Why the Second Amendment matters

Last summer, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled that Americans have an individual right to keep and bear arms.

  • Tuesday, October 21, 2008 3:08pm
  • Opinion

Last summer, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled that Americans have an individual right to keep and bear arms.

Why does the decision in D.C. v. Heller matter to city dwellers like you and I who live or work in Federal Way — and have almost no place in our lives for hunting, target shooting or toting a pistol as we go about our busy routines?

The Washington State Constitution already guarantees Washingtonians protection if we choose to possess firearms.

What, if any, is the Heller decision’s impact on residents of our local communities?

In the 1939 case of United States v. Miller, the U.S. Supreme Court took up the issue of whether the prohibition against sawed-off shotguns violated the Second Amendment.

This case was one of the first tests of federal gun regulations pursuant to the National Firearms Act of 1934 (NFA).

The Miller court case decided that sawed-off shotguns were not militarily useful and that federal gun laws were therefore constitutional. Since then, gun control advocates, law professors and even a minority of four Supreme Court justices in the Heller dissent have been able to point to Miller and other United States Circuit Court precedents — in which the Miller case is construed as authority against the claim that the Second Amendment protects an individual right.

Under this collective theory of the Second Amendment, the “people” that own the right to keep and bear arms are the states; the U.S. Constitution only protects a state’s right to maintain a militia.

Pro-gun folks, on the other hand, advocate that Miller is a case where bad facts make for confusing law.

Because the defense was not even represented, there was no way for the judges to hear both sides of the issues.

Thus, pro-gun advocates (full disclosure dictates that I identify myself as aligned with the pro-gun side) argue that the Heller case is actually the first case in which the Supreme Court has dealt directly with the issue of who has standing to assert the right to keep and bear arms.

Dick Heller, an armed security guard for a U.S. government agency, was prohibited under Washington, D.C.’s draconian gun laws from possessing a gun in his home. Cities like Morton Grove, Ill., and Chicago are considering how to revise their gun laws because Heller challenged and overturned the D.C. gun ban.

Presidents can enter into all kinds of treaties. Legislatures and judges can be capricious.

Many legal scholars are already prepared to argue that treaties may even supersede the U.S. Constitution.

By establishing that the right to keep and bear arms is a personal right, the Supreme Court has created a firewall between you and the thugs in high places that want you disarmed.

Even our freedom to exercise free speech is meaningless without the ability to protect ourselves and families from violence.

If you, like most people, do not choose to obtain a concealed pistol license (CPL) and carry a weapon, predators are nevertheless deterred because they never know where and when the potential victim may respond with deadly force.

Most scholars agree that many more landmark Second Amendment cases will be litigated now that Heller has opened the door.

Federal Way resident Mark Knapp: knapp.m@comcast.net. Visit http://firearmslawyer.net/.

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