no one talkin about the supreme court ruling?
Top US court to rule on gun ban
Anne Davies, Washington
November 22, 2007
AMERICANS' right to bear arms, enshrined in the second amendment to the US constitution, is to be tested before the Supreme Court for the first time in nearly 70 years. The court's judges have agreed to hear a case on whether a tough gun control law in Washington DC violates the constitution.
The Supreme Court decision will have major ramifications for gun control in the US, which is regulated state by state.
The US still holds the dubious honour of having the highest rate of gun ownership in the developed world — more than 59 million adults own a gun. It also has high levels of gun crime: 10,177 gun deaths last year, according to the FBI.
The case will elevate the right to gun ownership into a central issue of the presidential campaign, particularly on the Republican side, where candidates are regularly quizzed on their records of defending the right to have and own guns.
After the Virginia Tech massacre in April, neither side of politics ventured to suggest that there should be restrictions on gun ownership. Instead, Congress focused on ensuring that databases on mental illness were up to date and on closing a loophole that meant people could buy guns at gun shows in Virginia without any waiting period and without the usual police checks.
The current case is a response to a 1976 law in the District of Columbia which was adopted soon after the district was granted home rule. It is one of the toughest in the nation and prohibits people from registering and possessing handguns in almost all circumstances.
Despite this law, Washington DC was considered the murder capital of America in the 1990s when a crack cocaine epidemic swept through the city.
The Supreme Court challenge comes as a result of a decision by the US Court of Appeals for the DC circuit this year. A panel of three Republican-appointed judges voted 2 to 1 that the second amendment "protects an individual right to keep and bear arms" and that "once it is determined — as we have done — that handguns are 'arms' referred to in the second amendment, it is not open to the district to ban them."
For years legal scholars, historians and grammarians have debated the meaning of the second amendment because of its enigmatic wording and odd punctuation:
"A well-regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed," it says.
Gun rights proponents say the words guarantee the right of an individual to possess firearms. Gun control supporters say it conveys only a "civic" right to own guns as part of service in an organised military organisation, like the police or the army.
The Supreme Court's last examination of the amendment was in 1939, when it ruled that a sawn-off shotgun transported across state lines was not what the amendment's authors had in mind when they were protecting arms needed for military service.
Since then, almost all of the nation's courts of appeal have read the ruling to mean the amendment conveys only a collective right to gun ownership. But the US Court of Appeals for the DC circuit broke ranks last spring, becoming the first to challenge a gun control law on second amendment grounds.
The Supreme Court is expected to hear argument early in the new year before ruling about June.