High court aims low
The newly minted right to handguns in the home also comes with legal loopholes to exploit.
As any city mayor might note, murder by firearm is likely to continue apace despite last week's Supreme Court ruling granting a right to keep a handgun in one's home. The decision, it turns out after close reading, scores a legal point while leaving many opportunities for government to restrict gun ownership.
In striking down a District of Colombia gun ban, the high court's 5-to-4 majority decided to run in two directions at once.
In a bold stroke that defies two centuries of laws, the justices found the Second Amendment allows "law-abiding, responsible citizens" to possess handguns"in defense of hearth and home." The ruling ends a debate over whether the amendment applies only to militias and not to individuals.
But then, almost by way of apology and recognition that more than 80 Americans die by guns every day, the court wisely offered ways to limit this newly minted right. "We do not read the Second Amendment to protect the right of citizens to carry arms for any sort of confrontation," wrote Justice Antonin Scalia. The ruling endorses prior decisions prohibiting gun possession by felons and the mentally ill, and laws that license gun ownership, require training, restrict gun sales, and bar guns in public places.
But before lawmakers use these openings to consider new gun restrictions, they will need to comb this ruling for legal hurdles. Here are a few likely "tests" the high court may impose in future cases: