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The real winner in the Supreme Court’s gun-rights decision
The justices say every individual has the right to bear arms. Now what?
 

What happened
The Supreme Court, in a 5-4 decision, issued a landmark ruling that the Second Amendment gives an individual, rather than just a collective, the right to gun ownership. The ruling strikes down a 32-year-old ban on handguns in Washington, D.C., and throws into question other gun control laws. (Los Angeles Times)

What the commentators said
This is a long-sought win for the “far right,” said The New York Times in an editorial, but one that will certainly “cost innocent lives.” What's more, this “audaciously harmful decision” represents “a radical break from 70 years of Supreme Court precedent.” In creating this “new constitutional right” to bear arms individually, the court’s majority simply ignores the part of the Second Amendment that “clearly links the right to service in a ‘militia.’”

Come on, said National Review Online in an editorial, anyone "fluent in English" can see that the justices have read the Second Amendment correctly. Individuals have the right to their guns. Saying that a militia is necessary is just not the same as saying that we “can only bear arms for militia-related purposes.”

At the risk of being the guy to “pee in the pool here,” said Radley Balko in Reason’s Hit & Run blog, why would this limited ruling rile up either side of the gun control issue? Justice Antonin Scalia’s majority opinion does grant gun rights to an individual, “but only for self-protection, and only in the home.” And maybe only in D.C. It may have given “the right a rhetorical victory (remember, elections are ‘all about the judges!’),” but it wasn’t a clear win for gun owners.

It may not even have been much of a rhetorical victory for the GOP, said Mike Madden in Salon. Republicans have long relied on gun rights to “whip voters into a frenzy,” but by making it clear the government can’t wrest our guns away, the court “may have shoved the gun control issue further aside.” The NRA types scored a big win “in the legal war,” but they “may have lost a weapon in the political war.”

Political ramifications aside, I can’t be the only one with mixed feelings, said Eugene Robinson in The Washington Post. Given the likelihood of more handgun deaths, “I abhor the possible real-word impact of the ruling,” but I also “fear that it’s probably right.” The “revolutionaries who founded this nation believed in guns,” and it's “a real stretch, if not a total dodge,” to argue they would give the government “a monopoly” on them.

 

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