The debate over individual gun rights just has become a front line issue in the 2008 presidential campaign. The United States Supreme Court decision to hear arguments on District of Columbia v. Heller, the D.C. gun ban case, guarantees it.
In the District of Columbia, it is a crime to have a handgun. It also is a crime to have shotguns or rifles unless they are unloaded and disabled. Ordinary people cannot have a gun, even in their own homes.
Earlier this year, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia struck down the law as unconstitutional. The court said the Second Amendment does not allow a law like it because it keeps Americans living in D.C. from exercising their Second Amendment rights.
Now the Supreme Court will weigh in on whether or not the framers of the Constitution actually bestowed a right to government over the people in the Second Amendment to the Bill of Rights.
The answer seems obvious.
The Bill of Rights details individual rights that government cannot take away. When the framers referred to the people, they meant the individual, not the government. Most Americans get it. Even liberal legal scholars like Alan Dershowitz and Laurence Tribe get it when it comes to the individual rights guaranteed by the Second Amendment. They believe the clear wording of the document favors the individual’s gun rights.
Though it seems to escape the mayor of D.C., Adrian Fenty, who thinks Constitutional rights can be legislated away. “It’s the will of the people of the District of Columbia that has to be respected,” Mr. Fenty recently said at a news conference. “We should have the right to make our own decisions.”
With nearly 100 million American gun owners and a fluid nominating process in both primaries, Second Amendment voters matter. In fact, their votes could be the deciding factor in the volatile Iowa and New Hampshire contests propelling the winner into the pivotal South Carolina and Florida primaries.
Second Amendment voters are strict constitutionalists and will be closely watching how the presidential candidates address the gun issue.
The president is sworn to uphold “the right of the people to keep and bear arms.” The duty to protect the Constitution and uphold the law requires a firm, clear belief one way or the other on the rights of Americans to buy and own a gun.
Mitt Romney, Fred Thompson, John McCain, and Mike Huckabee are staunch Second Amendment advocates and all oppose most restrictions on gun rights including D.C.’s. Rudy Giuliani favors some restrictions but opposes the D.C. gun ban. He thinks the Supreme Court should strike it down permanently.