Thursday, June 26, 2008

Justice Scalia Gets His Gun

In an eagerly anticipated and strongly worded decision, Justice Antonin Scalia this morning led the Supreme Court to discover and define the Second Amendment as a guarantee of an individual's right to own firearms.

In a stunning but narrow 5-4 rebuke to liberal dogma of the past 30 years, where penumbras carried more weight than words, SCOTUS has confirmed what is known as the standard view of the amendment, that it means what it says.

While the decision does not automatically expand Second Amendment protections and prohibitions to affect state laws, it will immediately change the terms by which those restrictions are debated. In the long run, it is likely that some future case will arise where the issue of "incorporation" will be decided by the Court under either the 14th Amendment or the Privilege Clause, thereby bringing the Second Amendment to a level with the First and Fourth.

The case, which reached the Court as Heller vs. The District, is a special tribute to the foresight and conviction of one man, Robert Levy. Mr. Levy, who has never owned a gun, structured and financed the case, selected the plaintiffs, recruited the lawyers and developed the strategies that led to today's decision. At leaset initially, he did so against the wishes of the pro-Scond Amendment establishment, much of which believed at the beginning of the case, before the elevation of Roberts and Alito to the Court, that the risks as too large.

As Heller gained traction, particularly after an unambiguous decision by the Appellate court overturning D.C.'s handgun ban based on a finding that it was unconstitutional, the arguments and briefs filed by the opposing camps became a treasure trove of Second Amendment scholarship that will be studied by constitutional scholars for a century.

Justice Scalia, widely regarded as the shootingest Justice, was obviously enthusiastic in his writing, defining for history the Constitution's protection of the individual's right to keep and bear arms.

RELATED LINKS: Heller Will Win in June. How Big? has a complete review of the case and more than a dozen links to its history.

Heartfelt appreciation to Bob Levy, Alan Gura and the history-making team they put together.

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