Thursday, June 26, 2008

Sam, I Am

Not too surprisingly, SCOTUS ruled much as I expected a couple months back that it would -- that the Second Amendment does in fact protect an individual's right to own firearms. It struck down a law in DC that all but banned individual gun ownership in the capital in one's private home, unless the gun was locked up and stripped of its ammunition. It did however say that states and cities can impose some regulations and that the right is not absolute.

No doubt that this will become an issue on the campaign trail where supporters of both McCain and Obama will say for opposing reasons that it proves one vote on the Court makes a difference. Of course it does ... but it won't be the only talking point this year.

In other news, the court also struck down the so-called "millionaire's amendment." Also by 5-4, the Marble Temple said that special campaign rules that kick in when someone self-finances his or her campaign entirely violate the First Amendment. The rules stated that such candidates must disclose more information about their finances than usual, while their opponents can raise more money than rules would normally allow -- in fact the usual $2300 contribution limit tripled. In essence the court said the law created two classes of candidates and that was wrong.

Perhaps ... but the issue of people buying their way into office has to be addressed and this permits open season for that.

It's worth pointing out that McCain-Feingold was approved by SCOTUS by a single vote in 2003; that of Sandra Day O'Connor. I have a feeling that O'Connor would have upheld the gun ban in DC as well. Now, his replacement, Sam Alito, has voted in three straight cases to strike down sections of the same law and declared duck season is all year round.

The same Alito who, at the Third Circuit Appeals Court in 1991, voted to uphold spousal notification in the Pennsylvania abortion law, saying that courts had no business interfering with legislatures even if the laws they passed were unwise from a policy standpoint. The Court correctly, struck down the notification clause for spouses.

However, the implications for the future are frightening ... unless the courts are brought back into a common sense frame of mind with justices who actually use common sense rather than strict legalities. It shouldn't only be rich people who get into Congress, it shouldn't only be men that decide what a woman can do, and it shouldn't only be the NRA that decides whether people live or die in America.

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