The Second Amendment’s Defining Moment

guns assault weaponsWe are at a crucial time in history for our second amendment rights. Law makers are trying to decide which guns are covered by the second amendment. Their decisions will be crucial for the future of gun owners across the nation.

In March 2008 I chatted with a silver-haired law school professor under the marble pillars of the U.S. Supreme Court building. He was very excited. The court was to about hear Heller v. D.C. The case would decide whether the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution protects an individual right to own and carry guns. He had 20 law students with him.

He said anxiously, “When I put in the paperwork to get seats months ago I didn’t know we’d get to see one of the last unresolved constitutional questions debated.” He said this while looking at a line of people hoping to get seats that went down the block, around a corner and out of sight.

Hours later a mainstream reporter next to me in the press section gasped, “Oh no,” when Justice Anthony Kennedy hinted that he believed the Second Amendment to be an individual right while asking the government’s attorney a question. Months later, when the high court ruled 5-4 that the Second Amendment protects an individual right from government infringement, the media was paying attention.

Many, however, are missing what’s happening now. The Second Amendment is having its defining moment in history. The decisions now percolating up to the Supreme Court are deciding what guns the Second Amendment covers, when requirements become infringements and more.

Gun-rights and gun-control groups understand that these court decisions illustrate how much elections matter, as the federal judges making these decisions are nominated by the president and voted on by the senate. However, two recent federal court decisions from judges appointed by former president Bill Clinton show how difficult these decisions can be to handicap.

In one just-decided case, California Senior U.S. District Court Judge Anthony W. Ishii found that “10-day waiting periods of Penal Code violate the Second Amendment” as applied to people who fall into certain classifications. He found this arbitrary wait time “burdens the Second Amendment rights of the plaintiffs.” (The decision can be read here.)

This court decision orders the California Department of Justice to allow the “unobstructed release” of guns to those who pass a background check and possess a California license to carry a handgun, or who hold a Department of Justice-issued Certificate of Eligibility and already possess at least one firearm known to the state.

Basically, it says if someone already legally has a gun in California the state can’t make that person wait 10 days for a second gun just because it wants to. If that sounds like common sense to you, you’re right, but common sense isn’t a given in the courts.

Brandon Combs, a plaintiff in the case who is also director of the executive director of the Calguns Foundation, said the decision clears the way for them to challenge “other irrational and unconstitutional gun-control laws…. We look forward to doing just that.”

This article continues on Forbes.com

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