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U.S. Supreme Court decision to overturn handgun ban restores lost rights

Tuesday, July 8, 2008 | 10:00 a.m. CDT; updated 2:44 p.m. CST, Monday, February 2, 2009

At long last, the U.S. Supreme Court has decided the individual rights guaranteed by the Bill of Rights are also the intent of and inclusive of the Second Amendment. The overturning of the District of Columbia gun ban rightfully extends the right of gun ownership to individuals rather than just members of an organized militia, the result of which is a victory for logic and common sense in the interpretation of the amendment.

The resultant good news is the enabling of home and property owners’ right of self defense — in a manner of speaking, the leveling of a playing field upon which the advantage went to the armed criminal.

The most troubling aspect of the Supreme Court’s action was the narrowness of the margin — a 5 to 4 decision — an indication that four of those jurists may not take the right to defend oneself and family as seriously as that of the First Amendment guarantee of making a fool of oneself in public.

Other than clarification of individual versus militia gun ownership, the court made no sweeping change in the fundamental principles of the Second Amendment. In his majority opinion, Justice Scalia noted that these rights are not unlimited. The federal bans on automatic weapon ownership and the manufacture of assault weapons as well as allowing states to regulate applicable aspects of possession and carrying of firearms remain unchanged.

Surprisingly, the expected outcry from the anti-gun lobby was somewhat muted. However, the New York Times editorialized the decision as a veritable catastrophe for the civilized world. The “Gray Lady” pronounced “the Supreme Court all but ensured even more Americans will die senselessly with its wrong headed and dangerous ruling striking down parts of the District of Columbia’s gun control law.” The Times even went so far as to assert that the ruling will diminish our standing in the world with the message that the U.S. values gun rights over individual life.

Had the editorial staff of the New York Times done but a modicum of research, it could have avoided needless embarrassment. Since the 1976 imposition of the Washington. D.C.. handgun ban, the District of Columbia has experienced a significantly higher homicide rate than the aggregate of other large U.S. cities. For example, the 2005 murder rate per 100,000 citizens in the district was 35.4 percent compared to an average of 14.9 percent in our other large cities. Perhaps the criminals had no access to the Times and were unaware they could not own handguns?

Contrary to the observations of the New York Times, the public has little to fear from those of us who procure firearms legally and use them in a lawful manner. Conversely, the real hazard to the community lies in the possession of stolen or otherwise ill gotten weapons by the criminal or would be gangsters who engage in armed robberies, drive-by shootings, home invasions and/or “turf” protection.

Rather than deny firearms to the law abiding, the objective should be to remove the criminal element from the public domain. How many times do we have to read of some moron arrested for the second or third offense of unlawful discharge or use of a firearm before we realize this is not conducive to our good health? Is there any real opposition to adding five or even 10 years to the sentence of one convicted of a crime who has a hand gun in his or her possession?

And, for that individual who uses or actually discharges a firearm in the commission of a crime, I doubt that reasonable members of society would voice resistance to an automatic increase of 10 to even 20 years in confinement.

Is it not in our best interests to favor the good guys this time?

J. Karl Miller of Columbia retired as a colonel in the U.S. Marine Corps. Contact him via e-mail at JKarlUSMC@aol.com.


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