Pattye Benson

Community Matters

Supreme Court Ruling Expands Rights of Gun Owners . . . Will This be a Campaign Issue for Drucker & Kampf?

Yesterday’s Supreme Court ruling of 5-4 may ultimately make it easier for individuals to own handguns in the US. Those that follow Community Matters know of my naiveté on the subject of guns and gun control so, it has been with more than passing curiosity, that I was interested in yesterday’s high court decision.

I know that many people own guns in this country (but only recently realized how many gun owners are here in Tredyffrin). I was not surprised to read that the United States has the world’s highest civilian gun ownership rate in the world but when the statistic was converted to actual numbers . . . I admit to being suprised to learn that our 90 million Americans own an estimated 200 million guns! Another surprising discovery . . . Americans spend $10 billion annually on guns and supplies.

The ruling yesterday from the Supreme Court will extend the right that individual Americans have a constitutional right to own guns – to all cities and states for the first time. The decision to extend gun rights will be a setback for Chicago’s 29-year-old ban on handguns, which will now face legal review and will probably be overturned. The Supreme Court ruling is expected to cause legal challenges to existing laws restricting gun use in other states and cities. The right to bear arms, under the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, previously applied only to federal laws and federal enclaves, like Washington D.C., where the court struck down a similar handgun ban in its 2008 ruling.

Chicago had defended its law as a reasonable exercise of local power to protect public safety. That law, and a similar handgun ban in suburban Oak Park, Illinois, were the nation’s most restrictive gun control measures. The Supreme Court believes that the Second Amendment right is fully applicable to the states and cities. The residents of Chicago have a fundamental right to bear arms under this ruling.

Chicago’s Mayor Richard Daley was very troubled by the decision and responded to the high court’s ruling with, “”Common sense tells you we need fewer guns, not more guns,” Daley said.”When it comes to Chicago, the court has ignored all that has been done in the past decade to reduce the murder rate and violent crime.” Daley cited statistics detailing the nation’s level of gun violence: 100,000 people shot each year, eight people dying each day from gunshots, one million dead since 1968, the year Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy were assassinated.

Does this Supreme Court ruling have any specific meaning to us in Tredyffrin Township? Coincidentally, I did read that at the last commissioners meeting in Radnor Township, approval was granted to change the signs in their township parks to permit guns. Radnor actually cited Tredyffrin Township for already making the changes.

If we take our personal feelings about guns out of the discussion, do you believe that the states rights should be governed by the Supreme Court? Should the nation’s highest court determine the rights of the individual states and cities?

Looking at the Pennsylvania State House 157 race, do we know how State Representative Paul Drucker and his opponent, Warren Kampf feel about states rights on gun control? As lawyers, would they uphold the U.S. Constitution on gun control? If that is the case, could that be extended to other states rights vs. Constitution issues? For example, would Drucker and Kampf support and uphold the U.S. Constitution on the ‘women’s right to choose’ issue? Would Drucker and Kampf similarly consider a woman’s right to choose a Constitutional matter for the high courts and not a decision for the individual states? As Pennsylvania State House candidates, I certainly would appreciate hearing Drucker and Kampf opinions on the subject.

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  1. Pattye,

    Do you know what changes Tredyffrin made? Did we have to amend our ordinance or just change the signs?

    And another question… I just went to Radnor Township’s website and they post a Board of Commissioners “Agenda Packet” prior to a BOC Meeting. The packet includes the agenda and documents related to the various issues that will be discussed. The June 7, 2010 packet was 128 pages.

    I personally appreciate being prepared for a meeting and it would save me some research time. Is this a service we’d like our Township to provide to us?

  2. Pattye, those are awfully loaded questions.

    McDonald v. Chicago was a 14th amendment question, not a 10th amendment (states rights) question, and not even really a 2nd amendment (individual rights) question. It merely provides a legal basis for individuals to legally challenge the most oppressive state and local governments by “incorporating” a natural right that happens to be enumerated in the federal constitution. Those governments — as we have seen in the years since Heller v. DC — will continue to try to infringe the rights of the people to keep and bear arms. “Reasonable” restraints will survive legal challenges.

    This should have no practical bearing on Drucker or Kampf, since they have both sworn in their current offices to support the U.S. Constitution. Fortunately the PA Constitution also guarantees our “unquestioned” right to keep and bear arms (Section 21) so the landscape for RKBA questions in this state is unchanged.

    It’s quite a stretch to bring abortion into the question: Abortion is not an enumerated constitutional right at either level, and as state representatives there’s nothing they can do to change the bizarre precedents put in force by Roe v Wade.

    There are, however, interesting questions along these lines that are appropriate for state legislature candidates. For example, do they intend to advance laws like the Firearms Freedom Act or resolutions like the Tenth Amendment Resolution to restore constitutional freedoms to PA? But since Drucker and Kampf are such mainstream candidates the differences at best amount to something like, “How many fractions of a percent do you intend to increase or reduce state government?”

  3. John, it’s scary to think that someone with your knowledge and understanding of constitutional law is part of the cartel (“bar”) with exclusive license to practice law.

    A. Firearms are already strictly regulated by the federal government. Serious laws go back to the NFA of 1934 and GCA of 1968. Anybody who buys a gun in this country has to deal with the BATFE and FBI.

    B. No “conservatives” are happy that McDonald was won through “selective incorporation” as opposed to the “privileges or immunities” clause.

    C. The Court made clear in McDonald v Chicago that “reasonable” regulation of the right to keep and bear arms is still allowed.

  4. “would Drucker and Kampf support and uphold the U.S. Constitution on the ’women’s right to choose’ issue? ”

    Just curious – can you quote the section of the U.S. Constitution that gives anyone the right to kill innocent living human beings?

    Being that its (almost) Independence Day, I thought we all had an unalienable right to life? And last I checked the pursuit of happiness didn’t involve killing anything.

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