Loyal readers know that I have been calling attention to a range of Second Amendment issues in the past week. In last week's column here, I wrote about the scandals and illegitimate regulations emanating from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. In another outlet, I documented the threat to our rights that is posed by the United Nations' proposed arms trade treaty.
In response, I have heard from many readers who are understandably outraged. They want our federal law enforcement agencies to respect the law, not break it. They want our negotiators at the U.N. to protect our unique constitutional rights, not surrender them to some Utopian vision of global harmony. With apologies to the late Bill Buckley, my readers feel powerless to climb athwart the federal leviathan and yell "stop."
Those two issues are just the tip of the iceberg. Two landmark Second Amendment cases recently were decided by the U.S. Supreme Court. The first established that the Second Amendment indeed does provide an individual right to keep and bear arms and a restraint against the federal government. The second case applied that finding to state and local governments, as well. Both cases invalidated Draconian handgun bans. Both were decided by the razor-thin majority of 5-4. But neither case established a precise boundary of regulation that the court might find acceptable.
Now lawsuits have been filed across the country seeking to invalidate long-standing state and local restrictions. The National Rifle Association is coordinating a nationwide legal strategy to fulfill the promise of the recent Supreme Court decisions. These cases are bubbling up in different federal circuits, testing different limitations. Some of the cases are filed by choice; some are by necessity. They are all expensive, and they are all important. The court inevitably will accept one or more of these cases once a split between circuits becomes established. That much is virtually certain.
But it's unknown what that court will look like. Will it be the same 5-4 majority that finally has recognized our fundamental Second Amendment rights, or will it be a new majority, perhaps 5-4 the other way, seeking to not only uphold state and local gun restrictions but also effectively reverse the two recent decisions with death by a thousand cuts?