Not Good News for Criminals

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

At least this right is actually in the Constitution:

SAN FRANCISCO -- A state trial judge sided Monday with the National Rifle Association in overturning a voter-approved city ordinance that banned handgun possession and firearm sales in San Francisco.

Measure H was placed on the November ballot by the San Francisco County Board of Supervisors, who were frustrated by an alarmingly high number of gun-related homicides in the city of 750,000. The NRA sued a day after 58 percent of voters approved the law.

In siding with the gun owners, San Francisco County Superior Court Judge James Warren said a local government cannot ban weapons because the California Legislature allows their sale and possession.

"My clients are thrilled that the court recognized that law-abiding firearms owners who choose to own a gun to defend themselves or their families are part of the solution and not part of the problem," NRA attorney Chuck Michel said. "Hopefully, the city will recognize that gun owners can contribute to the effort to fight the criminal misuse of firearms, a goal that we all share."

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit also is considering a challenge to a similar handgun ban in the District of Columbia that alleges the law violates a Second Amendment right of individuals to bear arms.
The D.C. challenge is much more important than the San Francisco trial for a few reasons. The San Francisco suit does not deal with the constitutionality of owning guns, but is instead a generic separation of powers test. Moreover, the case only deals with San Francisco. To be sure, this is great news for its citizens who are uneasy about the crime rates that have recently risen.

The D.C. case is the big one that everyone should be paying attention to. It's an actual challenge to the Second Amendment of the Constitution, which for most of our history has received little attention from the federal courts. Regardless of the outcome, there is a chance the Supreme Court will be asked to consider the constitutionality of a handgun ban and rule for the first time on the definition of the "right to bear arms."