Supreme Court Upholds Right to Bear Arms

Gun rights advocates welcome the Supreme Court’s affirmation of their right to bear arms.

Building of the Supreme Court of the United States in Washington DC, September 2009
Building of the Supreme Court of the United States in Washington DC, September 2009 (Ken McCown)

The Supreme Court ruled on Monday that the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution protects the right of all Americans to bear arms in a five to four vote. The decision is welcomed by gun rights advocates across the nation who, for years, have complained that state and local restrictions to gun ownership are unconstitutional.

The Court was considering a restrictive Chicago handgun law similar to a District of Colombia measure which it ruled against in 2008. The victory may be more symbolic than substantive because few cities have gun laws as restrictive as those in Chicago and Washington. Moreover, it does not strike any other gun control measures currently in place, but it does provide a legal basis for gun owners across America who believe that government has unlawfully deprived them of their right to keep and bear arms.

According to Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. who wrote for the conservatives on the Court, “It is clear that the Framers … counted the right to keep and bear arms among those fundamental rights necessary to our system of ordered liberty.” Government may restrict gun ownership under certain circumstances, as when it denies felons and mentally ill from possessing firearms or restricting the right to bear them in “sensitive places” as schools and public buildings. “We repeat those assurances here,” wrote Alito.

“Despite municipal respondents’ doomsday proclamations,” the decision “does not imperil every law regulating firearms,” according to Alito. He stressed at the same time that the Second Amendment “applies equally to the federal government and the states.”

Comments

  1. Justice Alito’s opinion may create some consternation some advocates of judicial restraint and civil libertarians even though it reaffirmed the constitutional right to bear arms. Advocates of judicial restraint may be troubled by holdings of the decision because reaffirmed many of the heretofore acknowledged limitations on where it is legal to possess arms and furthered the incorporation of the Bill of Rights, a doctrine that advocates of judicial restraint find concerning because of fears that it increases the possibility of Federal intervention into the domestic affairs of the States.