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The Field Fills In

Second Amendment Rights in the Wild West

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Townhall.com.

It may seem utterly impossible, but a fairly decent ruling regarding the Second Amendment came from a California court this week. The San Francisco-based Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals actually ruled that private citizens can challenge state and local gun laws under the Second Amendment.

Jokingly referred to as the Ninth “Circus” Court of Appeals for its historically horrendous opinions (it’s one of the most overturned appeals court in the nation), it is stunning to read the majority opinions in the case, Nordyke v. King. The majority opinions read more like a historical chronology of gun rights produced by the National Rifle Association than a decision from a decidedly liberal court.

Tracing the fundamental right of individual citizens to keep and bear arms, from William Blackstone through current law, the court found:

“…the right to keep and bear arms is ‘deeply rooted in this Nation’s history and tradition.’ Colonial revolutionaries, the Founders, and a host of commentators and lawmakers living during the first one hundred years of the Republic all insisted on the fundamental nature of the right. It has long been regarded as the ‘true palladium of liberty.’ Colonists relied on it to assert and to win their independence, and the victorious Union sought to prevent a recalcitrant South from abridging it less than a century later. The crucial role this deeply rooted right has played in our birth and history compels us to recognize that it is indeed fundamental, that it is necessary to the Anglo-American conception of ordered liberty that we have inherited.”

The Ninth Circuit ruling relied heavily on District of Columbia v. Heller, once again affirming the victory for Second Amendment rights in last year’s landmark Supreme Court ruling.

The Nordyke case was a lawsuit filed by gun show promoters challenging the constitutionality of an Alameda County ordinance prohibiting gun shows on county property, including the local fairgrounds. The overall ruling of the court was not a victory for the gun show operators. The court found that “the Ordinance before us…does not directly impede the efficacy of self-defense or limit self-defense in the home. Rather, it regulates gun possession in public places that are County property.”

Under the historic Heller decision, the Supreme Court allowed that laws may proscribe gun possession in “sensitive places” such as schools and government buildings and laws may regulate “conditions and qualifications on the commercial sale of arms.” The Ninth Circuit interpreted this “sensitive places” exception to apply to local government venues where crowds congregate. One could argue that this exception and its interpretation grant too much power to local governments in controlling gun sales, but the fact that the rest of the opinion affirms individuals’ rights to bear arms is significant for gun-control crazy California.

In a state where the judiciary regularly oversteps its constitutional boundaries to advance “progressive” political agendas, it’s remarkable the judiciary acknowledges the necessity of firearms to protect the populace not just from outside threats, but from a tyrannical government:

“While the generation of 1789 envisioned the right [to keep and bear arms] as a component of local resistance to centralized tyranny, whether British or federal, the generation of 1868 envisioned the right as safeguard to protect individuals from oppressive or indifferent local governments. But though the source of the threat may have migrated, the antidote remained the same: the individual right to keep and bear arms, a recourse for ‘when the sanctions of society and laws are found insufficient to restrain the violence of oppression.’”

State lawmakers are now in discord with their judicial counterparts. The same day the Ninth Circuit ruling was handed down, State Assemblyman Kevin DeLeon (D-Los Angeles) was touting his bill that will place severe restrictions on ammunition purchases in California. Stores selling ammunition will, among other mandates, be required to receive a license from the Department of Justice and record the names, addresses and thumbprints of ammunition purchasers.

Claiming his intention is to curtail gun violence, DeLeon said, “The real oxygen that fuels gun violence is the bullets themselves.” But Assemblyman DeLeon overlooks the fact that bullets are also necessary to defend oneself against those who illegally obtain their ammunition—despite countless gun laws.

Assemblyman DeLeon and his peers in the California legislature should read the Nordyke case to understand why gun ownership is necessary: “…the [Second Amendment] right contains both a political component—it is a means to protect the public from tyranny—and a personal component—it is a means to protect the individual from threats to life or limb.”

According to the Ninth Circuit, “Second Amendment law remains in its infancy.” Perhaps to liberal thinkers Second Amendment law is a nascent, “evolving” standard. But to those who understand our nation’s history and the importance of an armed citizenry, the right to self defense is a truth we hold to be self evident.

“Have no fear of any man, no matter what his size. When danger threatens call on me, and I will equalize.”

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