Term Paper: Gun Control and the Supreme Court

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¶ … gun control and the Supreme Court. The writer explores the issues, debates and decisions as well as the constitutional applications. There were five sources used to complete this paper.

When authors of the United States constitution penned the document they had no way of knowing that almost 300 years later it would become the center of controversy with regard to the right to bear arms. Those who believe the forefathers of the nation meant each individual has the right to arm himself or herself, while those who oppose that principle believe it meant that the nation had the right to arm a military for the government. The debates have raged on for years however, in recent decades it has gotten so heated that courts throughout America have had to deal with the question of gun control (Rights, 2003). More recently it was taken to the supreme court after two lower courts issued rulings in direct conflict with each other with regard to the constitution's intent.

Many states have recently banned what are deemed to be assault weapons. California banned them in 1999 and the 9th circuit court of San Francisco upheld that ruling later on.

Judge Stephen Reinhardt wrote that the Second Amendment "was not adopted in order to afford rights to individuals with respect to private gun ownership or possession," only to protect state militias. Later "the full 9th Circuit refused to overturn the case decided last December by the panel. "Gary Gorski, lawyer for a group of gun owners who challenged the assault weapons law, said he had already prepared his Supreme Court appeal," reported the San Francisco Chronicle. But these two decisions run counter to the 5th Circuit Court in New Orleans, which in 2001 ruled, in its words, "the Second Amendment does protect individual rights." And U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft said he concurred (Rights, 2003)."

Then in June the Supreme Court refused to hear the case so the issue remained unresolved at that point.

Gun Politics, the political aspects of gun control and firearms rights, has long been among the most controversial and intractable issues in American politics. At the heart of this debate is the relationship between the rights of the citizen vs. state's authority to regulate to maintain public order (Gun Politics (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gun_politics_in_the_United_States)."

Key to the issue of gun control for many courts including the Supreme Court is the issue founded in the meaning of the second amendment of the constitution of the United States. Supporters of gun ownership believe that amendment provides each individual with the right to privately bear arms. In addition, many supporters of ownership also believe it means they have individual rights to carry those weapons on their person or in their vehicles. Several states have sided with their beliefs and have enacted laws that allow those who qualify to carry loaded weapons with them (Gun Politics (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gun_politics_in_the_United_States).

The history of enactment of gun regulation legislation is characterized by repetitive cycles of popular outrage, action and reaction usually in response to sensational shootings. The first modern gun regulation, the 1911 Sullivan Act in New York State emerged in reaction to an attempt to murder New York City Mayor William Jay Gaynor. The shooting deaths of Senator Robert F. Kennedy and the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. led to public outrage and the political action with enactment of the federal Gun Control Act of 1968(Gun Politics (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gun_politics_in_the_United_States).Supporters of individual gun rights have resisted nearly all these regulation efforts, often spearheaded by the National Rifle Association. This outrage-action-reaction cyclical pattern reflects an essential core value conflict at the center of the gun politics issue (Gun Politics (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gun_politics_in_the_United_States)."

The issue of gun control has become a significant political issue from which approximately 145 groups have registered gun related filings to lobby Congress.

The largest of those groups is the well-known National Rifle Association (NRA)

The NRA spends almost 1.5 million annually in lobbying expense to try and maintain the right to bear arms and to defeat gun control measures (Gun Politics (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gun_politics_in_the_United_States).

Measured in dollars, in 2006, Gun Rights political spending on Lobbying totaled $3,000,000 versus Gun Control spending of $90,000. A ratio of 33:1(Gun Politics (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gun_politics_in_the_United_States)."

Gun control has not been viewed as a partisan issue in its strictest sense however, historically there has been a larger number of supporters for gun control in the Democratic Party than there has been in the Republican party (Gun Politics (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gun_politics_in_the_United_States).

The Libertarian Party and the Constitution Party have completely supported the right to bear arms and other gun rights since the arguments and debates began.

More than partisan divisions this issue has experienced regional differences. The south and west have shown themselves to be primarily pro-gun advocates while coastal states have come down on the side of gun control.

The Midwestern states have remained divided on the issue. There are two states, Alaska and Vermont that do not require any type of licensing before one carries a loaded weapon with them.

Both of those states also forbid any gun control to be introduced to the states legislation.

The road to the Supreme Court

Handgun control first became the brainchild of a Republican businessman named Peter Shields when he formed a partnership with the National Coalition to Ban Guns.

By 1981 the organization had 100,000 members but that was a drop in the bucket compared to the NRA membership of more than a million at the same time. In addition their total lobbying funds were less than $80,000 while the NRA had a stronghold financially of more than $1.5 million (Gun Politics (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gun_politics_in_the_United_States).

Disagreements range from the practical -- does gun ownership cause or prevent crime? -- to the constitutional -- how should the Second Amendment be interpreted? -- to the ethical -- what should the balance be between an individual's right of self-defense through gun ownership and the People's interest in maintaining public safety (Gun Politics (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gun_politics_in_the_United_States)?"

Politically the question before the supreme court is this. Does the government have the right or the authority to regulate gun ownership and control (Gun Politics (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gun_politics_in_the_United_States)?

This has been argued at dinner tables, think tanks and court rooms around the nation for many years without a consensus being reached.

When faced with the question of gun control the Supreme Court's job is to determine the meaning and intent of the United States Constitution's second amendment.

The claim that the Second Amendment grants or protects a constitutionally based individual right to guns is a common theme of gun right proponents. For example, a study of the National Rifle Association publication American Hunter found thirty-four references to this claim in a single issue of the magazine (Gun Politics (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gun_politics_in_the_United_States)."

The Court in this case (U.S. v. Cruikshank, a pre-incorporation Supreme Court case) established two principles that it (and most other courts) have consistently upheld: that the Second Amendment does not simply afford any individual a right to bear arms free from governmental control; and that the Second Amendment is not "incorporated (Gun Politics (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gun_politics_in_the_United_States)," meaning that it pertains only to federal power, not state power (Gun Politics (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gun_politics_in_the_United_States)."

Currently each state maintains the right to determine what it will and won't allow with regard to gun control. Each state maintains the right to decide whether or not people can carry guns, own guns or sell guns and if they are allowed to do any of these things the state can decide to what extent these things can be done.

Each of the fifty states has its own constitution and laws regulating guns. Some of the States' constitutions provide for a state-based right to firearms, and some do not. Each state differs politically and legally as to the balance of citizen's rights to guns vs. The collective right to regulate guns (Gun Politics (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gun_politics_in_the_United_States)."

Over the years the courts have heard arguments about the meaning and intent of the second amendment and whether it was intended to allow personal gun ownership and concealed weapons for the purpose of preventing government tyranny.

It is believed by some experts that was the intent by the framers of the constitution while others argue it was meant to allow the government to arm itself with a military presence to protect the nation against other nations.

The Supreme Court has heard and ruled on this topic based on the evidence of the second amendment. It has heard several different cases at several different times for several different reasons however, the bottom line for the court is the question of intent of the second amendment.

In three key cases dating from the pre-incorporation era, the Supreme Court consistently ruled that the Second Amendment (and the Bill of Rights) restricted only Congress and the Federal government from acting, but that those amendments did not restrict the states. [39] Some legal scholars hold that since the Supreme Court has declined ample opportunity to review these decisions in the post-incorporation era, these decisions stand as "good law (Gun Politics (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gun_politics_in_the_United_States)."

Recently there was one direct… [END OF PREVIEW]

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