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A Shot in the Arm for the GOP

By striking down the District of Columbia's extraordinarily strict gun control law...a federal appeals court may have revived gun control as a political issue. It has been mostly dormant since autumn 2000, when Al Gore decided he was less interested in it than in carrying states such as Michigan and Pennsylvania... The appeals court ruling...should alarm the Democratic Party.


In 2000, advocates of stringent gun control thought they had won their argument with historical evidence when an Emory University historian, Michael Bellesiles, published "Arming America: The Origins of a National Gun Culture," (which) argued that when the Second Amendment was written, guns were not widely owned...Therefore the amendment was written to protect only the rights of states, not of individuals.

Before long, however, other scholars argued that much of Bellesiles's "research" consisted of meretricious uses of, fabrication of, or disregard of evidence, and the Bancroft Prize was rescinded. And in 1989, Sanford Levinson...had written in a Yale Law Journal article, "The Embarrassing Second Amendment," that the amendment's language, properly read, is an embarrassment to those who favor whittling away the amendment's protection of the individual's right to own guns.

He noted that if James Madison...and his colleagues in the First Congress intended the Second Amendment to protect only the states' rights to maintain militias, the amendment could have simply said: "Congress shall have no power to prohibit state militias." Or as Virginia's George Mason, who opposed ratification of the Constitution because it lacked a Bill of Rights, said, "Who are the militia? They consist now of the whole people."

When Madison and others fashioned the Bill of Rights, they did not merely constitutionalize -- make fundamental -- the right to bear arms. They made the Second Amendment second only to the First...They did that because individual dignity and self-respect, which are essential to self-government, are related to a readiness for self-defense -- the public's involvement in public safety...

Increasingly, however, some constitutional scholars and judicial rulings argue that several restraints the Bill of Rights puts on government can be disregarded if the worthiness -- as academics or judges assess that -- of government's purposes justifies ignoring those restraints. Erwin Chemerinsky...argued in The Post last week that even if the Second Amendment is construed as creating an individual right to gun ownership, the D.C. law should still be constitutional because the city had a defensible intent (reducing violence) when it annihilated that right.

Sound familiar? Defenders of the McCain-Feingold law, which restricts the amount, timing and content of political campaign speech, say: Yes, yes, the First Amendment says there shall be "no law . . . abridging the freedom of speech." But that proscription can be disregarded because the legislators' (professed) intent -- to prevent the "appearance" of corruption and to elevate political discourse -- is admirable.

If the Supreme Court reverses the appeals court's ruling and upholds the D.C. gun law, states and localities will be empowered to treat the Second Amendment as the D.C. law does: as a nullity. This will bring the gun control issue -- and millions of gun owners -- back to a roiling boil. That is not in the interest of the Democratic Party, which is supported by most ardent supporters of gun control.

Here's the link: ... 01992.html
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