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SCOTUS: DC Gun Law

In a 5-4 decision, the U.S. Supreme Court today overturned a 32-year-old District of Columbia law limiting private gun ownership, for the first time expressly extending the Constitution's Second Amendment to private citizens.

That ruling is also a split decision with respect to where the public stands on these issues.

In a recent Washington Post poll, 72 percent of all Americans said they believe individuals have gun rights under the Second Amendment, that such protections are not limited to "militias." Twenty percent thought the constitutional guarantee covers "only the rights of the states to maintain militias."

But 58 percent in that national poll supported a D.C.-like ban on private handguns and trigger lock requirements; 38 percent opposed those restrictions. (In a January Post poll in the District itself, even more, 76 percent, favored the law, including 60 percent who said they were "strongly" behind the city ordinance.)

Those data are here.

In last week's Post-ABC national poll, just 1 percent called guns or gun control the election's single top concern. But that may underestimate the issue's potential political importance.

Forty-two percent of all American adults reported having a gun in the house, and they broke for John McCain over Barack Obama by a wide, 17 percentage point, margin. That gap crosses party lines, and independents from households with at least one gun tilt toward McCain, while those without firearms lean toward Obama. (George W. Bush beat John F. Kerry in 2004 by 27 points among gun owners, according to the network exit polls.)

The Second Amendment to the United States Constitution reads as follows:

"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."

In your opinion does this guarantee only the right of the states to maintain militias, or also the right of individuals to own guns?

[Chart]

SOURCE: Washington Post poll conducted by telephone by ICR, an independent research company. Interviews were conducted from March 7 - 10, 2008 among a nationally representative sample of 707 respondents age 18 and older. Results have a four point error margin.

By Jon Cohen  |  June 26, 2008; 10:49 AM ET
Categories:  Post Polls  
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Comments

President Clinton estimated that the Assault weapons ban in 1994 cost the Dems between 20 and 30 seats in Congress so I think it's a little more potent than 17 points. Plus now the Dems have elected a lot of conservative Dems to Congress.

Posted by: Stick | June 26, 2008 11:57 AM | Report abuse

It's inconceivable to me that any thinking person could possibly be so unaware of the thousands of people hurt, maimed, or killed by the indiscriminate use of guns in this country that they could vote to overturn the only sensible gun control law we have. I would think that the reading of the second amendment, while perhaps ambiguous to some, would be crystal clear to even the least grammatically- challenged member of our Supreme Court. Is it the comma they misunderstand or the word militia? I've been on the fence regarding the coming elections, but it's now Obama all the way if only to possibly change the make up of the Supreme Court.


Posted by: Joyce S. Stoney | June 26, 2008 11:57 AM | Report abuse

Apparently Joyce failed English in high school due her lack of reading comprehension ability regading the 2nd Ammendment.

Militia - all able-bodied males between 17-45

Regulated - trained and prepared.

Posted by: David | June 26, 2008 12:14 PM | Report abuse

" 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." - It says PEOPLE, not militia... Are we crystal Joyce? The original hand-written copy of the Bill of Rights, approved by the House and Senate, was prepared by scribe William Lambert and hangs in the National Archives. Go check it out Joyce...

Posted by: Ward2dude | June 26, 2008 12:15 PM | Report abuse

The are nearly 50 million gun owners in the USA. In 1996, 34,040 Americans died from gunfire. Shooting is the 8th largest cause of death in the US. The firearm homicide rate for US children under the age of 15 is 16 times higher in the US than the combined total for 25 other industrialised countries. A teenager in the United States today is more likely to die of a gunshot wound than from all the natural causes of death combined. Remembering those who died in Virginia Tech University saddened every heart in the world, more so their parents, kith and kin and those close to them.

Would US President George W Bush and the former British Prime Minister Tony Blair pause for a moment and ponder for those over 800,000 innocent civilians they killed in Iraq and Afghanistan: thousands have been made orphans, thousands disabled for life' thousands of wives became widows, thousands of men became widowers and thousands of parents lost their children American arms manufacturers, gun lobbyists and warmongering politicians do not hesitate to kill the poor and weak of the world. And only because majority of Americans love their guns and shoot.
learnt and used with immense pride so far is tanks, smart bombs and missiles? Under
President Bush is a gunslinger and shoots from his mouth and hip mouth and desired to conquer the world but it does not necessarily follow that the world desired to be conquered by a gunslinger like him. Who would believe that he is a man with any wisdom and the only cowboy language that he used: kill them, burn them, corner them and shoot them?

Under his leadership Americans have become the so-called self-righteous lame morons, gun-trotting, gun-slinging, military loving, abortion hating and foreigners despising rednecks who believe that they can urinate over the world sitting from their homes and you from the White House so that you could make America safe from the terrorists with your guns, tanks, F16s, cruise missiles and nuclear bombs.

World would hate to see anyother gunslinger sitting in the Oval Office.

Posted by: Saqib Khan, | June 26, 2008 12:20 PM | Report abuse

Can I get the numbers of the top 7 causes of death in the U.S.? Can we see the figures on 1996-2007? If we want to look at the numbers of death causes - we need to be objective. We might be outlawing alcohol, automobiles, & fast food... Also, Saqib - can you post the link to your "Shooting is the 8th largest cause of death in the US?" I'm seeing these but homicide isn't listed (or gun related deaths):http://longevity.about.com/od/longevity101/tp/mortalityall.htm and http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/FASTATS/lcod.htm
Number of deaths for leading causes of death

Heart disease: 652,091

Cancer: 559,312

Stroke (cerebrovascular diseases): 143,579

Chronic lower respiratory diseases: 130,933

Accidents (unintentional injuries): 117,809

Diabetes: 75,119

Alzheimer's disease: 71,599

Influenza/Pneumonia: 63,001

Nephritis, nephrotic syndrome, and nephrosis: 43,901

Septicemia: 34,136

Source: Deaths: Final Data for 2005, Table C

Posted by: Ward2dude | June 26, 2008 12:33 PM | Report abuse

Finally! There is, at least, "some" sanity left in this country. Kudos to the thinking members of the supreme court! I will concede that guns DO kill people and it would be a wonderful world without them. However!, the reason we need them is as a deterant to those who don't follow guns laws in the first place, Joyce! I have no ambition to kill ANYBODY but I certainly will if my family's life is at stake. Taking guns from law abiding citizens is NOT the answer to gun violence. The police are certainly of no use. Defend yourself or perish, your choice. (At least NOW it is)

Posted by: John | June 26, 2008 1:02 PM | Report abuse

You know what, I think I'm convinced. If I'm unfortunate enough to encounter an intruder in my home, I'll first try to reason with them. That failing, I suppose I'll attempt wrestling. If all else fails, I'll subdue them with the spine of the latest Readers' Digest. Bad guys have guns. What do you suggest I do to protect myself?

Posted by: Trojan Helmet | June 26, 2008 1:11 PM | Report abuse

So, what recourse do we have? Those of us that were convicted of having a gun in our homes in Washington D.C.? Being they were properly separated from the ammo, and stored in a locked case. Are our convictions going to be overturned? Are our guns going to be returned to us? How are we going to protect ourselves now that the D.C. Police has our guns? Back to square one I guess ... Scratch ... Scratch. Guess I'll need a lawyer.

Posted by: Ollie | June 26, 2008 1:29 PM | Report abuse

Activist judges doing it again, overturning the will of the electorate!

Posted by: Mortimer | June 26, 2008 1:41 PM | Report abuse

Sorry, Mortimer, but this ruling is just the opposite of judicial activism. Rather this court has affirmed the Bill of Rights, as its members are sworn to do. If you want to see judicial activism inaction, read the dissenting opinion. Another example of judicial activism is Kelo V. New London, which effectively destroyed private property rights of individuals in favor of governments and those who are favored by governments. Our Founding Fathers had first hand experience with that kind of tyranny. That is why they regarded private ownership of arms so important. I think our Founders would have already revolted against our current government. The fact that modern citizens have not speaks volumes about our powers of tolerance and restraint in the face of intrusive government abuse. In the end, the issue is not about owning firearms. It is about protecting liberty.

BTW - The arms addressed in the 2nd Amendment also covers knives, swords, staffs, clubs and even some tools. Would you also ban those? Why do opponents only attack firearms?

Posted by: Matthew | June 26, 2008 2:31 PM | Report abuse

Additionally, "the will of the electorate" is mob rule, democracy, which our Founding Fathers wisely avoided. Instead they established a representative republic. As a test, check the Constitution to see if the word democracy is ever mentioned. It is not. The role of the representatives, and in this case the Supreme Court, provides a mechanism where cool heads can consider an issue and make rulings that are sometimes unpopular, in the effort so seek what is just. It doesn't always work that way, but it is far better than allowing a fickle public rule en masse according to the latest fashions. If you doubt that, check history to see how many times popular injustices have been struck down by wise court rulings.

Posted by: Matthew | June 26, 2008 2:41 PM | Report abuse

Whether or not the DC gun ban was good or necessary is irrelevant. It was clearly unconstitutional. If you want to ban guns that way, you must change the Constitution first.

Posted by: PTFogarty | June 26, 2008 2:45 PM | Report abuse

Finally a bit of sanity. Just when it seems the world has gone insane. It's good to see the SCOTUS will stand by the Bill of Rights.

Posted by: Greg | June 26, 2008 2:54 PM | Report abuse

Mortimer:
If Constitutional rights are dependent on the will of the electorate then we have no constitutional rights.

Posted by: DJM | June 26, 2008 5:45 PM | Report abuse

awwwww... joyce is so cute. Somone need a cuddle and a spritzer?

Posted by: elo | June 26, 2008 5:53 PM | Report abuse

Reading these posts you would be led to believe most people don't support the right to bear arms, so why can't congress send an amendment to the states for ratification. Democrats control the Senate
they should stand up and be counted if they belive the 2nd should be repealed. Obama could show some leadership if he has the guts. If you don't like the constitution change it the way it was designed to be changed.

Posted by: DJM | June 26, 2008 6:45 PM | Report abuse

There is just no responding to the likes of Joyce.......shes a non thinking, leftist MORON!

Posted by: Bob | June 26, 2008 7:56 PM | Report abuse

Looks like your own poll of 70% in favor of the decision kinda upsets your # of 58% favoring gun control as being phony.

Posted by: Craig Lawrence | June 26, 2008 8:40 PM | Report abuse

I suggest you consider your position if you were assaulted in your own house like I nearly was. However, I had a loaded gun on the other side of the door, and I let them know it. They ran. Be prepared for a drop of crime in DC. Bad guys don't like good guys with guns in the hands.

Posted by: Anonymous | June 26, 2008 10:03 PM | Report abuse

I find this issue not to be about the regulation of guns in D.C. But rather the rights of the individual and the limitations of the local government.

Posted by: Richard | June 27, 2008 2:10 AM | Report abuse

We can now set our sights on cities like Chicago, San Francisco, and New York to give their citizens the same gun rights every law-abiding citizen deserves.

Posted by: John | June 27, 2008 7:40 AM | Report abuse

DJM, how can you say "Reading these posts you would be led to believe most people don't support the right to bear arms"?

As I write this there are 22 comments on this article. 3 of them support gun control, 4 if you count yours.

Posted by: Ben D. | June 27, 2008 1:27 PM | Report abuse

The police do not have a legal duty to protect citizens, although many subjects would think a simple 911 call will solve their immediate problem with a rapist, home invader, carjacker, mugger, road rage initiator, etc. Most people that would do away with guns know nothing about how to use them - I suggest those that are gun ignorant, as most sheeple are, at least go to a local range, and learn how to shoot - you may enjoy the sport and learn to be responsible for your own personal protection as well as your family's protection. I've been a blackbelt and expert shot for 30 years, and I've not been in a real fight since college, or ever shot anyone. But I have a plan, do you? Now D.C. can join the ranks of citizens that have a right to protect themselves, they are no longer subjects of an elite city dictatorship that thinks they know best.

Posted by: Ken | June 27, 2008 1:55 PM | Report abuse

"the right of the People...."

nuff said.

Posted by: Murff | June 27, 2008 2:27 PM | Report abuse

This decision doesn't do much for DC except for allowing people who want to legally purchase a handgun the ability to do so. A lot of people believe that easier availability of guns will inherently cause more crime. If that were true places like Vermont, where someone can walk around with a pistol concealed on there person without any sort of license, have low gun crime rates, and a place like New York City, where guns are hard to obtain, has such a high rate? It is a sad fact of life that criminals will always have the ability to get guns. This is true all over the world. If someone wants to legally buy a gun, why stop them?

Posted by: Matt | June 27, 2008 3:33 PM | Report abuse

Being a responsible handgun owner I am upset at all who say I shouldn't be able to own one. People kill people, guns my be in the equasion but how many people are killed each year by drunk drivers? Oh by the way my handguns and rifles are properly stored under lock and key.....

Posted by: Kerry | June 27, 2008 8:40 PM | Report abuse

England virtually outlawed all handguns in 1996 and firearm crimes have increased tremendously since then. They have found that there is a lot of truth in the saying that "if you outlaw guns, only outlaws will have guns." see: http://www.reason.com/news/show/28582.html

Posted by: Doug | June 28, 2008 5:24 PM | Report abuse

The constitution establishes the powers of the three branches of the Federal government, but the bill of rights establishes the things that the federal government MAY NOT DO. For example, in the first amendment, the phrase "Congress shall make no law ..." prohibits any infringement on free speech and assembly, a right that all people had prior to the existence of a Federal government.

In the second amendment, the phrase ".. shall not be infringed" is basically the same thing. The Federal government MAY NOT infringe on a right that everyone recognized existed before the constitution was written. Those who drafted the constitution and the bill of rights acknowledged that these rights were God-given, as stated in the Declaration of Independence.

The first clause (the "militia" clause) of the second amendment is subordinate. If it is removed from the sentence, the sentence still stands. The second clause makes a pretty definitive statement.

This nation was established on the principle of popular sovereignty, where the PEOPLE are sovereign, and the powers of government are limited. If only the police and military have guns, what does that do to the quaint notion of popular sovereignty?

Posted by: Dan | June 28, 2008 7:53 PM | Report abuse

I'm am constantly amazed that the proponents of more gun control don't recognize that the city with one of the highest crime rates in the country also has the strictest gun control laws in the country. Nor will they admit that all the claims of increased "gun violence" (what a ludicrous, moronic phrase) didn't arise in areas where the rights of honest citizens to legally own and carry have been recognized. However, you need not worry. Your Chief of Police has decided that the decision allows only revolvers and not "automatic" and semi-automatic handguns. It is obvious that your government will do everything in its power to defy the Supreme Court decision by making it all but impossible for a citizen to own a functioning firearm.

When I go to DC I'm amazed at the endless number of houses barred like fortresses. I'm amazed at the crime rate. The US capitol city is so poorly governed that it is a national embarrassment. Yet, the leaders are dead set on following the failed policies of the past 30 years and the good folks in Washington keep voting them in. Guns are not the reason for Washington's crime rate, just a handy excuse for your government to cover up their abject failure. Keep voting these clowns in and you deserve to live in a city with a murder rate approaching Baghdad.

Posted by: Bob | June 29, 2008 11:07 AM | Report abuse

My God.
This is the city where a friend and I checked into a hotel and when we asked about walking to a restaurant three blocks away we were told to take a cab because the streets were not safe. In the nation's capital it is not safe to walk three blocks in the downtown area !!!!!!
I sure have confidence in the city management and police. Hurrah for the Supreme Court.

Posted by: Brian Montgomery | June 30, 2008 12:30 AM | Report abuse

Even though the Second Amendment states "... the right of the people ... shall not be infringed", some people believe the Amendment does not mean what it says. Guess they have it on an anonymous higher authority.

Posted by: Paul | June 30, 2008 3:10 PM | Report abuse

I WONDER WHAT A WOMAN WHO IS ABOUT TO BE VIOLENTLY ASSAULTED WOULD LIKE TO HAVE IN HER HAND, A GUN OR A COPY OF THE LAW THAT PROHIBITS HER FROM OWNING ONE?

Posted by: JOHN | July 8, 2008 4:49 PM | Report abuse

A WELL REGULATED militia and private gun ownership seems like an oxymoron.

Posted by: browneri | July 10, 2008 1:04 PM | Report abuse

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Posted by: g4gqptf2a5m6 | July 12, 2008 12:19 PM | Report abuse

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