While most gun enthusiasts are rejoicing over the Supreme Court’s ruling over the meaning of the Second Amendment, others are waiting for the other shoe to drop. The court ruled that the amendment protects the individual’s right to bear arms. At the same time, the ruling also made references to gun rights still reserved by states and municipalities, including keeping individuals with a police record, however petty, from purchasing and possessing guns.

In a joint “opinion piece,” in The Wall Street Journal, mayors Michael Bloomberg of New York and Thomas Menino of Boston lost no time in proposing four additional reforms involving the right to purchase and own handguns. The first proposal is to drop the hammer on unlicensed dealers at gun shows who legally don’t have to run background checks on gun purchasers. The next proposal from the two mayors was to prohibit gun dealers from selling off their inventory after they have been closed down for selling guns illegally. Third, gun dealers would be required to do background checks on their employees. Potentially, a person who can’t buy a gun because he has a criminal record, is fully free to sell guns. And the final Bloomberg/Menino proposal would prevent an individual labeled as “potentially dangerous” from purchasing a gun.

Since the Supreme Court ruling was triggered by the stringent gun laws in the District of Columbia (D.C. v. Heller), it was not surprising that D.C. police chief Cathy Lanier held an immediate press conference to announce that she and other city officials plan to continue certain firearms restrictions on residents of the nation’s capital. To wit: automatic and semi-automatic firearms will still be illegal in Washington. This means that firepower to protect one’s castle will be limited to a five-shot revolver instead of a pistol that can hold three times as many cartridges. Add to this limitation that fact that extracting empty shell casings from a revolver and then reloading is far more restrictive than clicking a magazine in place in the case of a semi-automatic pistol.

While guns can be used for hunting, target practice, competitive shooting, and collecting, it was clear that for D.C. residents, the primary desire for reform was self-protection. Justice Scalia, writing for the majority, quoted legal precedents affirming that “the right to self-defense is the first law of nature.” Keep in mind also that Washington, D.C. has frequently owned the title of “murder capital of the nation.” Not only is the city a scary place to be day or night, there are even areas where police officers won’t venture unless they are part of a large contingent.

Gun bans similar to the one overthrown in Washington are still in place in San Francisco, Chicago, and several suburban areas. These will require ongoing and expensive lawsuits to challenge these statutes. Authorities in these locales apparently are unaware of English common law – widely observed in the United States – which protects a person’s home with the phrase “one’s home is one’s castle.” Put simply, a citizen attacked in his home has the right to use reasonable force and deadly force to protect his own life or that of another in his household.

A number of states continue to insist that self-defense consists of “retreating” if one can run out of one’s own home and avoid a confrontation. In other words, “standing your ground” is forbidden and one has the obligation to retreat rather than using some sort of force to defend one’s home and the possessions therein. Keep this diffident reaction in mind the next time you read read about the American Revolution or our response to the attack on Pearl Harbor. So even though the recent Supreme Court ruling enables a citizen to keep a handgun in his home for self-defense, certain state and local laws take the teeth out of the decision by requiring the homeowner to retreat from an aggressor and leave him free to damage and plunder until hopefully the police arrive in time to take him into custody.

While it is well and good to celebrate the Supreme Court’s historical decision, keep in mind the Second Amendment has far more political context than is being acknowledged. The decision says self-defense is a fundamental human right. And remember also that the decision leaves in place draconian regulations elsewhere that result in residents of other cities and states being defenseless, vulnerable, and insecure. The Second Amendment right belongs to all Americans.

– Chase.Hamil

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