from the new york times editorial board today... all of you "who cares about the president" -- "my vote doesn't count" people out there take this one to heart.
Lock and Load
Thirty-thousand Americans are killed by guns every year — on the job, walking to school, at the shopping mall. The Supreme Court on Thursday all but ensured that even more Americans will die senselessly with its wrongheaded and dangerous ruling striking down key parts of the District of Columbia’s gun-control law.
In a radical break from 70 years of Supreme Court precedent, Justice Antonin Scalia, writing for the majority, declared that the Second Amendment guarantees individuals the right to bear arms for nonmilitary uses, even though the amendment clearly links the right to service in a “militia.” The ruling will give gun-rights advocates a powerful new legal tool to try to strike down gun-control laws across the nation.
This is a decision that will cost innocent lives, cause immeasurable pain and suffering and turn America into a more dangerous country. It will also diminish our standing in the world, sending yet another message that the United States values gun rights over human life.
There already is a national glut of firearms: estimates run between 193 million and 250 million guns. The harm they do is constantly on heartbreaking display. Thirty-three dead last year in the shootings at Virginia Tech. Six killed this year at Northern Illinois University.
On Wednesday, as the court was getting ready to release its decision, a worker in a Kentucky plastics plant shot his supervisor, four co-workers and himself to death.
Cities and states have tried to stanch the killing with gun-control laws. The District of Columbia, which has one of the nation’s highest crime rates, banned the possession of nearly all handguns and required that other firearms be stored unloaded and disassembled, or bound with a trigger lock.
Overturning that law, the court’s 5-to-4 decision says that individuals have a constitutional right to keep guns in their homes for self-defense. But that’s a sharp reversal for the court: as early as 1939, it made clear that the Second Amendment only protects the right of people to carry guns for military use in a militia.
In his dissent, Justice John Paul Stevens was right when he said that the court has now established “a new constitutional right” that creates a “dramatic upheaval in the law.”
Even if there were a constitutional right to possess guns for nonmilitary uses, constitutional rights are not absolute. The First Amendment guarantees free speech, but that does not mean that laws cannot prohibit some spoken words, like threats to commit imminent violent acts. In his dissent, Justice Stephen Breyer argued soundly that whatever right gun owners have to unimpeded gun use is outweighed by the District of Columbia’s “compelling” public-safety interests.
In this month’s case recognizing the habeas corpus rights of the detainees at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, Justice Scalia wrote in dissent that the decision “will almost certainly cause more Americans to be killed.” Those words apply with far more force to his opinion in this District of Columbia case.
The gun lobby will now trumpet this ruling as an end to virtually all gun restrictions, anywhere, at all times. That must not happen. And today’s decision still provides strong basis for saying it should not.
If the ruling is held to apply to the states, and not just to the District of Columbia — which is not certain — there will still be considerable dispute about what it means for other less-sweeping gun laws. Judges may end up deciding these on a law-by-law basis.
Supporters of gun control must fight in court to ensure that registration requirements and background-check rules, and laws against bulk sales of handguns — a major source of guns used in crimes — are all upheld.
The court left room for gun-control advocates to fight back. It made clear that there were gun restrictions that it was not calling into question, including bans on gun possession by felons and the mentally ill, or in “sensitive places” like schools and government buildings.
That last part is the final indignity of the decision: when the justices go to work at the Supreme Court, guns will still be banned. When most Americans show up at their own jobs, they will not have that protection.
This audaciously harmful decision, which hands the far right a victory it has sought for decades, is a powerful reminder of why voters need to have the Supreme Court firmly in mind when they vote for the president this fall.
Senator John McCain has said he would appoint justices like Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Samuel Alito — both of whom supported this decision. If the court is allowed to tip even further to the far right, there will be even more damage done to the rights and the safety of Americans.