Sat, Oct 07, 2017 - Page 9 News List

What US’ second amendment says

Its words have fueled centuries of debate — but not until 2008 did the US Supreme Court clearly back an individual’s right to keep a weapon at home for self-defense

By Alan Yuhas  /  The Guardian

The federalist Madison’s compromise, Bogus said, was to promise a bill of rights.

After weeks of tense debate, his federalists narrowly won the vote to ratify the constitution.

“He writes an amendment that gives the states the right to have an armed militia, by the people arming themselves,” Bogus said.

A year later, the federal government passed a law requiring every man eligible for his local militia to acquire a gun and register with authorities. (The law was only changed in 1903.)

After the Civil War, second amendment rights were again debated by US Congress, which abolished militias in the former Confederate states and passed the 1866 Civil Rights Act, explicitly protecting freed slaves’ right to bear arms.

A century later, the founders of the Black Panthers took up guns, symbolically and literally, to press for equal civil rights in California.

The state’s conservative lawmakers promptly took up the cause of gun control.

In 1967, then-California governor Ronald Reagan signed the Mulford Act, banning the public carry of loaded guns in cities. The governor said he saw “no reason why on the street today a citizen should be carrying loaded weapons.”

Reagan later supported the Brady Act, a gun control law named after his aide, who was shot during an assassination attempt on Reagan in Washington.

The National Rifle Association (NRA) supported the Mulford Act, but opposed the Brady Act, signed into law 26 years later.

Winkler said that during the 1970s, a “revolt among the membership profoundly altered the NRA overnight. Since the 1930s, the group had supported restrictions on machine guns and public carry, but angry hardliners took control over the organization in 1977, when moderates wanted to retreat from lobbying work. The group then began a decades-long campaign to popularize its uncompromising positions.”

“The NRA goes far beyond what the second amendment requires — people walking around with permits, on college campuses,” Winkler said. “Their argument is it’s a fundamental right and freedom. People care more about values than they care about policy.”

In the late 1990s, several prominent liberal attorneys, such as Laurence Tribe and Akhil Reed Amar, also argued for an individual right, while advocating gun regulation.

Gun-control activists say they have not changed tack since the US Supreme Court’s 2008 decision.

Scalia wrote a narrow opinion and listed several exceptions, such as bans on “unusual and dangerous weapons,” and sales to domestic abusers and people with mental illness.

He also wrote that states and cities could ban firearms from places such as government buildings.

Lower courts have upheld many gun laws around the nation since 2008, while the US Supreme Court has declined to hear any second amendment cases since 2010.

Attorneys and activists on both sides expect a looming fight over the right to carry guns in public, which the Heller decision does not address.

“The courts generally strike a balance between the need for lawmakers to protect public safety and this notion of second amendment rights,” Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence copresident Avery Gardiner said.

The Heller decision, she said, was “entirely consistent” with gun laws like background checks.

“There’s a mythology here that the Supreme Court has said something about the second amendment that it hasn’t,” she said. “I think most Americans don’t like reading the footnotes.”

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