Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Applying the Fourteenth Amendment to gun rights may be a difficult victory

The US Supreme Court ruled that rights guaranteed by the constitution apply to not only the federal government but also to state and local governments. The court’s 5-4 decision struck down a City of Chicago law that banned hand gun ownership by private citizens in the city for any reason.

This is a setback to liberals’ misunderstood position in favor of gun control as a way to fight gun violence. The court said that the constitution under the 14th Amendment applies to everyone despite where they may live. As is clearly stated in the Fourteenth amendment the United States can’t “deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.” This includes the right of gun ownership [but not necessarily the possession and use] as granted in the Second Amendment.

Conservatives, a long time supporter of gun ownership rights, are calling this a victory. But, this opens a much wider door for many other things that conservatives will find difficult to tolerate. This decision, because it uses the Fourteenth amendment to apply the Constitution to all levels of government, further supports many of the rights we all agree on. The right of free speech, assembly, protection against self incrimination and the protection of property rights are just a few. All of these freedoms can’t be limited by state laws, because the court has ruled that the Fourteenth Amendment’s intent was to assure that all citizens of the Untied States have equal protection.

This decision could, in the long run, be used to support more controversial issues. Gay rights, marriage, Miranda warning and much more. If this support for the Fourteenth Amendment continues, as it should, states will lose a substantive voice in all of them. States will lose the ability to limit an individual’s rights when those rights come from the Constitution as defined in the Ninth Amendment. This further erodes, as it should, the idea of “States Rights” as a basic understanding of the constitution. It may have been before the Fourteenth Amendment, but not after.

Consider this quote from Legal Information Institute, part of the Cornell School of Law. “If the Court sides with Petitioners Otis McDonald, et al. [as it did], it may reverse the Slaughterhouse line of cases and incorporate the Second Amendment—and possibly the entire Bill of Rights—against the States.” It is clear from the decision of the court and from the view of legal scholars that this case is a good decision for gun rights. But it can also be applied to both the many rights we all accept and those that are being passionately being argued in the community today.

To community members in good standing, this decision fully supports the individual’s right to live in a manner that is consistent with their own beliefs without fear of limits from the community. Unless the individual is engaged in activity that will harm someone or has the clear danger of harm, he or she can do what is best for them.

The community still has a heavy agenda to find a way to curtail gun violence and not limit the rights of individuals in good standing. While this decision may not fully help in that search, the support of the rights of any individual is the support of everyone’s rights.

Many of those rights that are preserved by this decision will help solve the community’s most pressing problems.