BOB BARR: The muddy waters of the Supreme Court’s next gun decision

BOB BARR: The muddy waters of the Supreme Court’s next gun decision

Gun Rights

When it comes to the Second Amendment, the Supreme Court moves with the all the dispatch of a giant tortoise; slow, plodding and deliberate. After all, it took the High Court 217 years from the time the Second Amendment was ratified in 1791 to finally figure out in 2008 that its guarantee of a “right to keep and bear arms” did actually apply; in that case, to a resident of the District of Columbia. The Court returned to the same question two years later to affirm this point clearly as against infringement by the government of any one of the 50 states. But in the decade since, it has reverted to its comfort zone and declined to tackle any of the myriad questions left hanging by these two narrow decisions. That silence finally may be broken, as the justices recently agreed to hear a challenge to one of New York’s many absurdly restrictive gun control laws. Before Second Amendment supporters break out the champagne, however, a few observations from Supreme Court history and procedure are in order. First, it must be kept in mind that only in the rarest of circumstances will the Court render a decision on other than the narrowest grounds possible. Thus, in its decisions in 2008 (Heller) and 2010 (McDonald), the five justices in the [bare] majority held that neither the District of Columbia government nor that of a state, could enforce laws that were so restrictive that an individual was prevented thereby from possessing […]

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