There doesn’t seem to be a chance of any of the candidates running for president among the remaining group going wobbly on issue of gun control. The primary race has mostly seen them crawling all over themselves to demonstrate how much more they support banning and confiscating firearms and limiting the right to own and use them than their competitors.
Which makes you wonder why a New Yorker writer felt it necessary to remind them and her hoplophobic readers what a sure-fire winning issue gun control is in the modern Democrat party.
Nor do the courts pose an insurmountable obstacle to sensible gun laws. It’s true that the 2008 Supreme Court ruling in District of Columbia v. Heller established an individual’s right to keep a gun in the home, outside the context of the “well-ordered militia” stipulated in the Second Amendment. It was an extraordinary reinterpretation of the Court’s previous jurisprudence on guns.
In 1991, the conservative former Supreme Court Chief Justice Warren Burger, referring to the expansionist view of the Second Amendment that Heller later enshrined, called it “one of the greatest pieces of fraud, I repeat the word fraud, on the American public by special-interest groups that I have ever seen in my lifetime.”
The retired Justice John Paul Stevens published a book last summer, shortly before his death, in which he called Heller, a 5–4 ruling whose majority opinion was written by Antonin Scalia, “unquestionably the most clearly incorrect decision that the Supreme Court announced during my tenure on the bench.”
But even Heller contained important caveats and, partly because of them, in the years since, state courts have upheld the vast majority of gun-safety laws they’ve been asked to rule on. (Last week, for the first time in nearly a decade, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in a Second Amendment case, New York State Rifle and Pistol Association v. City of New York, New York. But, because the city had repealed the law before the case came before the Court—lifting the restrictions that the gun-owner plaintiffs in the case objected to—it may be moot, and therefore unlikely to yield a substantive ruling.)
In Heller, the Court noted examples of the kinds of constraints that would be “presumptively lawful”—“laws imposing conditions and qualifications on the commercial sale of arms,” for example, or those banning guns in certain public places. “Like most rights, the right secured by the Second Amendment is not unlimited,” Scalia wrote. It is not “a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose.”
Those are words that gun lobbyists often choose to forget, though they were written by a man who must be a hero to them. The Democrats still running for President shouldn’t let them forget. Stronger gun laws are popular and necessary—and they’re also constitutional.
– Margaret Talbot in The 2020 Democrats and the New Politics of Gun Violence