Gun-control supporters show outrage
By Anahad O'Connor
Published: June 27, 2008
Gun-control advocates across the country reacted with shock and outrage at the Supreme Court's decision to strike down the District of Columbia's ban on handguns today, saying the ruling would threaten gun-control measures in other states.
If there was any doubt that other bans would be in peril, the National Rifle Association quickly put those questions to rest when it announced shortly after the ruling that it would file a flurry of lawsuits challenging restrictions in San Francisco, Chicago and several Chicago suburbs. The law in Washington, which spelled out rules for the storage of weapons and made it extremely difficult for most people in the district to legally possess a handgun, was among the strictest in the nation.
"I consider this the opening salvo in a step-by-step process of providing relief for law-abiding Americans everywhere that have been deprived of freedom," Wayne LaPierre, the executive vice president of the NRA, said in a statement.
In its 5-to-4 decision, the court ruled that the Constitution protects an individual's right to own guns, not just the right of the states to maintain regulated militias. It also said that the District of Columbia's requirement that lawful weapons be disassembled or limited by trigger locks was unconstitutional because it made them virtually useless.
In Chicago, Mayor Richard Daley, a staunch supporter of gun control, called the decision "frightening" and said he was bracing for a fight with the gun lobby, which has long criticized the city's ban on the sale and registration of handguns for everyone but police officers and a handful of others. Enacted in 1982, the law was created in response to the murders of two police officers and the assassination attempt on former president Ronald Reagan.
"Does this lead to everyone having a gun in our society?" he said at a news conference. "If they think that's the answer, then they're greatly mistaken. Then, why don't we do away with the court system and go back to the Old West? You have a gun and I have a gun and we'll settle in the streets.
"They're changing the rules," Daley said of the Supreme Court. "Why should we as a city not be able to protect ourselves from those who want guns in our society?"
Senator Dianne Feinstein, a former mayor of San Francisco, which also restricts the owning of guns, reacted strongly to the ruling, saying she was "viscerally affected" by it and worried for the nation's safety.
"I speak as somebody who has watched this nation with its huge homicide rate, when countries that have sane restrictions on weapons do not have that homicide rate," she said. "And I happen to believe that this is now going to open the door to litigation against every gun safety law that states have passed — assault weapons bans, trigger locks, and all the rest of it."
The ruling was quickly seized upon by John McCain, who in recent months has tried to repair a fractured relationship with the gun lobby stemming from his support of regulations on gun sales at firearm shows and other restrictions. McCain praised the decision today, and used it to renew criticisms of his Democratic rival, Senator Barack Obama.
"Unlike the elitist view that believes Americans cling to guns out of bitterness, today's ruling recognizes that gun ownership is a fundamental right — sacred, just as the right to free speech and assembly," McCain said.
Obama, however, was more careful and moderate in his statements about the ruling, saying it would provide "much-needed guidance to local jurisdictions" across the country.
"I have always believed that the Second Amendment protects the right of individuals to bear arms, but I also identify with the need for crime-ravaged communities to save their children from the violence that plagues our streets through common-sense, effective safety measures," he said. "The Supreme Court has now endorsed that view, and while it ruled that the DC gun ban went too far, Scalia himself acknowledged that this right is not absolute and subject to reasonable regulations enacted by local communities to keep their streets safe."
What impact this will have on other gun control laws remains to be seen. Any incorporation will only give the NRAs of the world a legal opening to challenge any and all gun control legislation. Who knows, before long, our streets may look like this--with a little help of our friends holed up in their gated communities, locked and stowed from those they have been running away from since the advent of the levittown.