By Louis K. Bonham
Yesterday, the Supreme Court handed down a major decision in Horne v. Department of Agriculture, in which it struck down a New Deal-era program that governed the production of raisins. In short, the program required raisin growers to give a percentage of their crop to the federal government (without payment), for the ostensible purpose of limiting the supply of raisins on the market and thus keeping raisin prices at a certain level. Among other things, the opinion unambiguously held that the Fifth Amendment’s requirement that private property not be taken for public use without payment of “just compensation” applied just as much to personal property as it did to real property. As Chief Justice Roberts wrote, “the Government has a categorical duty to pay just compensation when it takes your car, just as when it takes your home.” While to most of us, this is pretty obvious, believe it or not this question had not been settled previously . . .
All well and good, you may say, but what does this have to do with guns?
While time will tell how this new analysis gets applied by other courts, it should stick a fork in some of the more extreme gun control proposals out there. For instance, suppose that California decides to ban private possession of all semi-automatic handguns, and requires that all privately-owned semi automatics in the state must be surrendered. Leaving aside the potential Second Amendment issues, it appears to me that under Horne, this would be unconstitutional unless the state provided for the payment of “just compensation” to each owner – which would be likely be so expensive as to make the entire thing unworkable.
Could this also be a basis for challenging laws like New York’s SAFE Act and its declaration that previously legally-owned weapons (and standard capacity magazines) are now verboten? Stay tuned….