The Supreme Court gets to enjoy the media spotlight this week as it dives into the always contentious Second Amendment. An article in Sunday’s Washington Post has a good breakdown of the issues at stake:
The nine justices, none of whom has ever ruled directly on the amendment’s meaning, will consider a part of the Bill of Rights that has existed without a definitive interpretation for more than 200 years.
“This may be one of the only cases in our lifetime when the Supreme Court is going to be interpreting the meaning of an important provision of the Constitution unencumbered by precedent,” said Randy E. Barnett, a constitutional scholar at the Georgetown University Law Center. “And that’s why there’s so much discussion on the original meaning of the Second Amendment.”
Facing the highest firearm murder rate among the States, the District of Columbia passed a law in 1976 virtually banning the possession of handguns. As a sidenote: The District also changed the name of its basketball team from the questionably violent “Bullets” to the “Wizards” in 1997.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit struck down the ban last year, and now SCOTUS has got to get up in it. In a Wall Street Journal column this month, Laurence Tribe revealed that he will do a little happy dance if the Court decides narrowly. Moderation…yawn…
Using a case about national legislative power over gun-toting in the capital city as a vehicle for deciding how far Congress or the state of California can go in regulating guns in Los Angeles would be a silly stretch.
Chief Justice John Roberts, ever since his days as a judge on the court of appeals, has virtually defined judicial modesty by opining that if it is not necessary for the court to decide an issue, then it is necessary for the court not to decide that issue. For this reason, and for the further reason that the scholarship on the reach of the Second Amendment and its implementation is still in its infancy, the court should take the smallest feasible step in resolving the case before it.
Issuing a narrow decision would disappoint partisans on both sides and leave many questions unresolved. But to do anything else would ill-suit a court that flies the flag of judicial restraint.
Supreme Court vs. the Second Amendment may be as exciting as a Duke vs. UNC basketball game. People are camping out overnight to watch the argument tomorrow! A tipster on location reports that there are already 14 people in line, the first one having arrived at 5:30 a.m.
Of course, no decision’s expected until the end of the term in June. While we wait, we’ll keep challenging people in bars to name all the Supreme Court Justices. And watch Charlton Heston movies.
D.C.’s Gun Ban Gets Day in Court [The Washington Post]
Sanity and the Second Amendment [Laurence Tribe in the Wall Street Journal]
Laurence Tribe to High Court: Restrain Yourself [Wall Street Journal Law Blog]