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calendar   Tuesday - November 20, 2007

Heller is a go!

SCOTUS decides to hear DC v. Heller. Hold your breath, cross your fingers and pray!

Via al-reuters

US court to review Washington, D.C., handgun ban
WASHINGTON, Nov 20 (Reuters) - The U.S. Supreme Court said on Tuesday it would decide whether handguns can be banned in the nation’s capital, a case that could produce its first ruling in nearly 70 years on the right of Americans to bear arms.

The nation’s highest court agreed to hear an appeal by officials from the District of Columbia government arguing that the city’s 31-year-old law banning private possession of handguns should be upheld as constitutional.

The justices said they would review a precedent-setting ruling by a U.S. appeals court that broadly interpreted an individual’s constitutional right under the Second Amendment to bear arms and struck down the city’s law for violating those rights.

Via Fox News, who puts up the AP story:

Supreme Court Will Decide Challenge to District of Columbia Handgun Ban

WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court said Tuesday it will decide whether the District of Columbia can ban handguns, a case that could produce the most in-depth examination of the constitutional right to “keep and bear arms” in nearly 70 years.

The justices’ decision to hear the case could make the divisive debate over guns an issue in the 2008 presidential and congressional elections.

The government of Washington, D.C., is asking the court to uphold its 31-year ban on handgun ownership in the face of a federal appeals court ruling that struck down the ban as incompatible with the Second Amendment. Tuesday’s announcement was widely expected, especially after both the District and the man who challenged the handgun ban asked for the high court review.

The main issue before the justices is whether the Second Amendment of the Constitution protects an individual’s right to own guns or instead merely sets forth the collective right of states to maintain militias. The former interpretation would permit fewer restrictions on gun ownership.

Gun-control advocates say the Second amendment was intended to insure that states could maintain militias, a response to 18th century fears of an all-powerful national government. Gun rights proponents contend the amendment gives individuals the right to keep guns for private uses, including self-defense.

Alan Gura, a lawyer for the D.C. residents who challenged the ban, said he was pleased that the justices were considering the case.

“We believe the Supreme Court will acknowledge that, while the use of guns can be regulated, a complete prohibition on all functional firearms is too extreme,” Gura said. “It’s time to end this unconstitutional disaster. It’s time to restore a basic freedom to all Washington residents.”

Paul Helmke, president of the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence, said the Supreme Court should “reverse a clearly erroneous decision and make it clear that the Constitution does not prevent communities from having the gun laws they believe are needed to protect public safety.”

The last Supreme Court ruling on the topic came in 1939 in U.S. v. Miller, which involved a sawed-off shotgun. That decision supported the collective rights view, but did not squarely answer the question in the view of many constitutional scholars. Chief Justice John Roberts said at his confirmation hearing that the correct reading of the Second Amendment was “still very much an open issue.”

The Second Amendment reads: “A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.”

Washington banned handguns in 1976, saying it was designed to reduce violent crime in the nation’s capital.

The City Council that adopted the ban said it was justified because “handguns have no legitimate use in the purely urban environment of the District of Columbia.”

The District is making several arguments in defense of the restriction, including claiming that the Second Amendment involves militia service. It also said the ban is constitutional because it limits the choice of firearms, but does not prohibit residents from owning any guns at all. Rifles and shotguns are legal, if kept under lock or disassembled. Businesses may have guns for protection.

Chicago has a similar handgun ban, but few other gun-control laws are as strict as the District’s.

Four states — Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland and New York — urged the Supreme Court to take the case because broad application of the appeals court ruling would threaten “all federal and state laws restricting access to firearms.”

Dick Anthony Heller, an armed security guard, sued the District after it rejected his application to keep a handgun at home for protection.

The laws in question in the case do not “merely regulate the possession of firearms,” Heller said. Instead, they “amount to a complete prohibition of the possession of all functional firearms within the home.”

If the Second Amendment gives individuals the right to have guns, “the laws must yield,” he said.

Opponents say the ban plainly has not worked because guns still are readily available, through legal and illegal means. Although the city’s homicide rate has declined dramatically since peaking in the early 1990s, Washington still ranks among the nation’s highest murder cities, with 169 killings in 2006.

The U.S. Court Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ruled 2-1 for Heller in March. Judge Laurence Silberman said reasonable regulations still could be permitted, but said the ban went too far.

The Bush administration, which has endorsed individual gun-ownership rights, has yet to weigh in on this case.

Arguments will be heard early next year.

The case is District of Columbia v. Heller, 07-290.

Via CNN

Supreme Court to rule on gun ownership rights
WASHINGTON (CNN)—The U.S. Supreme Court agreed Tuesday to decide whether the District of Columbia’s sweeping ban on handgun ownership violates the Constitution’s fundamental right to “keep and bear arms.” The justices accepted the case for review, with oral arguments likely next February or March. A ruling could come by late June, smack in the middle of the 2008 presidential election campaign.

At issue is one that has polarized judges and politicians for decades: Do the Second Amendment’s 27 words bestow gun ownership as an individual right, or do they bestow a collective one—aimed at the civic responsibilities of state militias—making it therefore subject to strict government regulation.  City leaders had urged the high court to intervene, saying refusal to do so could prove dire.

“The District of Columbia—a densely populated urban locality where the violence caused by handguns is well documented—will be unable to enforce a law that its elected officials have sensibly concluded saves lives,” wrote attorneys for the city.

Washington Mayor Adrian Fenty and other officials held a public rally in September, with the message that more handguns will only mean more serious crime.

“I see the results of gun violence every day,” said Washington Police Chief Cathy Lanier. “The weakening of the district’s gun law will inevitably lead to an increase in injury, and worse, death.” A federal appeals court in March ruled the handgun ban to be unconstitutional as well as a provision that rifles and shotguns—which are legal to own in the city—be kept in the home unloaded and fitted with trigger locks or disassembled. The rifle regulations are not at issue before the Supreme Court.

The city’s 31-year-old law has prevented most private citizens from owning and keeping handguns in their homes.

Only Chicago, Illinois, and and Washington among major U.S. cities have such sweeping handgun bans. Courts have generally upheld bans in other cities of semiautomatic weapons and sawed-off shotguns.

Several Washingtonians first challenged the law, some saying they wanted to do something about being constant victims of crime.

“I want for myself the right to protect my home and my family in the event of a violent attack,” plaintiff George Lyon said in March after winning a lower court victory. “The District of Columbia is not what I call the safest jurisdiction in the world.”

The city reported 137 gun-related murders last year.

The March ruling that overturned the ban was the first time a federal appeals court had found a gun law unconstitutional on Second Amendment grounds.

The amendment states, “A well-regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.”

The Supreme Court generally has steered clear of settling the individual versus collective dispute, and it last examined the issue in 1939 without fully resolving the broader conditional questions.

The conservative majority has been supportive of local jurisdictions crafting gun-control laws. But the high court in 2003 refused to accept an appeal challenging California’s ban on assault rifles.

Similar weapon control laws in other cities also could be in jeopardy, and Maryland, Massachusetts, Chicago and San Francisco, California, have filed briefs supporting Washington.

The National Rifle Association and other groups support the gun owners, but both sides have privately expressed concern over how the justices will decide the issue, because the legal and political implications could be sweeping in scope.

Recent polling finds gun control remains an important political issue with voters. An NRA convention in September attracted seven Republican presidential candidates.

In June, the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives passed legislation to strengthen the national system that checks backgrounds of gun buyers. It followed the April shooting at Virginia Tech in which a gunman killed 32 students and faculty on campus.

Legal experts said that given the unanswered constitutional questions, it was little surprise the justices decided to tackle the case.

“This issue is so monumental and so sweeping, and such a change from prior rulings on gun control that it was basically on a freight train to the U.S. Supreme Court for the justices to finally decide,” said Thomas Goldstein, an appellate lawyer and founder of the popular scotusblog.com Web site.

A separate petition by five city residents asked to be included in the case. A federal court earlier had rejected that appeal on standing grounds.

Cybercast News Service chimes in too:

Supreme Court Agrees to Hear Challenge to DC Gun Ban
By Randy Hall
CNSNews.com Staff Writer/Editor
November 20, 2007

(CNSNews.com) - The U.S. Supreme Court announced on Tuesday that it will decide whether the ban on owning guns in the District of Columbia is constitutional, a pivotal case that could determine if the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution protects the right to own firearms.

At issue is a 31-year-old Washington, D.C., law banning handguns and requiring that all shotguns and rifles be kept unloaded and either trigger-locked or disassembled at all times. There is no exception for self-defense.

“The Bill of Rights does not end at the District of Columbia’s borders, and it includes the right to keep and bear arms,” said Alan Gura, lead counsel for the plaintiffs in Heller v. District of Columbia.

“After three decades of failure trying to control firearms in the District, it’s time for law-abiding city residents to be able to defend themselves in their homes,” Gura added. “We are confident the Supreme Court will vindicate that right in Washington, D.C., and across the nation.”

Dick Heller, a District resident who works as an armed security guard during the day but is forbidden by District law from keeping a handgun at home to protect himself, explained: “I want to be able to defend myself and my wife from violent criminals, and the Constitution says I have a right to do that by keeping a gun in my home.”

“The police can’t be everywhere, and they can’t protect everyone all the time,” he said. “Responsible gun ownership is a basic right we have as American citizens.”

The Supreme Court has not heard a Second Amendment case since 1939, when it issued a confusing and inconclusive decision in a case involving the interstate transportation of a sawed-off shotgun.

However, the case ended before the defendant had the opportunity to establish whether sawed-off shotguns are covered by the word “arms” in the text of the Amendment. Regular shotguns, along with rifles and handguns, are precisely the kind of “arms” the framers had in mind in drafting the Second Amendment, the plaintiffs argue.

The District’s functional firearms ban defies the framers’ obvious intent to ensure that the government could never disarm citizens in America, as other governments have done elsewhere.

Clark Neily, a public interest lawyer specializing in constitutional law cases and co-counsel to the Heller plaintiffs said, “The Second Amendment is every bit as much a part of the Bill of Rights as freedom of speech, freedom of the press and freedom of religion.”

“The framers of our Constitution made clear that the government has no more business disarming citizens than it has censoring them or telling them what values to hold sacred,” Neily said.

“The citizens of Washington, D.C. - indeed, all Americans - deserve a clear pronouncement from the nation’s highest court on the real meaning of the Second Amendment,” said Robert Levy, a senior fellow in constitutional studies at the Cato Institute and co-counsel to the Heller plaintiffs.

“Later cases will decide what gun regulations are constitutional, but an outright ban on all functional firearms clearly is not constitutional,” Levy said.

Heller promises to be among the most closely watched constitutional law cases in decades. At stake is not just the question of whether people have a constitutional right to own guns, but also the court’s willingness to stand up for rights that are expressed in the Constitution, even when those rights are strongly opposed by a vocal minority.

‘Exciting

Tuesday’s announcement sparked comment from Paul Helmke, president of the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence, who stated in a news release that “the Supreme Court’s decision in this case will be extremely significant - the most important decision on guns in nearly 70 years and maybe the most important ever regarding the Second Amendment.”

He disagreed with the appeals court ruling last March in the Parker v. Heller case, which led to the gun ban being overturned.

“By agreeing to hear the appeal by the District of Columbia in the Parker/Heller case, the U.S. Supreme Court has the chance to reverse a clearly erroneous decision and make it clear that the Constitution does not prevent communities from having the gun laws they believe are needed to protect public safety,” Helmke said.

The decision in the Parker case “ignored longstanding Supreme Court precedent, discounted the express language of the Second Amendment and substituted its policy preferences for those of the District’s elected representatives,” he added. “We are hopeful that the Supreme Court will reverse this flawed ruling.”

Also on Tuesday, Second Amendment Foundation founder Alan Gottlieb said in a release of his own that he is “excited” about the Supreme Court’s announcement.

“An affirmative ruling by the Supreme Court will probably not be the death knell for the extremist citizen disarmament movement,” Gottlieb said, “but it will properly cripple their campaign to destroy an important civil right, the one that protects all of our other rights.”

“The insidious effort to strip American citizens of their firearms rights, while at the same time permanently harming public safety, must end,” he added.

“The Washington, D.C., gun ban has been a monumental failure, and the crime statistics prove that,” Gottlieb said. “For almost 70 years, gun banners have deliberately misinterpreted and misrepresented the high court’s language in the U.S. v Miller ruling in 1939.

“It is long past the time that this important issue be put to rest, and the Heller case will provide the court with that opportunity,” he added.

As Cybercast News Service previously reported, the legal strategy behind the case has been under consideration for at least five years, and the U.S. House of Representatives voted to overturn the D.C. gun ban in 2004 and again in 2005.

Then, last March, the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia overturned the ban, giving gun rights advocates a major victory in their long battle over the restrictions.

The ruling drew strong reaction from both sides of the gun control issue. One group called the decision “‘judicial activism’ at its absolute worst” and another hailed it as “a tremendous victory for the common man.”

Soon afterwards, lawyers involved in the case said that attempts by “well-meaning members of Congress” to repeal the ban could backfire by keeping the issue out of the U.S. Supreme Court.

Oral arguments will most likely be scheduled for March, with a decision expected by June 2008.


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Posted by Drew458   United States  on 11/20/2007 at 02:52 PM   
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Oh, and here's some kind of visitor flag counter thingy. Hey, all the cool blogs have one, so I should too. The Visitors Online thingy up at the top doesn't count anything, but it looks neat. It had better, since I paid actual money for it.
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