Yesterday, the Supreme Court, in a 5-4 decision in McDonald v. City of Chicago, ruled that the 2nd Amendment applies to state and local laws, as well as federal laws. Their decision will likely end the handgun ban in Chicago, two years after a similar law was struck down in the District of Columbia. The ruling is likely the final blow to gun prohibition in this country as a principle. However, the ruling was not a free for all for gun rights. In fact, the decision supported reasonable restrictions on gun rights, enough to make the Brady Campaign President Paul Helmke happy:
‘”The crucial part of the ruling today is that it really is fairly narrow,” noting that the court acknowledged gun-control restrictions that fall short of bans. “The one extreme of handgun bans, total gun bans, that’s off the table now. But they’ve also taken the extreme any gun, anywhere, anybody, anytime–that’s off the table too,” Helmke said.’
Now, advocates of strict gun control point out that 258 Chicago public school students were shot last year. However, those guns were introduced into the city in the midst of the handgun ban, which begs the question of whether prohibition really works. Certainly, a close look at the ‘War on Drugs’ would show you that the war is being lost. Looking at guns, what level of restriction is reasonable? A consensus has grown supporting the 2nd Amendment in this country, so much so that both Sarah Palin and Harry Reid applauded yesterday’s ruling. In fact, Democrats look to benefit politically from this ruling in November.
However, what about the gun show loophole? Should potential gun owners be required to undergo a background check before purchasing a weapon? The loophole, where buyers can get guns from private dealers at gun shows, exists. The NRA argues that the loophole is a ‘myth:’
“Though Congress specifically has applied the background check requirement to dealers only, and specifically exempted from the dealer licensing requirement persons who occasionally sell guns from their personal collections, gun prohibition activists call this a “loophole.” Gun prohibitionists also falsely claim that many criminals get guns from gun shows; the most recent federal study puts the figure at only 0.7 percent.”
Obviously, there is a conflict between the report from ABC and the NRA legislative wing. There is no doubt that the NRA would be tickled pink if all gun laws were struck down. However, the consensus around the 2nd Amendment does not go as far as the NRA fantasizes. Most people would support reasonable restrictions.
Anyone who has watched the Wire has no illusions about gun restrictions keeping guns away from criminals. In fact, gun laws are often used as valid charges to arrest criminals by police. Any gun regulation should make it a sensible process to buy and sell weapons. However, there should also be enforceable restrictions, requiring background checks, that are reasonable. Education on gun safety should be part of that restriction.
I grew up in Northwest Pennsylvania, and underwent hunter safety training in middle school. Guns were very common in that rural community, but it was clear to me at a young age that they were dangerous and needed to be handled the right way. Later, in the Navy, I was responsible for many weapons, and their safe use. We conducted lots and lots of training for the folks who had to bear those weapons on watch. In the Navy, when weapons were taken for granted, the conditions for misuse were created. That is why training and education are so crucial.
At the end of the day, while some will look at yesterday’s Supreme Court decision as a victory for gun owners and the NRA, I look at it as a reflection of the growing consensus around reasonable restriction. Like abortion and other emotional issues, there will always be zealots on both sides. However, as Politico observes, the decision removes those zealots from the decision making process in November.