For the record, I absolutely detest gun laws. I love liberty and individual responsibility, enforced by social sanction (and by the law, when a "real" crime, such as an assault, or a manslaughter, or a murder, is committed). The prohibitions against firearms in Washington, DC are simply wrong. So why do I think it's bad that the Supremes "struck them down," as they like to say?
Simple: because of the grounds on which they did it. The poor, dead U.S. Constitution is the defining, enabling, and limiting document of the central government; and when it prohibits the infringement of people's right to be armed, it prohibits the FedGov from doing so -- not the states, and certainly not cities and towns. When it prohibits the establishment of an official religion, that is likewise a prohibition against such establishment by the feds only. The few restrictions that the Constitution imposes on state and local governments (no coining money, no foreign treaties and alliances), it imposes explicitly. Whether local gun laws may be made or not is properly determined by state constitutions.
But ... but ... won't that lead to nonuniformity in gun laws? Yes, yes, and so much the better. I think a country as big as this one should have a Morton Grove, Illinois, where you can't legally have a gun, and a Kennesaw, Georgia, where you have to have one -- as well as a lot of places that are variously in-between. That way, you and I and Larry Pratt and Paul Helmke can each find somewhere congenial to live. But, as the U.S. continues to develop into rigidly- and centrally-enforced uniformity, such arrangements are more and more unthinkable. Why should that be?
This week's Supreme Court decision is, maybe, a little bit of a special case, in that Washington, DC is a sort of mutant creation of the FedGov, making the home-rule question somewhat obscure there. But, as the LA Times story tells us, other places are next:
Gun rights advocates Thursday made it clear that they would pursue more legal challenges, providing ample opportunity for the high court to revisit the issue.Where's Wayne talking about? Maybe Chicago? Or San Francisco?
"It looks to be a phenomenal day for gun owners and District of Columbia residents," said Wayne LaPierre, chief executive of the National Rifle Assn. "The next step is to ensure that every American has access to this right."
In fact, even as Richard Pearson, executive director of the Illinois State Rifle Association, was saying his organization may give Chicago and other Illinois municipalities time to change their laws, his group and others were filing a lawsuit against the city and Daley.To an extent, this reminds me of Roe v. Wade. Pre-1973, some states had liberal abortion laws, while other states outlawed or at least extensively restricted the practice. The Supremes of the time found this intolerable, and "struck down" the state and local restrictions. The parallel is imperfect, of course, since the Second Amendment plainly exists, while the 1973 Supremes had to invent an imaginary "right" to abortion out of whole -- and bloody -- cloth. It's amusing that, if we accept the conventional "right/left" stereotypes, the same folks who rejoiced over "judicial activism" ('73 edition) decry the '08 version, and vice versa. Then there's me: never happy. At least I'm somewhat consistent, though. I'd like to be happy every now and then, but I suppose I can settle for consistency.
"By banning handguns, Defendants currently maintain and actively enforce a set of laws, customs, practices, and policies under color of state law which deprives individuals ... of their right to keep and bear arms," reads the lawsuit filed by the ISRA, the Second Amendment Foundation and four individuals.
The National Rifle Association planned to file a similar complaint against San Francisco, which bars people from carrying handguns on county property, including in parks, schools and community centers.