Whining over Heller

As could have been predicted, the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision on Heller that affirms that the US 2nd Amendment actually does mean that US citizens have an individual right to gun ownership has brought the “sky is falling crowd” out in force.

Toronto’s rabidly anti-gun Mayor David Miller took time out from closing gun clubs in his city to deplore the US decision.

A United States Supreme Court decision yesterday that struck down a handgun ban in Washington is bad news for Toronto, Mayor David Miller said.

“The easy supply of handguns in the U.S. leads directly to people being killed in Toronto,” he told reporters. “It’s that direct.”

He decried the U.S. court ruling, a 5-4 decision that confirmed the right to own guns for self-defence and hunting, as “very unfortunate.

“We have to redouble our efforts,” said the mayor, who launched an on-line petition in April calling on the federal government to ban handgun ownership in Canada.

Of course it is unlikely that the good mayor had any real insight into the background of the issue and gave no explanation as to how he thought the decision would impact on Toronto, but it did give him another opportunity to rant in public.

Of course Wendy Cukier President of Canada’s Coalition for Gun Control, surfaced as expected to warn of dire possible consequences from the decision, saying:

“While there are no legal implications for Canada, if the ruling leads to a relaxation of controls in the U. S., this could increase the flow of illegal guns to Canada.”

But mainly the shrill screams of doom and danger came from the usual suspects in the U.S.

Calling the US Supreme Court decision”misguided”, the Council of the District of Columbia discussed ways that they could minimize the effect of the decision on their current gun laws.

The city’s job was made more difficult by the court’s failure to provide any real clues as to what are permissible government restrictions on gun owners. As The Post’s Robert Barnes observed, the court raised as many questions as it answered in terms of what can be outlawed. Working in the District’s favor, though, are strong laws on the books that were seemingly untouched by the court’s ruling. For example, the District’s system of gun registration, which predates the 1976 ban on handguns, is among the strictest in the nation. Not only does it set requirements for who can own a gun, it also requires being fingerprinted, passing tests and completing an application certified by police. Council member Phil Mendelson (D-At Large), whose public safety committee will hold a hearing Wednesday on the decision, rightly wonders whether ballistics tests or a reasonable waiting period might also be appropriate.

Chicago’s Mayor Richard Daley also reacted to the decision with a fine bit of rhetoric.

Daley called the ruling “very frightening” and vowed to vigorously fight any attempt to invalidate the city’s ban.

“Does this lead to everyone having a gun in our society?” Daley asked while speaking at a Navy Pier event. “If [the justices] 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 it in the streets?”

As well as Chicago’s police chief.

Chicago Police Supt. Jody Weis also criticized the decision. “From a law enforcement perspective, this will no doubt make a police officer’s job more challenging than it already is, particularly since a firearm is used in 75 percent of all murders committed in the city of Chicago,” Weis said.

From the Chief’s comments, obviously the City’s current gun laws aren’t keeping guns out of the hands of the criminal element. But then they’re probably working to keep them out of the hands of law-abiding citizens.

It was noted that there was a certain amount of hypocrisy in Daley’s position with the Mayor and other city officials being protected by armed bodyguards.

New York City’s Mayor Michael Bloomberg tried to put a more positive spin on the decision.

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, whose advocacy against illegal gun trafficking has been a centerpiece of his political identity, responded cautiously to the Supreme Court’s ruling this morning that the United States Constitution protects an individual’s right to have a gun, not just the right of the states to maintain militias.

Trying to portray the ruling as largely theoretical, the mayor said the ruling would not jeopardize the work of his coalition, Mayors Against Illegal Guns, to advocate for stricter gun-control laws.

New York City had filed an amicus curiae brief in support of a 1976 District of Columbia law that made it practically impossible for an individual to legally possess a handgun in the District. However, the mayor declined to portray the Supreme Court decision as a defeat.

Dave Kopel disagrees.

Regarding gun carrying, Heller might, arguably, mean that New York City would have to follow a similar policy to Connecticut (and 39 other states): issue permits to carry a concealed handgun for lawful defense if the applicant is over 21, and passes a fingerprint-based background check and a safety class.

At the least, Heller indicates that gun carry licensing may not be “enforced in an arbitrary and capricious manner.” This is a problem for New York State’s carry licensing law, as Suzanne Novak detailed in a 1998 article in the Fordham Urban Law Journal. New York state law sets essentially no standards to guide local officials in deciding whether to issue carry permits.

The problem is acute in New York City. Celebrities, the ultra-wealthy, and the politically influential get carry permits. But many of the people who need them the most — such as stalking victims, or crime witnesses who have been threatened by the criminal’s friends — often do not. Even if New York City is not required to go as far as Connecticut, the City does need much less favoritism and much more objectivity in its administration of carry permits.

And then there was the Chicago Tribune editorial calling for the 2nd Amendment to be repealed.

But amid all of the hysteria and the cries of doom and gloom from the anti-gun crowd and the accusations of right wing activism on the part of the Court, Glenn Reynolds over at Instapundit noted the following:

I’M WRITING A SHORT PIECE ON HELLER FOR NORTHWESTERN, and something became clear to me as soon as I started writing: What’s most striking about Heller is that absolutely everybody — majority and dissents — says the Second Amendment protects an individual right.

It’s true that the dissenters’ view of that right is somewhere between “minimalist” (to be charitable) and “incoherent” (to be accurate). But nonetheless, all nine Justices specifically said the right is individual, and thus rejected the “collective right” position on the Second Amendment, a position that’s been the mainstay of gun-control groups, newspaper editorialists, and lower federal courts for decades, and one that was presented by those adherents as so obviously correct that those arguing for an individual right were called “frauds” and shills for the NRA.

Yet the collective right theory could not command a single vote on the Court when actually tested. It was, it seems, a paper tiger all along.

Regardless, the Heller decision is only the first step in a long legal process that will over many years and in many courts further define what the US Supreme Court has set into motion.

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