There are exceptions, qualifications, and confusions, but in general, we all probably know that the 2nd Amendment to the US Constitution prohibits the government from infringing on the right to bear arms.
For most of American history, that prohibition has been against the federal government. States and localities could restrict however they want. The founders considered states to be The People, and if the people wanted to restrict their own rights, then go for it.
For example, the Constitution prohibited Washington from eliminating freedom of the press, but if a STATE wanted to do so, that’s their business.
But over the years, the Supreme Court has pretty much decided that MOST of the bill of rights should be extended to states (or “incorporated”). The second amendment, until now, wasn’t one of those.
But now it is! According to the latest ruling, which I haven’t read, they’ve decided that throughout the US, no one will be able to make a law prohibiting guns.
The deep irony is that people who fight for “States’ Rights” against the federal government often find themselves saying that states shouldn’t be allowed to prohibit gun ownership.
Oh, they want the federal government out of the states’ business. Except when the federal government lands on the same side they do on an issue. In THAT case, they want the federal government right in there!
And of course, people who usually fight to get the federal government involved in states’ decisions would rather they stayed out on this point.
The legal basis
Funnily enough, the justices don’t agree on why the amendment should be incorporated. Thomas has written his own opinion.
I don’t get it. I don’t think this ruling follows the intent of the founders, the letter of the Constitution, or a need to benefit society. I don’t think that bearing arms is a fundamental part of being American (a possible cause for incorporation).
I’m not a gun control activist. I’ve lived in highly weaponized places (like Israel) without worrying too much that honest citizens are going to start shooting the place up. I like going to a shooting range, and I have owned a gun (years ago).
I just don’t understand this ruling from a historical or legal perspective. Now, to be clear, I’m not a historian or a lawyer, and I haven’t even read the whole ruling! So take all this as it’s given: a rant from an uninformed blogger.
Anyway, the new ruling apparently doesn’t disallow restrictions on guns. It seems to just prohibit outright outlawing of guns. Which had only happened in a couple of places, anyway, so whatever.
The link below goes to a PDF containing the majority opinion, Thomas’s opinion (partly concurring and concurring with the ruling), and Stevens’s and Breyer’s dissenting opinions.
For Thomas’s opinion, search for: Opinion of THOMAS, J.
For Stevens’s dissent, search for: JUSTICE STEVENS, dissenting.
For Breyer’s dissent, search for: JUSTICE BREYER, with whom JUSTICE GINSBURG and JUSTICE SOTOMAYOR join, dissenting.