Friday, December 14, 2012

Yes Virginia, There Is a Constitution!

Christmas came early for gun ownership advocates this year. The U.S. Court of Appeals handed them a present, wrapped up in huge, red bow.

Yes Virginia, there is a Constitution.

Gun owners and concealed carry advocates have been in a joyous frame of mine this week.  The United States Court of Appeals in the case of Michael Moore, et. al. and Mary E. Shepard, et. al. v. Lisa Madigan, Attorney General of Illinois, et. al, Nos. 12-1269, 12-1788, struck down the overly restrictive gun control laws of Illinois as violating the Second Amendment of the Constitution of the United States of America.

The court held that the need for defense of self, family and property is most acute in the home, but is also acute outside of the home, which appears to be an expansion of recent gun case decisions. The court carefully highlighted the pertinent language of the Second Amendment in reaching their ruling.

For those who wonder, the Second Amendment simply reads: "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." (emphasis added by the Court).

Thus, the right to own and bear arms is not a property right limited to the home, it is an individual or personal right. "But the issue in this case isn't ownership, it's carrying guns in public." (p.11)  The court also plowed through reams of historical and factual data about the Second Amendment and guns and crime, and noted with interest that less than 3% of gun related deaths are from accidents. They noted the empirical literature on the effects of allowing the carriage of guns in public failed to establish a pragmatic defense of the Illinois law. (p.13)

A blanket prohibition on carrying a gun in public prevents a person from defending himself anywhere except inside his home, causing a greater showing of justification that the public might benefit from such a curtailment, though there is no proof it would. (p.14) The court here seems to have taken a logical expansion of prior Supreme and Appellate Court rulings on this issue. At one point in the decision, the court deemed it "remarkable" that Illinois was the only state to have a blanket prohibition against conceal carry of guns.

The court stayed their mandate for 180 days to allow the Illinois legislature to craft a new gun law that would impose reasonable limitations, consistent with public safety and the Second Amendment, as interpreted in this opinion, on the carrying of guns in public. The court so ruled by a 2 to 1 margin in a lengthy decision followed by a lengthy dissent.

Yes Virginia, there is a Constitution.

That giant "boom" you heard this week were gun control or gun banning liberals fainting and falling to the floor over that decision. The Attorney General now needs to determine whether or not to appeal the decision, and risk failing a reversal. The Illinois Legislature has 180 days to come up with a new law allowing "concealed carry" with reasonable restrictions and regulations, other than the current law which restricted that right to military, police, security guards and of course, certain well-connected politicians who link up with security companies. Is the legislature up to the task? They will have to make some pretty tough decisions for a new law to pass constitutional muster, or face the prospects of anyone and their cousin strutting down Michigan Avenue with a gun slung over their shoulder.

Linking up "Illinois Legislature" and "tough decisions" hasn't been very easy, when you consider the multiple pressing issues they have been routinely ducking.

Will Illinois become the "Wild West" in the near future like the other 49 states? Somehow, that hasn't happened elsewhere. Will armed criminals cringe in terror over the thought that an armed citizenry will point and shoot back at their criminal ways? Will women who are now "protected" by restraining orders defend themselves with a weapon when someone willfully violates that order?  Will Chicago end its longstanding "Murder Capitol of the World" status through such a new statute?

Yes, Virginia, there is a Constitution. The court seems to be telling the Legislature that it has to start right there. With the language of the Constitution.

The next 180 days should be very interesting.

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