Lock and Load?
This article is from the archive of The New York Sun before the launch of its new website in 2022. The Sun has neither altered nor updated such articles but will seek to correct any errors, mis-categorizations or other problems introduced during transfer.
One of the most illuminating questions in respect of the Supreme Court’s ruling on the right to keep and bear arms is whether it should be applauded by the liberals or by conservatives — or both. The court, in a case called McDonald v. Chicago, followed a ruling two years ago, in a case called District of Columbia v. Heller, in which the court said that the federal government could not infringe the rights vouched safe by the Second Amendment. In the latest case it extended that logic, deciding that the Second Amendment does apply to the states and municipalities. As in Heller, it stopped short of saying there could be no regulation of guns. But it did say that the Second Amendment protects Americans from interference by all levels of government.
In this sense it continues a process known as incorporation, in which the Bill of Rights, which was originally intended to restrict only the federal government, is extended via the 14th Amendment to restrict the states and local governments from interfering with the people’s rights as well. But is that a right-wing idea or a left-wing one? After all, the idea of states rights is thought of as a conservative idea, and the process of incorporation uses the 14th Amendment to limit what the states can do. But McDonald is a case in which the four more liberal members of the court — Justices Breyer, Ginsburg, Stevens, and Sotomayor — all dissented and said that the second of the 10 amendments that make up the bill of rights should not apply to the states and that the states should be able to do what they want to.
In any event, what an astonishing thing to see Chicago warning residents not to exercise the rights the Supreme Court just vouchsafed. Mayor Daley has been particularly irresponsible, saying Chicago would try to find new ways to restrict guns instead of saying it would find ways to expedite the issuing of gun permits. He reminds of Governor George Wallace vowing, after the courts had ordered the integration of the University of Alabama, to stand in the school house door. The right move for cities and states now is to craft procedures for the rapid issuing to law abiding citizens permits to keep and carry handguns.
The Sun was the first newspaper in the country to endorse the line of argument then being advanced in by the retired Washington D.C. security guard, Dick Heller, as his Second Amendment claim was working its way up through the courts. We saluted in particular the method through which the riders of the District of Columbia Circuit of the United States Court of Appeals parsed the plain language of the Second Amendment, which says that the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed. We saluted the Supreme Court decision in that case and predicted state and local gun cases would be the next step in this process. And we predicted that eventually the decision in Heller would have an impact in New York. It looks like that time is getting closer.