Saturday, June 28, 2008

shoot 'em up

As if I wouldn’t have something to say about Heller v. District of Columbia.

Even though I parse the verbiage of the 2nd Amendment differently than Scalia and Co., I can live with the decision that clears the decks for dealing with the gun issue in America . What Scalia has given us, as X so rightly stated, is a stick in the mud.

Their interpretation of the amendment is based on how to equate the prefatory phrase (“a well-regulated militia) and the other grammar bit about “the people”. The majority opinion declares that “the people” are individuals, not a “common” people, and very clearly says that individuals have the right to have handguns in their home for self-defense purposes. What is also does, and a byproduct that surprises me, is state that laws prohibiting guns in schools and government buildings, as well as waiting periods, licensing requirements and the like, are all perfectly legal. Apparently in their parsing of the phrase they decided to either ignore the “shall not be infringed” bit or determined that it’s something they’d rather deal with down the road. Either way it will turn that Justice Breyer’s dissent will eventually tell the tale: the balancing of public good against the inconvenience or burden placeed upon the individual when any new cases make their way to the court. If we conflate the finding in the Indiana voting case decided earlier this year (Crawford v. Marion County) with any future gun licensing set of requirements we might be onto something. The Court decided in Crawford that the burden placed on an individual to procure a state-issued photo ID (“just pop down to the DMW on your off time”) was not a burden too great in order to maintain your right to vote. If future gun control laws require a thirty-day waiting period, a background check, a licensing fee, an annual or biannual renewal, then it seems reasonable – it’s some time and money out of your pocket but you can have your gun if you follow the rules; rules put in place for the public good. Of course, what I think is, “Why would anyone need the immediate purchase of a handgun anyway?” Why would waiting x number of days be an issue? Let’s say you come running into my legal, gun-issuing storefront (call it “People Kill People Guns”) and need a handgun right now, or by close of business tomorrow; the law may have decided that you don’t actually need it this minute but you can have it after meeting whatever requirement are in place. If you feel you need a handgun for defense in your home, you can have it – in your home. There’s no requirement for allowing either open carry or carry-and-conceal permits. If you have a gun and you need to come on down and renew its license then you’ll have to prove you still have the gun in your possession. It’s really no different than if you come down to renew a driver’s license: you need to prove your residence, prove your insurance status, and they’re going to make sure you’ve paid all your tickets. Thanks to the very clear language of the court’s decision it appears there are plenty of steps laid out before those that desire better gun control.

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