Dec 5, 2009

Second Amendment May Gain Some Ground

Nearly a decade post-9/11, the forgotten amendment of the U.S. Constitution, the Second Amendment's right to bear arms, may gain some ground here at the beginning of the 21st Century.  Several state attempts to erode this right have been subjected to successful constitutional challenges.

The United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, in Robert Ord -v- District of Columbia, reversed a trial court's dismissal of one such gun owner's challenge, remanding the case back to the lower court for further proceedings.

Robert Ord, an licensed investigator, also licensed to carry a weapon in Virginia, will now be able to develop his case; a case that asserts that the mere threat of prosecution in nearby District of Columbia, where he frequently works, constitutes damages.  One interesting aspect of this case is that Ord was never arrested, nor were his weapons seized.  He claims the objectionable government action was the issuance of a warrant; a warrant Ord claims was obtained by the police in bad faith.

This spring (March 2010), the United States Supreme Court will hear oral argument on a gun-ordinance case from Illinois, McDonald -v- Chicago.   Michigan's Attorney General recently filed an amicus brief in the case.  In the Chicago gun case, the issue for determination by the Supreme Court is whether the Second Amendment is incorporated (thus applicable) to the states through the Fourteenth Amendment's Due Process clause such that Chicago's gun-ordinance banning guns in private homes is unconstitutional. 

A good primer on this age-old issue can be found on the official blog of the U.S. Supreme Court; known as SCOTUS.  The high court's blog post surveys the historical context of the Second Amendment with a focus on the modern ordinances and state laws that attempt to limit gun possession due to it's correlation with violent crime.

The high-court petitioner(s) in these gun cases are citizens claiming a constitutionally-protected right to bear arms. They assert that the state cannot unreasonably restrict this right with its laws or ordinances.

These cases pit the power of the government against the fundamental liberty interests of the individual.  The tension between the two continues to be the glue of our Democracy, just as it was in colonial times when these concepts were debated in Philadelphia, Boston and Washington.

In the decade since 9/11, various powers of the federal government have expanded under President Bush. At the state level, however, the individual right to bear arms may hold ground. The McDonald and the Ord cases are crucial milestones for the highly revered Second Amendment.

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