"The Constitution leaves the District of Columbia a variety of tools...," he added. "But the enshrinement of constitutional rights necessarily takes certain policy choices off the table."
The court's liberal wing responded with Scalia-like calls for judicial deference. "I cannot understand how one can take from the elected branches of government the right to decide whether to insist upon a handgun-free urban populace in a city now facing a serious crime problem," Justice Stephen Breyer wrote in his dissent.
The high court's blockbuster decisions could prove important in the upcoming presidential election. In addition to highlighting differences between John McCain and Barack Obama, they are a reminder that the next president will likely shape the future direction of the court.
In addition to the high court's more aggressive posture, the 2007-08 term featured hints of an apparent change in the internal dynamics at the nine-member court.