Tuesday, July 1, 2008

A victory for individual rights

The Supreme Court’s decision last week striking down the District of Columbia’s comprehensive handgun ban is a major victory for individual rights.

The law prevented citizens from keeping a handgun in their own home for self-defense. That’s wrong. A law-abiding person ought to have the means of self-defense in the sanctuary of their home. Period.

Whether a handgun is the best means is open to debate. A shotgun loaded with #4 shot is a better bet — easier to use in a crisis, less penetration, etc. But law-abiding American citizens should be able to make the choice.

Striking down that draconian restriction is one victory. The other, broader one is that the Court finally made a judgment on the key question of the Second Amendment, arguing that the amendment acknowledges an individual — not a collective — right to keep and bear arms.

That’s a significant moment in the 40-year debate over gun control in this country and it’s a big win for firearms owners.
The decision does not, as alarmists have argued, mean all gun restrictions will go out the window. The Court was very explicit about this. Reasonable restrictions on who is able to purchase a gun are not open for challenge due to this ruling.

And those restrictions are important.

While it is absolutely right that citizens should have the right to arm themselves for self-defense, it is also absolutely right — and very tricky — for the government to regulate who gets their hands on a gun.

As I have argued before in this space, we need to figure out how to do a better job at preventing madmen and criminals from getting guns. Some ability to demonstrate basic competence and safety isn’t a bad idea, either.

Keeping a firearm for self-defense is an awesome responsibility — literally the power of life and death. It must be taken seriously. But the right to self-defense and the means to enforce it are fundamental rights of citizenship. And now those rights are more secure.

Jim Cornelius, Editor


  1. Jim, I usually agree with you, but on this one I have to respectfully disagree. I am a gun owner and have been one since I passed my hunters safety class from Jim Whitney at age 12. I enjoy shooting, but would gladly give up my right to own a firearm if it was in the best interests of society. Sadly, in places like Washington DC, a handgun is significantly more likely to be used in the commission of a crime than any sort of self or home defense. This isn't the wild west anymore.

    We are just lucky that this situation didn't end in a tragedy:


    Jason Wells

  2. I can't believe that I as a conservative would be saying this, but there does need to be a bit more oversight in the purchasing and licensing of handguns.

    Don't get me wrong, the 2nd Amendment rights of law-abiding citizens should never be abridged. I honestly cannot think of a situation when Americans as a whole giving up their 2nd Amendment rights would be "in the best interests of society." However, there are FAR too many people out there who, for a variety of reasons, should not be allowed to legally own a firearm. There has got to more oversight in the legitimate sales of handguns.

    I would also suggest that EVERYONE who owns a firearm must demonstrate proficiency with their weapon, not just those applying for a concealed permit. I am an OIF veteran, proficient with a variety of civilian and military firearms, but I would gladly submit to safety training if it meant that everyone was taking the same course and were being safer firearm owners.

    Sure, this doesn't do a single thing about people who illegally purchased or stole weapons, but we gotta start somewhere.