03 Mar 2010

Supreme Court Appears Pro-Gun in McDonald v. Chicago

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The LA Times is predicting that the Supreme Court will ultimately rule in McDonald v. Chicago as it did in District of Columbia v. Heller, striking down the City of Chicago’s complete ban on the private ownership of handguns.

Reading the tea leaves is not very hard, since Justice Anthony Kennedy these days casts the deciding vote.

[D]uring Tuesday’s arguments, the justices who formed the majority in the D.C. case said they had already decided that gun rights deserved national protection.

Justice Anthony M. Kennedy said the individual right to bear arms is a “fundamental” right, like the other protections in the Bill of Rights. “If it’s not fundamental, then Heller is wrong,” he said, referring to the D.C. ruling, which he joined. Roberts and Justices Antonin Scalia and Samuel A. Alito Jr. echoed the same theme.

At one point, Justice John Paul Stevens proposed a narrow ruling in favor of gun rights. Two years ago, he dissented and said the 2nd Amendment was designed to protect a state’s power to have a “well regulated militia.”

Now, however, Stevens said the court could rule that residents had a right to a gun at home, but not a right “to parade around the street with a gun.”

A lawyer representing the National Rifle Assn. scoffed at the idea and opposed a “watered-down version” of the 2nd Amendment.

Scalia also questioned the idea. In his opinion two years ago, he described the right to bear arms as a right to “carry” a weapon in cases of “confrontation.” Such a right would not be easily limited to having a gun at home.

The justices will meet behind closed doors to vote this week on the case of McDonald vs. Chicago. It may be late June before they issue a written ruling.

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