Ok, so I lied about rarely posting about Supreme Court cases. But come on, how can I ignore DC vs. Heller?
By now we all know the good guys won. 5-4. For the uninformed, here’s a quick summary of Justice Scalia’s majority opinion on the case from Bench Memos:
(a) The Second Amendment protects an individual right to possess a firearm unconnected with service in a militia and to use that arm for traditionally lawful purposes, such as self-defense at home.
(b) The Second Amendment right is not unlimited. The Court’s opinion should not cast doubt on concealed-weapons prohibitions, laws barring possession of firearms by felons and the mentally ill, laws barring firearms in sensitive places like schools and government buildings, and laws imposing conditions on commercial sale of arms.
(c) D.C.’s handgun ban and trigger-lock requirement violate the Second Amendment. The total ban on handgun possession prohibits an entire class of arms that Americans overwhelmingly choose for the lawful purpose of self-defense. Under any standard of scrutiny, that ban falls. The trigger-lock requirement makes self-defense impossible. D.C. may use a licensing scheme.
First off, this clearly sets a substantial precendent that will make it very difficult for further assaults on the second amendment anytime in the near future. Liberals may challenge the decision with other cases, but Supreme Court Justices, even when on the losing side, are cocky when it comes to their supreme body setting precedence. They won’t allow any cases to even be heard that may even come close to turning over this decision. In other words, this is a huge win for the Constitution.
Now onto the fun part. The right to bear arms.
Justice Scalia has himself a way with words. This is particularly evident in a portion of his opinion that focuses on just that:
In any event, the meaning of “bear arms” that petitioners and JUSTICE STEVENS propose is not even the (sometimes) idiomatic meaning. Rather, they manufacture a hybrid definition, thereby “bear arms” connotes the actual carrying of arms (and therefore is not really an idiom) but only in the service of an organized militia. No dictionary has ever adopted that definition, and we have been apprised of no source that indicates that it carried that meaning at the time of the founding. But it is easy to see why petitioners and the dissent are driven to the hybrid definition. Giving “bear Arms” its idiomatic meaning would cause the protected right to consist of the right to be a soldier or to wage war—an absurdity that no commentator has ever endorsed. Worse still, the phrase “keep and bear Arms” would be incoherent. The word “Arms” would have two different meanings at once: “weapons” (as the object of “keep”) and (as the object of “bear”) one-half of an idiom. It would be rather like saying “He filled and kicked the bucket” to mean “He filled the bucket and died.” Grotesque.
As a friend said, can you imagine Scalia being in the same room as Stevens when the “incoherent” Justice read those words? “Hi guy who considers himself to be really smart. Your opinion is grotesque. See ya tomorrow.”