Saturday, January 11, 2014

141.2 - Bad-news-good-news: guns

Bad-news-good-news: guns

Another bad-news-good-news deal has to do with guns.

The bad news is that on January 6, US District Judge Edmond Chang ruled that the city of Chicago's ban on the sale of guns within the city limits is unconstitutional.

Chang said in his ruling that he understood Chicago enacted the gun sale ban with the aim of safeguarding its residents, calling that "one of the fundamental duties of government." He even acknowledged "[t]he stark reality facing the city each year is thousands of shooting victims and hundreds of murders committed with a gun." However, he said,
on the other side of this case is another feature of government: certain fundamental rights are protected by the Constitution, put outside government's reach, including the right to keep and bear arms for self-defense under the Second Amendment.
The reference to "self-defense" is particularly depressing, as it indicates that at least some lower courts are embracing a wide view of the Supreme Court's Heller and McDonald decisions of 2008 and 2010, respectively. Heller was the first time in US history that the Supreme Court somehow dug out of the Second Amendment an individual right to self-defense, in fact found it to be a meaning and a purpose of the Second Amendment. That had never happened before and now it's being quoted in lower court decisions. Really depressing.

The suit in question was brought by three Chicago residents and, significantly, the Illinois Association of Firearms Retailers, eagerly anticipating a whole new market.

It wasn't a total loss: Chang delayed the effect of his ruling to give the city time to appeal and, importantly, emphasized in his ruling that the issue was the fact that the ban was total, including even gifts among family members. He specifically left the door open for the city to regulate in some way "short of the complete ban" and many elected officials and community activists are already considering ways to do that. And, at least for now, the city's ban on possession of assault weapons, which was not involved in the suit, still stands.

But the true good news on this, is, first a week before Chang's ruling, US District Judge William Skretny upheld most of New York state's toughened gun control laws, which were adopted in the wake of the Newtown massacre.

The laws banned large-capacity magazines and the sale of some semi-automatic rifles. Skretny said those provisions are constitutional because they're related to achieving an "important governmental interest" in public safety. The only part he struck down was a provision that banned having more than seven bullets in a legal 10-round magazine, calling the number "arbitrary."

And second, that day before that, the New Jersey state Supreme Court rejected a challenge to two of that state's tough gun control laws requiring that people show a "justifiable need" and "an urgent necessity ... for self-protection" to get a permit to carry a concealed weapon. The court found that New Jersey has a "well-established record" of controlling firearms and can place strict requirements on people seeking concealed-carry permits.

Two final quick points here: One, it shows the "script" the mass media is following on this issue - the script* being a framework established for a storyline into which all future stories must fit - that you likely heard more about the Chicago case striking down gun laws than you did about the New York and New Jersey cases, upholding them, combined.

And two, NJ Gov. Chris "Is it 2016 yet?" Christie continues to say he supports all kinds of gun control measures - but his Attorney General refused to defend the two laws that were challenged here.

Footnote: This obviously was done before "Bridgegate" blew wide open. I suspect the governor's middle name is going to be changed to "Is it over yet?"


*So far as I know, this idea of "the script" originated with Bob Somerby, who I think in general is a holier-than-thou twit, but I also think "the script" is one of sharpest tools for media analysis around.

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