From the International Herald Tribune:
WASHINGTON: The Supreme Court on Thursday embraced the long-disputed view that the Second Amendment protects an individual right to own a gun for personal use, ruling 5 to 4 that there is a constitutional right to keep a loaded handgun at home for self-defense.
The landmark ruling overturned the District of Columbia ban on handguns, the strictest gun-control law in the country, and appeared certain to usher in a new round of litigation over gun rights throughout the country.
The court rejected the view that the Second Amendment’s “right of the people to keep and bear arms” applied to gun ownership only in connection with service in the “well regulated militia” to which the amendment refers.
Justice Antonin Scalia’s majority opinion, his most important in his 22 years on the court, said that the justices were “aware of the problem of handgun violence in this country” and “take seriously” the arguments in favor of prohibiting handgun ownership.
“But the enshrinement of constitutional rights necessarily takes certain policy choices off the table,” he said, adding, “It is not the role of this court to pronounce the Second Amendment extinct.”
Scalia’s opinion was signed by Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Justices Anthony Kennedy, Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito Jr.
In a dissenting opinion, Justice John Paul Stevens took vigorous issue with Scalia’s assertion that it was the Second Amendment that had enshrined the individual right to own a gun. Rather, it was “today’s law-changing decision” that bestowed the right and created “a dramatic upheaval in the law,” Stevens said in a dissent joined by Justices David H. Souter, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer. Breyer, also speaking for the others, filed a separate dissent.
According to Scalia, the “militia” reference in the first part of the amendment simply “announces the purpose for which the right was codified: to prevent elimination of the militia.” The Constitution’s framers were afraid that the new federal government would disarm the populace, as the British had tried to do, Scalia said.
Well, in that case….
[...] Stevens said the Second Amendment’s structure was notable for its “omission of any statement of purpose related to the right to use firearms for hunting or personal self-defense,” in contrast to the contemporaneous “Declarations of Rights” in Pennsylvania and Vermont that did explicitly protect those uses.
Oh, smack!! Spank ‘im, Justice Stevens!!
President George W. Bush welcomed the decision. “As a longstanding advocate of the rights of gun owners in America,” he said in a statement, “I applaud the Supreme Court’s historic decision today confirming what has always been clear in the Constitution: the Second Amendment protects an individual right to keep and bear firearms.”
Yeah right, Chimpy. You can’t even be trusted with sparklers on the 4th of July.
On the campaign trail on Thursday, both major-party presidential candidates expressed support for the decision — more full-throated support from Senator John McCain, the presumptive Republican nominee, and a more guarded statement of support from Senator Barack Obama, his presumptive Democratic opponent.
Unlike the court’s ruling this month on the rights of the Guantánamo detainees, this decision, District of Columbia v. Heller, No. 07-290, appeared likely to defuse, rather than inflame, the political debate. The Democratic Party platform in 2004 included a plank endorsing the individual-rights view of the Second Amendment.