing rules and restrictions of the buying and selling of guns, guaranteeing more business for the Supreme Court in the future.

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About Dave Nalle

  • http://viclana.blogspot.com/ Victor Lana

    It seems as if the Supreme Court has this issue pretty much settled, but maybe not if the localities try to play around with semantics.

    Dave, I wonder if you know how statistics come into play in cities like Chicago and Washington, DC where handguns are basically banned. Is there any proof that these bans drive down crime?

    I suppose statistics from countries like England and Australia where there are also very strict gun laws might be helpful, but as of now I haven’t seen this kind of thing. Just wondering.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Victor –

    Google the stats. Dig for them. They’re there.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Dave –

    I just wanted to ask you a few questions (again): Can you name any modern first-world democracy where gun ownership is as deregulated as you think it should be? What countries are there where gun ownership IS as deregulated as you think it should be?

  • http://marksaleski.com Mark Saleski

    i agree with the decision. however, i’m embarrassed that blogcritics has a feature called “news flash” that appears to be nothing but a string of opinion pieces.

  • http://www.republicofdave.com Dave Nalle

    Victor, the book linked to with this article is by Prof. John Lott (currently of UMD). He’s the foremost expert on statistical analysis of gun crimes and is an economist and econometricist.

    He has found that there is a direct correlation between gun ownership and especially in concealed carry permitting and a decline in crime, especially violent crime and property crime. His work has been supported by multiple additional studies.

    Glenn, to answer your question, no country has a combination of freedom of gun ownership and general individual liberty with which I am completely satisfied, but Switzerland is the classic example of a society with nearly universal ownership of firearms and a correspondingly tiny crime rate.

    But remember, statistical correlation is not proof of causation, and no matter how much statistical evidence there is, it’s almost impossible to prove that gun ownership prevents crime to the satisfaction of those who don’t like statistics they disagree with.

    Dave

  • http://www.maskedmoviesnobs.com El Bicho

    If both cases were 5-4 decisions how is one more decisive than the other?

  • http://www.republicofdave.com Dave Nalle

    Mark. Is this decision timely news? Is the article 300 words or less?

    Those are the qualifications for a Newsflash last I checked.

    Dave

  • Jordan Richardson

    So a Newsflash can be an opinion piece as long as it’s short and timely? Neat!

  • Arch Conservative

    Shoot’em if you got’em.

  • Deano

    As the Swiss example have been raised yet again I will point out yet again that Switzerland is NOT “the classic example”

    Gun ownership in question is not “private gun ownership” but rather the military obligation to maintain a personal weapon requirement, a requirement directly related to service in the militia.

    Each such individual is required to keep his army-issued personal weapon at home with a specified quantity of government-issued ammunition (50 rounds), which is sealed and inspected regularly to ensure that no unauthorized use takes place.

    It is a unique environment that has no real comparative value when looking at personal handgun ownership in the United States.

  • John Lake

    Making gun ownership more difficult for criminals and “gang-bangers” will most definitely make the streets and alleys here in Chicago safer for all Chicagoans.
    I tried to make some points in my article here, which just came out late last night.

    Gunfire in Chicago

    The Court is more determined than ever to perpetuate the thinking of the founding fathers, even in cases where that thinking was from another world, another time.

    I might also suggest that Prof. Lott has an agenda of his own to consider.

  • http://blogcritics.org/writers/dr-dreadful/ Dr Dreadful

    Once again, both sides can produce any number of statistics to show that ready access to guns either prevents or exacerbates crime.

    What’s inescapable is that the US has a level of gun crime that’s ridiculously higher than any other developed nation.

    I’m not sure, though, that it follows from this that widespread private gun ownership is the cause. It’s more the “gun culture” which has evolved from that 2nd Amendment guarantee.

    100 years ago this wasn’t even a debate. A gun was simply a tool, a household item, as commonplace and mundane as a shovel or a storm lantern. Now, all too often, it’s seen as a way to exert power.

    Until you can get away from the “guns are cool and can solve any problem” mentality, the crime levels will continue to be high.

  • John Wilson

    I guess the Roberts court found it easy to crank out a 5-4 decision (after conveniently excising that “militia” stuff that might have gotten in the way), even though Nominee Roberts made a big point of getting away from close partisan decisions and working toward 9-0 decisions. Oh well, that was just campaign talk, I guess.

  • Baronius

    John, I don’t remember Roberts saying that in his hearings. (That’s not an accusation; I wasn’t paying attention to them.) If he did, he was being foolish. But anyway, how could a Chief Justice accomplish that? I can only think of three ways: hearing more easy cases, making more narrow rulings, and horse trading. There’s no virtue in any of those things.

  • http://www.republicofdave.com Dave Nalle

    Gun ownership in question is not “private gun ownership” but rather the military obligation to maintain a personal weapon requirement, a requirement directly related to service in the militia.

    You’re confusing two unrelated things. Yes, the Swiss are required to keep a gun for militia service, but they are also allowed to own their own handguns and hunting rifles and ammo for them. So they do, in fact, have widespread private gun ownership without much gun related violence.

    Other countries like Finland and Norway have few restrictions on gun ownership and again, very little crime.

  • http://www.republicofdave.com Dave Nalle

    Interesting. Some new information I found suggests that Austria actually has the most liberal gun laws in the developed world. Actually somewhat less restricted than gun ownership in the US. And again, very little gun crime.

  • http://marksaleski.com Mark Saleski

    And again, very little gun crime.

    and again, correlation is not causation.

  • Marcia Neil

    However, the number of armed-services discharges who operate motor vehicles as if they are potential artillery-gun mounts may contribute to the incidence of wife/spouse/’co-pilot’ episiotomies.

  • Baronius

    The statistics across countries get very confusing when you start looking at gun deaths. Peru has a similar murder rate to the US, but they’re very low in gun homicides. High suicide rates in Finland and Japan, but not with guns. It seems to be cultural.

  • Deano

    So Dave you won’t mind sharing your source for citing private (non-milita) gun ownership in Switzerland? By the way you failed to offer that minor point of differentiation (militia vs. privately held) when you claimed “near universal” gun ownership in Switzerland…

    Please let us know.

  • Chilperic

    I wonder how the gun haters can persist in their delusions about inanimate objects somehow magically causing violence. I think they must think the Toy Story movies are documentaries or something.

  • Chilperic

    And you don’t have to google the stats. They are all conveniently compiled on guncite.org

  • http://blogcritics.org/writers/dr-dreadful/ Dr Dreadful

    Austria actually has the most liberal gun laws in the developed world. Actually somewhat less restricted than gun ownership in the US. And again, very little gun crime.

    And yet the United States, also with very liberal gun laws, has extremely high levels of gun crime.

    Clearly there’s something else at work here besides ease of acquisition. So what is it?

  • Baronius

    Dread, I’m telling you, it’s cultural. Young fatherless males commit violence. No kids in Europe; no violence. Lots of kids in North and South America; lots of violence. The weapon of choice varies by availability.

  • http://blogcritics.org/writers/dr-dreadful/ Dr Dreadful

    Herr Baron, I’m going to give you the benefit of the doubt here and assume you’re not being flippant.

    You may be onto something: fatherhood (I’m told) does tend to mellow a chap. But the disparity in childbirth rates between Europe and the Americas isn’t nearly large enough to account for the far higher levels of gun violence on the left side of the pond.

    So while your theory may be part of the answer, there have to be some other things going on.

  • Baronius

    Not being flippant, Dread. There’s definitely a problem in our culture. I can tell you this, if you put a gun in my hand I wouldn’t shoot anyone with it, becaue there’s no one I want to kill. That’s part of being a reasonably rational human being who isn’t on drugs. Well, we’ve got a lot of people out there who don’t meet that bare mininum requirement of stability. Tight gun laws could in theory keep them in check (although in practice, they don’t help at all). That would mean we’d have a society of people who wanted to kill each other but weren’t currently able to. I’d hope that we could achieve better than that.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    The next question to ask: why is our culture such?

  • http://www.republicofdave.com Dave Nalle

    Of course all of this discussion of what a violent society we have ignores the fact that most areas of the country have little or no violent crime, especially in comparison to past eras. Our crime rate has been declining fairly steadily for more than two decades and you’re as safe as you would be anywhere in Europe unless you live in a handfull of particularly violent urban areas. Take those cities out of the statistics and the US absolutely ceases to look like a violent society by any measure.

    And I daresay that if you put Washington DC in Sweden in place of Uppsala their crime stats would start to look a lot worse very quickly.

    Dave

  • http://blogcritics.org/writers/dr-dreadful/ Dr Dreadful

    @ #28:

    But Dave, that’s true of rural crime rates in just about any country. The mere fact that most crime in the US occurs in urban areas doesn’t account for the huge disparity in crimes involving guns when compared to other countries.

    For example, the city I live in – Fresno, California, which has a population of about half a million – had 42 homicides last year, the vast majority of those committed by firearm.

    In contrast, the number of recorded gun homicides for the whole of England and Wales over roughly the same period was only 39.

  • Baronius

    Not ignoring it, Dave. There are several different cultures and sub-cultures in America, and the crime rate is highest within the urban, fractured-family, low-education culture. Anyway, we’d all like to put Washington DC in Sweden, but it’d be next to impossible to do.

    Although, to be fair, DC is always going to look worse on crime statistics and other numbers, because it has no suburbs within its borders. Washington DC is always compared to states, where the mess of a Philadelphia gets watered down by a Lancaster. Imagine if Philadelphia extended all the way up to Lake Erie. That’s what Washington should be compared to.

  • Zedd

    Dave,

    You don’t live in the areas that are devastated by your romantic notions about gun ownership. There are parts of this country that are frightening solely because of guns. There are places where children are being buried daily because of your love of this idea. Chicago’s police are at WAR (a real one and the weapons actually exist), risking their lives to support their citizen’s liberty from the terror that criminals with gun’s bring. It’s very real.

    You will respond with your typical “it’s supposed to be like this” and simply ignore the fact that reality is different than your fantasy world where guns protect against a government gone bad.

    Guns are being used by criminals to terrorize American citizens. How about we focus on fighting THAT real form of terrorism for a change.

  • Zedd

    @28

    Dave you are missing it.

    DC is DC because there are guns in our society.

    If there is no crime in rural areas then why do people in rurual areas need guns?

    Do you feel like you are making sense?

  • Clavos

    Attempts to deny guns to criminals will meet with the same lack of success that attempts to deny drugs to addicts have. Only the law-abiding will be denied access to the means to defend themselves against the psychopaths and thugs in our midst.

    It is not a coincidence that states with concealed carry laws have lower rates of violent crime.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Examples, please . . .

  • http://blogcritics.org/writers/dr-dreadful/ Dr Dreadful

    Clav’s not exactly correct: indeed, his claim is next to impossible to verify since the laws vary so widely from state to state in regard to what sort of heat you can pack and where you can pack it.

    However, a recent analysis of FBI statistics does seem to show that violent crime is lower in states with right-to-carry laws, even though perhaps not all of those states allow concealed carry.

  • Baronius

    Zedd, I think you’re responding to an argument that no one made. First of all, people aren’t actually afraid of guns, they’re afraid of getting shot by some dude with a gun. If you outlaw guns, the dude still can get one. If you take somehow take away his access to guns, you’ve made some violent dude less efficient, but he’s still out there. He’s the problem; more correctly, his inclination toward violence is the problem.

    Secondly, it’s not the law-abiding person with a gun who prevents crime, it’s the possibility that the law-abiding person has a gun that prevents crime. You don’t break into a house when the owner has a shotgun. You don’t break into a house where the owner might have a shotgun. Enough shotguns out there, you might give up breaking into houses altogether.

    That doesn’t address the scenario of the gun-owner protecting himself against the bad government, but it does against the bad neighborhood.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    There may be other factors at play, Dreadful. We may be talking about “redneck communities.” The “undesirable element” may have been a one-way ticket to ride. And the white trash is not particularly well known for violence except barroom brawls. Miserable as their condition is, they’ll always blame the government or the Niggers.

    Lots of talk, no action.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    may have been given . . .

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    “Enough shotguns out there, you might give up breaking into houses altogether.”

    The wild wild West is still with us. Protect your property and your life – it’s the American way. It’s also the American way that people want to break into your house.

    Yet, no one bothers asking why.

  • http://blogcritics.org/writers/dr-dreadful/ Dr Dreadful

    If there is no crime in rural areas then why do people in rurual areas need guns?

    Because there are plenty of legitimate uses for guns in rural areas: pest control, hunting, slaughter and so forth.

    People in rural communities – not just in America, but around the world – grow up around guns and understand that they are not toys, that they are not universal problem-solvers and that, when push comes to shove and you actually do need to protect your person or property, they are the last, not the third, second or even first resort.

  • http://blogcritics.org/writers/dr-dreadful/ Dr Dreadful

    Protect your property and your life – it’s the American way.

    And in that order, it often seems. The general view in the US seems to be that the taking of a life is morally justified if one does so to protect one’s property. It’s as if said property actually has more value than a human life.

    The point is often brought up by gun supporters that the burglary rate in countries with strict gun control, like the UK, has increased significantly: the explanation usually given is that the burglar is emboldened because he has no fear that the householder may be armed.

    But neither, if the householder happens to be home and is prudent, does anyone get hurt. The ideal outcome here is quite different: although property has been stolen, the most important thing is that no life was lost.

    Quite the contrast to the ideal outcome on this side of the pond, in which the most important thing is that no property was stolen.

    I don’t think we’ve answered your question by any means, Roger, but I do think that difference in values gets us closer to understanding why gun crime is so high in the US, even compared to other countries with relaxed gun laws.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    It was just a stab, Dreadful. Baronius had it right when he said it was the “cultural thing.” Guns are just the manifestation.

  • http://www.republicofdave.com Dave Nalle

    Zedd, your observations in 31 and 32 are just factually incorrect. It is not the guns which make places like DC violent, it is the cultural environment. If you were magically able to take the guns away completely the city would still have violent gangs. And in the real world gun control would not take guns away from the criminals, just from law abiding citizens.

    I really don’t understand why people keep making the arguments you put forward when they have been so definitively proven to be completely unsupported by the facts.

    Dave

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Who are the criminals, Dave? All those who aren’t law-abiding?

    I find the entire discussion farcical once we resort to this kind of labeling.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    In short, you’re positing a boogeyman. That’s the crux of your argument.

  • John Wilson

    Maybe if SCOTUS keeps leaving that clause about ‘militia’ out of things people will eventually just ignore it. Maybe it’s just an ink blot on the constitution.

  • http://blogcritics.org/writers/dr-dreadful/ Dr Dreadful

    The Court clarified in 2008 (DC v. Heller) that ‘the militia’ means every able-bodied man liable to be called upon for militia service or civil defence. I take this to mean every able-bodied man whether he responds to the call or not; whether he actually owns a gun or not.

    Whether a militia is actually a practical proposition in the modern world is neither here nor there; nor does the absence of a need for one negate the 2nd Amendment.

    Face it, John, you’re stuck with the right to keep and bear arms and if you want to change that you’re going to have to do it the hard way.

  • Clavos

    i.e., with a gun, Dread?

  • Jordan Richardson

    And in the real world gun control would not take guns away from the criminals, just from law abiding citizens.

    What is this “real world” of which you speak?

  • Zedd

    Baronius,

    What you probably don’t know is that a large percentage of the guns that dangerous people have are actually stolen from the homes of the good guys. So my argument is very relevant. I didn’t go to explain to that detail because I thought everyone knew that. I apologize for leaving you befuddled once more.

    To your other point, what guy is scary to an equally fit guy without a gun???? Bad or good, without a weapon, everyone is on a level playing field.

  • Zedd

    #43

    Mean young man are not match to a police force that is well armed.

    There are thugs in every culture. Until the 80’s before guns were prevalent in inner city communities, the murder rate was no where near what it is now. The jails were not brimming. There were no drive by stabbings or strangulations. A fifth of an entire generation of young men are wiped out. No husbands for girls no families to build from.

    Let’s not be silly.

    Obsession: I’m guessing once young White kids start filling coffins you wont understand the seriousness of this issue. You will be more so consumed with it as a romantic NOTION that you are not ready to give up. Do continue to tip toe through the tulips of your bubble filled reality with ferries sprinkling gold dust along your way and boot straps pulling themselves up at the mere sense of your presence.

  • Clavos

    Mean young man are not match to a police force that is well armed.

    Except that the police, as any honest veteran cop will tell you, do not prevent crime.

    They merely clean up the mess afterward.

  • STM

    “They merely clean up the mess afterward.”

    And for precisely that reason, most honest veteran cops (and a few dishonest ones too) I’ve met over the years don’t agree with unfettered access to firearms.

  • Clavos

    True, but then most (American) politicians aren’t supporters of campaign reform, either…

  • http://www.republicofdave.com Dave Nalle

    Stan, your veteran cops must not be American, because here in the US cops strongly support private gun ownership.

    Dave

  • STM

    Of course the ones I know aren’t American Dave … but I bet if you did a straw poll of cops in major US cities, you’d get a similar result.

    And I did make a distinction. I did say UNFETTERED access to firearms, not access to firearms with controls.

    The truth is, most cops ARE in favour of firearms controls, even if they’re in favour of gun ownership. Nothing wrong with gun ownership, either; it’s just that you’ve got 300 million legal ones floating around over there, and God knows how many illegal ones, controls in some states and not in others, etc.

    Makes for a bit of a smash-up, I reckon.

    Or at least a giant shooting gallery with human targets (or cougars, or wild and feral dogs :).

  • Zedd

    Clav,

    Thats the idea. There is less to clean up if there are less guns on the street.

  • Zedd

    Dave,

    Just as the guns in a rural area are part of the culture, guns are a part of the culture in a place like DC. They are the thing that makes it dangerous. They are what kill people. The culture is fed by gun-down after gun-down. One retaliation after another until it gun warfare becomes a norm; a defining feature of the culture.

    Mean glances or bad attitudes or bad intentions are not what has impacted the murder rates. Its people with bad intentions with guns.

  • Zedd

    Stan,

    Dont believe Dave. Police organizations are strongly against liberal gun rights. It is they that have to encounter the guns that are sold to private citizens, that are then stolen and used against them.

  • Zedd

    In Texas alone there were about 1000 Murders last year. The entire nation went mad on 9/11 and all havoc has taken place to insure that freedom is sustatined for Americans. What about the freedom of those Americans who are less fortunate and live in poor neighborhoods in our cities.

  • Doug Hunter

    “What about the freedom of those Americans who are less fortunate and live in poor neighborhoods in our cities.”

    What about it? They have the same freedoms as everyone else, they simply choose to use their freedom to make their immediate vicinity a miserable hellhole. Why should I have to live in a nanny police state because a small percentage of the population is incapable of handling even the most basic of freedoms?

  • druxxx

    Zedd
    How is it a good thing if only the police
    have guns?

    That screams of potential corruption
    that leads to a police state.
    I think the founding fathers were very opposed to this.

    Yes we need gun controls that prevent felons from easily getting guns, and maybe the common citizen does not need a .5 caliber machine gun, but other then that americans have a right to a gun.

  • Zedd

    druxxx

    You think we need guns to protect us from the police?

  • druxxx

    Zedd

    Possibly.
    Do you realize the chaos that could happen during a natural disaster?
    How about a pandemic?
    The police may not always be able to protect us. If society breaks down due to any number of reasons, those with the guns will rule.
    Any law to restrict gun ownership will only take them from the law abiding. Criminals and thugs will not voluntarily turn in their guns.
    And there is no way to completely get guns out of our society. If police are allowed to have guns, citizens that have never broken the law must be allowed to have them as well.
    You know crooked cops exist. Societal structures keeps them from gaining much control, but take away that structure and who knows what could happen. Especially if they are the only ones with guns.

    These scenarios may seem farfetched, but they are possible.
    And you still have not spoken to the fact that gun violence is still a menace in Chicago with the current ban. What good has it done? What is going to change when the ban is lifted?

    I’ll give you my solution. Legalize many of the drugs these gangs make their money on, and you take away their need for their guns. Prohibitions on the things people want to do rarely work. We only need to look back on the 20’s to confirm that.

  • http://blogcritics.org/writers/dr-dreadful/ Dr Dreadful

    They have the same freedoms as everyone else, they simply choose to use their freedom to make their immediate vicinity a miserable hellhole.

    Way to encourage folks to better themselves, Doug.

  • John Wilson

    #47 – so Heller ‘clarified’ the militia clause???? Seems to me it obfuscated it.

    Anyway, it cleared up any confusion about the Roberts court being ‘originalist’ or ‘strict constructionist’ by showing that they are really rightwing activists. So much for ‘just calling balls and strikes’.

    It does signal the return of the SCOTUS to the rightist policies it has usually pursued throughout it’s history, from those good-old days when it prodigiously enforced slave owner rights.

    The poor and miserable and oppressed will have to look elsewhere for relief from the burdens imposed on them by a rigged legal and political system.